I’ve done it! I’ve finally cracked the code that explains everything at DC. And it’s so simple – I can’t believe it took me this many showers and long walks with the dog  to solve the riddle. Must be that forest/trees thing.  To understand the madness behind the methods of our national dressage federation you just need to replace every noun that begins with ‘c’ with the word ‘chaos’, and Voila! Allow me to demonstrate with the second, ‘corrected’ (completely rewritten with a different meaning is more like it) press release announcing the ‘postponed’ DC symposium:

“Due to unavoidable circumstances chaos, Dressage Canada Chaos has had to postpone the 2012 National Dressage Symposium planned for Langley, BC and King City, ON.

“We apologize to all our affiliate members for the confusion chaos our last message has created, in referring to a change chaos in Clinician for 2012.

“There will be more information provided as soon as we have correct and factual information available.

“We appreciate your patience, and will be in touch again early next week.”

Makes a lot more sense when you read it that way, doesn’t it?

In case you didn’t see the first release announcing the unavoidable postponement, here it is:

“The Dressage Canada Coaching Committee chaos chaos chaos has postponed the National Dresssage (sic) Symposium scheduled for November 24th and November 26th due to a number of unforseen (sic) and unexpected circumstances chaos.

“The Symposium will be rescheduled for October 2013.

“One of the lead clinicians at the 2012 Symposium will be multiple Canadian Olympian and Olympic Bronze medalist, Ashely Holzer.

“Further details on the 2013 National Dressage Symposium will be made public when confirmed.

“Please watch for updates on the Dressage Canada Chaos website.”

It’s no wonder the ‘corrected’ release is actually a rewrite. Between the spelling mistakes and misleading date attached to the sentence about Ashley, it really probably was less work to just give the Etch-a-Sketch a good shake.

Of course, we now know why the symposium was cancelled. It’s kind of hard to scramble together an event when your keynote presenter tenders his resignation six weeks out. So DC (remember what ‘C’ stands for) has now gone through its third team coach in four years. The question that comes up over and over is starting to become a rhetorical one: what’s wrong with DC? It’s pretty hard to lay individual blame when DCB and HPC have been a revolving door of names since before Markus was hired in the spring of 2011. Think Musical Chairs but played backwards, where you take away a person with every round, not a chair.

The people who were part of the interview process and the apparently flawed consultation with athletes a year and a half ago are not the same gang that we find listed on the DC website today. Are Markus’ hiring, contract renewal and sudden departure to be blamed on the folks of today’s DCB and DC HPC? I don’t think so. If Markus was the wrong man for the job, there are a few people who should certainly feel some personal responsibility, but that is almost academic, because there were almost no other candidates from which to choose when he was hired. Well, at least if I believe that DC chased down every name the elite athletes suggested – and that’s not what some of the riders have said is what happened.

I don’t think there is any value in pointing fingers at individuals, for two reasons: firstly, you can’t fire a volunteer (actually you can, but it would require a much higher level of whatever is the opposite of apathy from the membership than exists) and the paid EC employee who was part of the interviewing (Akaash) is gone; and secondly, I do believe that a genuine effort was made to do the best possible thing under the circumstances when Markus was given the job.

No blame game, so shrug off the past and soldier on, right? Not so fast. Here is what bothers me. I sent a list of not-particularly-cuddly questions to Gina Smith (HPC Chair) and Sarah Bradley (DCB Chair) last week. The answers I received would lead one  who is less informed than I about the behind-the-barn drama of this past summer to believe that all was just peachy at the Olympic training camp and in London. It most certainly wasn’t. If there is any advice I want to offer to people who are asked by a journalist to comment on a situation about which said journalist has already demonstrated a reasonably high level of knowledge, it’s this: don’t treat that journalist like a rube. It’s a red cape that just  makes us want to dig in a little deeper, and absolutely  not go away to write some meaningless drivel that anyone who cares enough to read the article knows perfectly well is horse shit.

If the President of the United States can admit during his re-election campaign that he is not perfect and has made mistakes but STILL GET RE-ELECTED, why can’t DC at least acknowledge that there were reasons leading to Markus’ departure other than Markus’ unsated competitive ambitions? They don’t have to assign blame, to themselves or anyone else. Markus was well liked by quite a number of riders who worked with him. He was strongly disliked by others, for reasons that don’t necessarily have anything to do with how well he trains a half pass. That’s just a fact. If everything was so awesome in London, why did Robert Dover’s name creep into the press releases part way through the dressage competition as ‘personal athlete coach’ to the riders? And why the hastily composed announcement of the canceled (you can’t postpone what is supposed to be an annual event to the next year – that’s cancelling) symposium? That doesn’t look like the result of a calmly reasoned and considerately timed resignation.

Aside from personal feelings of outrage at receiving the mushroom treatment, I have a bigger concern about DC’s attitude that they must – at any cost and at all times – circle the wagons against ugly realities. It’s best expressed in that old cliché  we all know so well: that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. And believe me, DC has quite a track record for executing that MO already.