The Dressage Summit, that is. No, I didn’t go. I wasn’t even invited, which doesn’t surprise me THAT much, given my muckraking ways. Believe it or not, though, no one is more keen to write good news about Canadian dressage than yours truly. Truly. But I broke my rose-tinted glasses back in elementary school (actually Chuggy Switzer broke them for me in grade three). I’ll gladly report on good news, but I won’t make it up.
Yes, the organizers of the Summit didn’t decline to invite only me – as far as I know there were no members of the media or PR business invited. I don’t believe it was a deliberate slight. I suspect it was because there is a genuine and persistent belief in DC Land that words like ‘press’ and ‘media’ hold vaguely sinister but unimportant significance. Just one note to the wiser to the DC powers: if I HAD been invited, even if I couldn’t have hoofed it from the west coast all the way to Welly World for it, I probably wouldn’t have opened my cake hole about it on this blog like I’m doing right this minute.
I actually know for a fact that there was no deliberate campaign to keep me in the dark, at least not once the Summit had been reached. I’ve had some lovely conversations with people who participated, as well as formal interviews with Gina Smith (Chair HP and Chef d’Equipe) and the person described to me as the ‘Margaret Thatcher of British Dressage’, Desi Dillingham (whom I’ve not met, but after a phone chat I have an image of a pink drum playing bunny in my head).
I was also sent the summary report from the Summit, which weighed in at a hefty 29 pages. I’ve taken all I’ve gleaned and written about it for my monthly Horse Sport column ‘At Issue’, which will be in the June issue. But there was so much more than I could fit into the article, including a few of my usual opinionations.
First, some observations. The group of 50 or so attendees was divided into six ‘break out’ groups to mull over a list of various issues facing DC. It would seem that the secretaries of the groups had a ‘no idea is too silly or outrageous’ attitude, and wrote them all down. A couple of zingers made it all the way through to the final summary. One group, charged with the task of hashing out ‘resource acquisition and sustainability’ (ie. buying and keeping good horses), had as one of their proposals ‘make it known that horses are for sale’. Uh, isn’t that precisely NOT the goal? The good news is that when a vote was taken, not one person voted for it – indicating that even whoever mentioned it knew they’d had a brain fart.
My other favourite bit from the summary is in regard to that ALL IMPORTANT TOPIC which has stymied Canada for so, so long: who should we have as our Technical Leader and what should that person’s role be? This topic was deemed so gravely critical that all six break out groups brainstormed it, with pretty consistent conclusions…except for one group, that is. In addition to such obviously useful qualities as ‘passion’ and ‘strong horse experience’, Group Three had on their list that Dressage’s New Leader should be ‘evangelical’. Apparently someone was under the misapprehension that the Summit was about finding a new cult leader.
My overall impression of the Summit via second hand reports and the summary is that it was a step forward; but it’s one of those dangerous steps forward that requires someone to quickly build a set of stairs or at least shove a stool under the extended foot before it comes back to earth. Yes, dressage in Canada needs better fundraising (any would be a start), good support programs for top and up-and-coming horses and riders (any would be a start), good governance and a combination of staff and volunteers who are both qualified to do their jobs and have the right motives. Duh. This is not rocket science. But it would seem that quite a few people who turned up for the Summit were surprised how many of their fellow DQs were on the same page with them about what DC NEEDS NOW. That take-home lesson – that pretty much everyone wants the same thing – on its own makes the Summit a worthwhile exercise.
It was said by one of the consultants brought in to manage the Summit that if the community doesn’t take what was learned and identified as priorities over the two days and turn it into wine, the next thing to happen may well be civil war. Hyperbolic language you say? Perhaps a little, but I take the point. And I hope the DQs of Canada do too.