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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Correction and a Clarification

Monica Theodorescu and The Whisper Game

Not only is her horse called Whisper, she has also become the victim of the Chinese whisper game (you know, the party game where a message gets passed around the room by people whispering in the ear of the person beside them until the message is all but lost by the time it returns to the original whisperer). In all the flurry of press releases and news items during and following last week’s momentous change in the FEI Dressage Committee, I committed a journalistic sin. I wrote something that had not come from an indisputably reliable source. The origin of the mistake was none other than a German magazine, so no one could blame language a barrier as the cause of the complete misapprehension. But somehow someone failed to correctly hear Monica saying that she was resigning from the IDRC, not returning to it. And just in case this is also wrong (you never know), if anyone out there knows otherwise, please post a comment here or send me an email so I can correct the correction.

The New and Improved Dominican Republic (DR)

Following my last blog, I received an email from Eduardo Muñiz, husband of Dominican rider Yvonne Losos de Muñiz (individual bronze medalist at the last two Pan Am Games). First of all I have to say I was rather proud to discover that my blog gets read by the likes of the Muñiz’s. Eduardo contacted me because of the situation that I mentioned with the DR losing its affiliation in the FEI. I am pleased to share this extra information here, and I hope that it will be seen as an open invitation to anyone out there who knows more than I do about a topic that I mention on this blog. Please, pretty please, just come straight at me with the relevant info so that I can put it out there.

It would seem that the terms ‘patronage’ and ‘cronyism’ are not the exclusive domain of the recently departed DC, but have been alive and well in the DR. Eduardo explained to me as follows: “the country per se was not and is not out of the FEI, we just got a brand-new federation. This comes as an answer from the FEI to an internal dispute orchestrated by a group of private riding club owners who have been for close to one year sabotaging attempts by our NF President to impose new statutes and a new, more modern and democratic structure, mandated by the IOC on all federations in our country.” The private club owners have been running a little fiefdom, which was observed by John Long, who was sent to DR by the FEI to check out the situation. So now the DR can go forward with its house-cleaning complete. “With this step, now there’s a light at the end of the tunnel,” says Eduardo. Amen to that!

Sunday, November 23, 2008


If you have read any of my postings since I merrily joined the blogosphere, you know what team I’ve been cheering for in the FEI Exec versus FEI Dressage Committee duel. Needless to say (but I’m saying it anyway), hurray! Raise the flag! All is not lost! All is not won, either – but this is like the joke about what you call a thousand lawyers lying at the bottom of the ocean. A good start.

How It – and She – Went Down

If I were more economically well disposed, I would have bought a plane ticket to Buenos Aires without a moment’s hesitation. I love Argentina and its tango-dancing, steak-gobbling denizens, not to mention all that wonderful and ridiculously inexpensive wine. I may not have got into any of the sessions at the FEI General Assembly, but I would have at least got a glimpse of some faces as they exited the various meetings: on joining equine doping to WADA, a code of ethics for horse dealers (possibly an oxymoron, but let’s give it a shot), the Dominican Republic getting kicked out of the FEI (they don’t comply with IOC requirements), and one more thing that has slipped my mind…oh yeah, the Dressage Committee.

I received daily updates from the GA in BA, courtesy of Equine Canada’s CEO Akaash Maharaj, who was enjoying the thrills of his first FEI shindig. Akaash reported to me on Wednesday that the FEI Bureau had asked the Regional groups to give the Bureau the authority to decide on the DC matter. At some point, the talk had changed from the resignation of the entire DC to just that of the Chair. Mme Withages had been singled out (which is what I kind of thought should have been done in the first place). I don’t know what the final word was from the regional group chairs, but by the time the GA started on Friday morning, Mariette had already tendered her resignation.

Knowing that the equestrian world (and not a few journalists) would be anxiously awaiting news, the FEI put up a live webcast of the GA on their site. With great anticipation, I got up at 4:30 am and sat bleary-eyed and bushy tailed in front of my glowing screen. Would there be a shouting match? Would there be blood? In the event, it was a non-event. The video streaming didn’t work too well; FEI VP Alex McLin began his opening speech with “a brief announcement on the Dressage Committee”, and I nearly gave myself an aneurism when the live feed cut out just at that moment. It cut back in a few seconds later, but McLin had already moved onto laying out the agenda for the rest of the day – most of which was about such edge-of-your-seat stuff like how much money the FEI made by changing banks, and how they were working to make HQ greener.

My frustration at missing the announcement was thankfully short-lived. A press release arrived a few minutes later. Mariette Withages, Dominatrix of Dressage for the past seven years, had surrendered, thus ending the battle royal before it began. The rest of the committee swiftly followed: judges Mafioso Enzo (whom I watched with disbelief at the CDI in Blainville 2002 – he would observe the first part of a movement, such as an extended trot, tell the scribe a mark, and then crane his head like Linda Blair in The Exorcist and miss the rest of the movement, returning his reluctant gaze to the ring only when the horse had moved onto the next exercise), Dinosaur Dieter (embracing change is SO not this man’s modus operandi), the Japanese one; Spanish chef d’equipe and Mariette’s great friend Bobby (hell no, we won’t go) Bobadilla, and Monica Teodorescu, the athlete rep. I think there is a thinly veiled implication in Monica’s comment that she will return to the fold of the IDRC, which was 100% behind HRH from the get-go.

Just Ad Hoc

For the next year, Richard Davison, Robert Dover, Alain Francqueville and Frank Kemperman will face the gargantuan and potentially onerous task of putting the train back on the tracks. Among the many items to go under review is the vastly unpopular three-per-team Olympic format (see, I told you it sucked), and the “fitness for purpose of the method of judging for dressage.” Let me guess: they won’t be consulting too much with ol’ Dieter on that one. I think the sun could rise very brightly again if this group stays on task; asks lots of opinions of lots of people who know, care and depend on the future of dressage; and if the members leave as much of their egos at the door as it is possible to expect of strong, intelligent minds. The sport is full of cool and super-talented people: riders, trainers, chefs, show organizers, and yes, some whiz-bang judges. I can be skeptical, and even cynical. But right now I feel a thrill of optimism. To cheesily quote Obama: “Yes, we can.” One interesting note: the working group is entirely male….

The Dope on Doping

The German federation has appealed to the Court of Abritration for Sport (CAS) to double Christian Ahlmann’s penalties for the capsaicin bust at the Olympics, and is also reportedly ordering the rider to pay back the travel costs for the trip to Hong Kong. Well, they can’t be accused of behaving nationalistically in this case, that’s for sure. Capsaicin will from now on be treated as a doping substance, and not a banned medication, which was the reason the FEI Tribunal’s sanctions were so mild. But don’t worry, the jumpers are sure to find something else to make their horses keep jumping extra high. Cha-ching!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Fireworks in the FEI! Drama in Dressage Land!

I know, I know, I have not delivered the promised blogs this week. But there was a little matter of the articles I had to deliver to magazines – and fun as the blog is to write, I do have to meet my deadlines. Today I will be brief, but I have had several emails asking where my opinions lie regarding the very public scorchings between FEI Executive and FEI Dressage Committee (or more specifically, HRH Princess Haya and Mariette Withages).

First of all, if you have no idea what I’m talking about or need to fill some gaps in your up-to-datedness, go to, where you can read both the letter requesting the DC’s immediate resignation and the DC’s subsequent response, as well as some interesting quotes from Mariette and FEI Exec David Holmes.

I must say that at this moment I am filled with Fear and Trembling. Not for myself this time, but for our sport. I am sure that this is going to go to a vote at the FEI General Assembly, and I am not at all sure that HRH is going to win the round. This week I was at the WBFSH (World breeding federation for sport horses) General Assembly; I must say they get along an awful lot better with each other and have more fun than some other groups I’ve been hanging out with recently. As the Big Battle was all I could think about, I asked several of the Europeans at the meetings what they thought. The man from Denmark: the request for resignation was a mistake; the man from Holland: mistake; the man from Germany (from the national federation no less): mistake. The vote will be made by each national federation at the FEI General Assembly that will take place in Buenos Aires in just ten days. The vote comes from each NF as a whole – in other words it won’t be the exclusive decision of dressage committees in each country, though I would hope they have the greatest input.

It looks to me like there could be an awful lot of support for the DC remaining in place. The main message I took from the people I asked this week was that they questioned the legality of such a move (HRH is a lawyer, is surrounded by people whose specialty is the rules, and I don’t believe she would make such an ill-informed move); they also questioned the democracy of the request for resignation, given that the FEI is supposed to be a democratic organization. I find that second concern rather ironic, since the reason the DC was asked to resign is because they weren’t acting democratically….what a clusterf*@k. I try not to swear on this blog but I just have to in this case.

Does the Mean Justify the End?

There are two issues hanging in the balance, and they are quite possibly in conflict with one another. On the one hand, if what the FEI Executive did is not appropriate, then there is arguable reason to vote against them. On the other hand, do we really want the status quo to continue? Come on! Who says ‘yes’? Who? (Feel free to weigh in and post comments on this blog, but pretty please sign with your name).

20,000 Posts

Since I’m on the topic of people putting their names to their words, I have to tell you I am seriously concerned for the health of one of my readers. I generally stay away from the anonymous whining and bickerfests that is the Chronicle Forum, but when several people told me I would be entertained with the thread about this blog, I couldn’t resist (though I’m not going back to that buffet for a while – my tummy is full). Who are these people with so much time on their hands? With emphasis on the WHO. Since I don’t know the sex of the forum’s most prolific poster, I will just have to go with the pronoun ‘it’ when talking about slc2. ‘It’ has apparently posted almost 20,000 times on the Chronicle Forum. The only person who has posted more is the moderator. So why am I concerned? I think that if ‘it’ keeps reading this blog, ‘it’ might have a nervous breakdown. Hie thee to a therapist, please! And for Cheez Whiz sake, if you don’t like what I write, stop reading it. By the way, I do appreciate how a bunch of you rallied around me in the face of the attacks. Forte, whoever you are, you made me blush. But not to worry folks, I love a good scrap, not to mention a good laugh. And I am constantly amazed at how people will read what they want, even when it differs to the words glowing on the screen.

Watch this space as the FEI Exec and DC draw their sabres in Argentina. If I can just meet a few more deadlines over the weekend I will tell you about the fun I had in Lyon (hint: if you are a single, straight woman, you should think of attending the WBFSH GA next year – 80% men!). I will close today with a quote from one of my favourite writers, Anthony Bourdain (whom you might know from the traveling food show No Reservations):

Absurdity is a regular and often terrifying feature in the life of many who stray off the beaten path. There is a reason that dictators and despots, early in their purges, have always executed writers and satirists and anyone with a sense of humour. Laughter – and particularly ridicule – is dangerous. Recognizing the absurdity of a situation is to recognize that it’s simply no good, that it doesn’t work, that something has to change.