Well that was worth setting the alarm for six on a Sunday morning. What a final over there in sunny Barcelona (that’s Barthelona you know). Killer, killer course it was today. Only four clears (plus one with a single time fault) out of 32 starters makes it one of the toughest I can remember having seen in recent years – though I qualify that statement with the admission that I watch more dressage and eventing in a year than show jumping.
I have recently been considering the constant harping that goes on in the international dressage community regarding the accessibility of the sport to the public. People keep insisting that dressage is too confusing for an audience that doesn’t have an intimate familiarity with the finer points of the rules and standards of performance. Well, I’d like to know how many Spaniards (sorry, Catalans) in the audience who went out for a nice family outing to the jumping show understood why Penelope Leprevost pulled up after knocking down the first jump today. It was of course because with four faults she had no chance to better France’s already winning score of 8 faults overall, but I seriously doubt even half of the audience knew that.
Which leads me to the argument that the reason dressage remains a tough sell as a spectator sport has little to do with its byzantine structure, and much to do with the problem it’s always had. It’s boring. It’s not boring to do, and I expect I share my ability to withstand 40 Grand Prix tests in a day with at least, what, a hundred thousand? people world wide. But with the exception of the freestyle, dressage just is not a thrilling sport in the way jumping is. People might have wondered why Penelope quit (and I bet a few Spanish people thought she was just being a snotty, temperamental French girl), but not for long. As soon as the next horse started jumping, they would have been completely caught up in the action and likely forgotten all about it.
Hold your keyboards, indignant DQs. I love dressage, and I think we should continue to do all we can to promote it. I just think it’s time to stop sweating bullets about the sport being confusing to the public and start wearing pink sequined tail coats.
Back to today’s Nation’s Cup final. If you missed it but have an FEI TV membership, it’s worth watching the rides that are sure to get onto the on demand video, particularly Captain Lamazing’s clear round with the young but wonderful Powerplay. Of course, being Canadian I can be expected to get emotional watching Eric go clear, but there is something even more profound to my happiness. It’s just beyond awesome to see him with another great horse under him. He and Scott Brash were the only two riders to have double clear rounds – Friday and today – and they get to split a handsome bonus of 200,000 Euros for their achievement. Besides Eric, the other truly masterful ride of the day came from Jeroen Dubbeldam (whose name I remember using the slightly stripper handle-sounding pneumonic Jerome Double Down), who was the only Dutchman to go clear today.
I believe this blog is going live before the FEI press release hits your inbox, so here are the results from today:
1. France – 8
2. Brazil – 9
3. Ireland – 12 (and faster than the Dutch)
4. Netherlands – 12
5. Belgium – 16
6. Canada – 17
7. Ukraine – 20
8. Great Britain – 21
Perhaps the bigger news than the actual winners today is the fact of who didn’t make the top eight: the Saudis, sponsors of the whole Furusiyya series, which today’s announcer seemed never to tire of saying is the richest in the world; the Americans, who ‘redeemed’ themselves by winning the consolation class yesterday (tell me the last time Americans thought of winning a consolation prize as redemption); and the Germans who, when it comes to their sense of self worth, need to catch up with present reality. Earlier this summer, when Germany was temporarily disqualified from the Furusiyya series for refusing to jump their horses in the appalling conditions in St. Gallen, Ludger Beerbaum published a bit of a rant on his website. While I agreed with much of what he said, there was one sentence that struck me as just a tad arrogant: “On the other hand the final will not be worth half as much when a country such as Germany isn’t in it.” Whaddaya say now, Ludger? Hm?
Before I leave you today, I thought I should give you a hint about what stories I’m sniffing out over the coming weeks. As you may be aware there has been something of a sh*#t storm this year over the pervasive culture of doping and destruction (of horses) in Endurance, with most, if not all, fingers pointed toward the Middle East. Given that the FEI Prez is the junior wife of the Endurance dominator himself, there have been some very twitchy eyebrows regarding conflict of interest. This story has more tentacles than an octopus, but the one I’m currently chasing down on is the interesting timing of the proposal made (unanimously, we’ve been told) by the FEI Regional Chairs to have the FEI statutes changed to allow a president to remain for a third term. I have, in the past, said I thought HRH might pull a Chavez – not by dying, but by attempting to prolong her reign beyond the two term limit she herself imposed when she became Prez. Now, this proposal has been dressed up in a cloak of having come from the regional chairs, and maybe it did. It’s certainly what Mission Control’s communications department told me last week:
“The Regional Group Chairs, on behalf of their respective National Federations, have put in a formal unanimous request that the FEI Statutes be modified so that the term of the FEI President may include one additional four-year term. This would bring the maximum possible number of four-year consecutive terms for an FEI President to three, for a maximum total of 12 years.
“As a consequence of this petition, signed by all nine Group Chairs, the following change to the FEI Statutes has been proposed for approval by the FEI General Assembly and was sent to all National Federations on 4 July as part of the consultation process on all FEI rule changes:
“19.7 The President is elected for a Term of four (4) years and is re-eligible, but may not serve more than three (3) consecutive full Terms.
“According to the current FEI Statutes (Art. 17.3), amendments to the Statutes must be approved by a two-third (2/3) majority of all cast votes.”
My colleague and fellow contributor to the parent magazine of this blog, Pippa Cuckson, wrote a brief and straight-to-the-point story for The Telegraph on September 18th which highlights both the question of conflict-of-interest and the intention among at least a couple of European federations to oppose the change to the statutes. This week, Mission Control issued a press release in which HRH declared in no uncertain terms that she will not seek a third term, despite feeling ‘honoured’ by the proposal. Funny, that. If HRH was so steadfast to uphold her own previous mandate to limit a presidential tenure to two terms, why didn’t she say so when the proposal was formalized in early July? Surely she would have saved herself a bit of a drag through the mud if she had nipped the notion in the bud…
I’m so curious about all this that I’m subjecting myself to yet another airplane ride, to attend the 2014 FEI GA in Montreux, Switzerland in early November. It goes without saying that I’ll be merrily blogging from my seat in the back row, which is where I expect the media are supposed to sit.
Oh, I almost forgot. I wanted to make sure you saw this wonderful photo of the ultimate show jumping sausage party, sent out Thursday by the FEI with their press release following the draw in Barcelona.