Here goes – I hope it was worth waiting for.
While the 2010 GDF was going on, I had the impression it was the most open, honest discussion we had ever seen at the GDF. Now that it’s two weeks later and I’ve had a few sleeps on that idea, I can confirm it. Not that everyone was on the ‘let’s talk straight’ band wagon. Bernard Maurel showed the ‘flip-flop’ talent for which the French are so famous in time of war. When Mariette was still around, Bernard was one of the few judges who would stick his neck out and say something honest – in other words, in contradiction to Mariette. But now that the Belgian Queen is no longer in power, he apparently feels compelled make an about face and step into her ‘old guard’ shoes. Poor David Stickland (who ‘sticks’ it to the judges by using their own numbers to show where they or the system – or both – have failed) was in for the worst tongue lashing of all. David didn’t even mention Bernard in any of his analysis last year or this – I can only imagine how the ratatouille would fly if he had found actual fault in Bernard’s judging. And David was mild this year. He didn’t mention any names – which is amazing, since Linda Zang seems to perfectly exemplify what he shared with us this year, that “It is the effect of being always very slightly the highest or lowest for one rider that leads to inconsistency.” Linda managed to do both in Lexington. While I sat around at home after WEG and waited, my heart filled with hope and longing, for the detailed scores to materialize I did a little ‘fun math’ of my own, using what I did have at hand: the total scores from the freestyles. I went through and counted how many times each of the five judges was the high or low score of the group. Whenever there was a tie I counted both judges as being the low or high judge (in case you add things up and see that my totals are higher than 15×2). Here is what I found:
Maribel Alonso: 2H + 2L = 4
Ghislain Fouarge: 3H + 1L = 4
Mary Seefried: 5H + 1L = 6
Evi Eisenhardt: 2H + 6L = 8
Linda Zang: 3H + 8L = 11!!!!!
Linda was on the fringe in 11 out of 15 tests. That’s gotta mean something. I know one thing it means is that I’m probably going to be permanently on Linda’s shit-list, and for that I’m a little bit sorry. But I still contend that there is no way I could have marched up to her in Lexington and got very far with questions about why she gave the marks she did. If I’m wrong, Linda, please send me an email: email@example.com. I wonder if Linda is soon to join the IDOC executive, the place I lovingly think of as ‘Mariette’s last stand’. There ARE plenty of good, honest forward looking judges in that group, but the IDOC was conspicuous by its complete absence at the GDF, particularly during the “Firing Line’ session that was a joint effort between the IDTC and IDRC, and included David Stickland and a very very very interesting presentation by a sports psych named Inga Wolfram. The session might have been better called “the judging system stinks” which is exactly what IDRC Sec Gen Wayne Channon said to Bernard when he wouldn’t shut up about the judging system being “not so bad”. When it was his turn to talk again, David Stickland showed us his wonderful duck plumage which is resistant to water, oil, gasoline and flame. “I’m glad to hear that I’m occasionally right,” he said with an impish smile on his face.
The day after the GDF, Rebecca and I headed out for a shop-til-you-drop day at Ad Valk’s yard and then to a wonderful tack store in nearby Drunen. We spent some time in GPS and Netherlands navigational hell (when the sun isn’t out it is impossible to know which way you’re facing in a country that flat) before finally pulling into the store’s parking lot. Imagine my delight when I spotted David Stickland and his family getting into their car. I’m not being sarcastic. In the ranking of breaths of fresh air in the dressage world, I put David at the very top. And I’m also happy to have met his delightful wife Lyn, who thankfully isn’t in the least bit jealous of my smitten-ness. After I got home I emailed David and asked him if he could use his great big brain to calculate the probability of our meeting in that parking lot. “Yes I can!” was his immediate reply. “Since we did not predict the occurrence, we only have the a posteriori observation that it occurred, and since it did occur it has a probability of 1.” Okay, that’s enough brain worship. I’m sure your cup runneth over, even if mine is still only half full. (In Homer Simpson’s voice) Mmmmmm! Numbers….
Checking out the young blood while recovering from a rally-style drive to the farm with Ad.
I have a bit more on my mind about Mariette, the IDOC and the recently held International Dressage Forum in Portugal. As I have already mentioned, judges were a bit scarce at the GDF. The IDJC (now called the IDOC to presumably include stewards) had their AGM in Sevilla at the beginning of October. I’d love to let you read the post-orgasmic press release they sent out, but as they haven’t yet posted it on their website and I’m too dumb to figure out how to link to the Word document I received by email, you’ll have to take my word for it that, according to the IDOC, all is well with the world. I’ll give them credit for one thing – they invited David Stickland to present his numbers magic, which is a good sign. Not such a good sign is the letter of recommendations they sent to the FEI in which they gave their (I mean Mariette’s) views on the Dressage Committee’s (Mariette’s lost kingdom) proposed rule changes: seven judges, half points and Judges Supervisory Panel. Expressions like “may seem like a logical proposal” and “noble goal” were just a bit of icing sugar sprinkled on an outright rejection of the proposed rule changes. There were all kinds of half-baked and thoroughly unresearched claims as to why these changes are a bad idea. It’s actually a perfect counterpoint to the methodical way in which the committee tested the potential changes in practice. The IDOC letter was addressed to Trond and Frank – interesting to note that they addressed Frank as Mr. Kemperman and Trond as Trond. The missive clearly fell on deaf ears (or to unmix the metaphor, on blind eyes) because every one of the three rules was passed at the FEI GA. Half marks! Coming soon to a horse show near you!
Another reason the IDOC gang stayed away from the GDF was probably due to the International Dressage Forum, which was held ten days after the GDF, in one of my very favourite ‘countries with sunshine and cute Baroque horses’, Portugal. Brazil used to be Mariette’s favourite home away from home, but Portugal has apparently replaced it. You can read about the forum on Eurodressage , which is I believe the only place you can read about it. The only reason I even knew about the event before it happened was because I got the IDOC press release about it. Let there be no doubt that the Forum was another of Mariette’s babies. If it had been her goal to draw people away from the GDF with a competing event, the only success she managed was one that benefited the rest of us, since we were spared her company. Dear Mariette: don’t worry, we managed to have lots of fun without you in Hooge Mierde.
There was much more at the GDF than I could possibly squeeze into this one inadequate blog, but you can read my words aplenty in several magazines over the next two months. It would be a travesty for me not to share my impressions of the Edward and Nicole demo, however – so here they are. It just reinforced the rightness of my naming Edward ‘Captain of the Universe’ during WEG. One couldn’t say he’s the best rider in the world any more than you could say that Picasso was the best painter or the Black Eyed Peas the best band. But I think it would be fair to say this: Edward’s personality and training philosophy, combined with his special ability to ride with both feel and ‘looseness’ (for lack of a better word) have enjoyed a synchronous intersection with the ‘new style’ of dressage horse that is hotter and more athletic than we have ever seen. In other words, Edward is Man of the Hour, and I predict it’s going to be a very long hour. His demonstration on Lord of Loxley was most meaningful for this reason:
It was honest – no bullshit, not an ‘edited for public consumption version’ but an honest showing of Edward’s way of riding, effectively narrated jointly by him and Nicole Werner (who is cooler beyond cool by the way). Edward rode the horse in a deep frame for long periods of time – by long I don’t mean that he didn’t give the horse breaks when he needed them, but definitely longer than the 10 minute rule that Jacques van Daele had yammered on about the day before would have permitted. The horse was in a deep frame, as Edward explained, because he had discovered that was the shape in which that particular horse worked the best through the whole body. This was the first outing he’d had on the stallion, since he’d only been riding it for a few weeks – not to mention that until ten days earlier Edward thought he was bringing Totilas. Lord of Loxley was quite nervous and he washed out. Edward twice stopped to get the horse’s neck and shoulders sweat scraped. Did anyone cry ‘abuse’? Did anyone freak out about hyperflexion? No. I’d like to think it’s because the 350 people in attendance had the common sense and horsemanship to recognize the fact that the horse was not being forced, and that Edward was riding him sensitively but effectively. But I fear there were other forces at work – the ones that dictate who is allowed to do certain things and who isn’t. I have no beef with anything I saw, and I cried as hard as anyone in the room when Edward received a standing ovation at the end. But I just wish someone had pointed to Jacques van Daele and called him an old woman. I didn’t dare. The media were under fire at this GDF more than I’ve ever experienced, and it just didn’t seem the place for us to stir the pot any more. Maybe I’m wrong about that. Maybe I should have put my hand up and asked Jacques what he would have done if Edward had warmed up like that under his watch. Aw crap. Now I’m going to lose sleep because I just realized I SHOULD HAVE asked.
One thing I did pipe up about, as promised in a pre-GDF post, was the scoring fudge up at WEG. I’m happy to report that the scores are now in the media’s hands (and they can be in yours if you send me an email asking for them). I confronted Trond – first privately and then during the Firing Line presentation the next day. I have to hand it to this man. He has spinning down pat – and I’m not talking about stationary bikes. By the end of our conversation he had me convinced that it was the WEG organizing committee’s fault that the scores had not been made available. Hell, if he’d kept talking I think he could have convinced me it had been MY fault. But after I walked away I got a nagging feeling that took me back to his original email, in which he told me it was the TD’s decision based on a (non-existent) rule. But I’m letting this one go. Whoever’s fault it was, I think it’s safe to say it’s not likely to happen again.
Cripes I’m long-winded. I’d be very surprised if any of you are still with me. Just a couple of comments on the FEI GA to finish up for today. Number one: don’t go if you don’t have to. It’s not that interesting things don’t happen but it’s a little bit like that military cliché about long periods of boredom interrupted by brief moments of terror. I also think the secret ballot thing is crap. That’s why Henk and Sven – but more outwardly Henk – were so shocked by HRH’s Tsunami victory (I’m tired of ‘landslide’ and she did leave the competition dripping wet). The thing is, those heads of federations are not voting for themselves; they are voting on behalf of their membership. And I’d bet that almost none of the members of any national federations know how their countries voted in the presidential election. Except Canada – Akaash confirmed to me on Sunday that the EC Board is comfortable sharing the fact that Canada voted for HRH. So, what can we expect from HRH’s next term? Well I’m sure she’s been more careful about who she appointed as her Veeps. She could hardly do worse in the loyalty department than in her first term. I do think she proved herself a woman of action in the first term; I also believe she is committed to the promises she made last week, which include giving more than lip service to the democratic process. Long live the Princess.
Here are a few final pics from Rebecca’s and Karen’s grand Dutch adventure (the lipstick-mobile got great mileage by the way):
If only I were flying first class with unrestricted baggage allowances…
Our Hansel and Gretel cottage
No Dutch traffic jams on the way to our house – can you see the trail of crumbs?
One last thing: today is Remembrance Day in Canada. I think the videos on this post at Mental Floss that my fellow wiener lover Irene sent this morning are appropriate and in the spirit of the day.