The enthusiasm empowers Team Canada through Desi Dillingham, Victoria Winter and Dr. Volker Moritz during the Canadian Fortnight held these two weeks (January 19-February 2) in Wellington, Florida. The inaugural event harnessed an extraordinary team spirit and provided a vast array of seminars that encompassed a large qualifying CDI competition, training, team building and loads of learning. We caught up with the three leaders who are building a strong foundation for Canada.
Desi Dillingham serves as the Special Advisor position for Dressage Canada. First and foremost Dillingham is a force of nature with a special grit, wit and goodwill like no other. She currently serves as Chair of the British Equestrian Awards, Committee member of the Olympia Horse Show in London, Chair of the British Breeders Dinner and a Director of Horse and Country TV. Yes, she’s had influence in making Great Britain a dressage powerhouse! She sponsored four-time dressage Olympian Jennie Loriston-Clark for 18 years, and took on the fundraising for the British Olympic Equestrian Team. An amazing force in helping Great Britain’s Dressage turn into a viable company with world class changes and Lottery Funding, she became President of the British Horse Society from 2007 – 2011. In 2009, Dillingham was awarded the MBE (Member of the British Empire) by Her Majesty, the Queen for her contribution to British Dressage.
Wellington’s Fortnight Event brings a sense of community together for the Canadian Dressage High Performance Competitors and 2014 World Equestrian Games qualifying athletes. With wit Desi shared, “I’m the Chef d’Equipe of good times. I put parties together. Communication is all about being together. It’s already broken down barriers. That’s so important. I’m here to build a team, not here to lead a team, as such. I’m going to try to leave a legacy. My job is to bring everyone together and make a system that works. I live 3500 miles away (in Great Britain). I’m trying to build a team that can look after itself.”
As leader, Dillingham shared her team building philosophy, “I have taken Volker because of his background. He’s been there, done that, got the t-shirt, in every way. I wanted to have someone with a wonderful judge’s eye saying it’s not right. Volker has ridden, trained, done everything. He can go back and say, ‘You have a problem with the walk, go back and do this and this. He can mend things with the slightest adjustment.”
Dr. Volker Moritz – Technical Advisor for Dressage Team Canada
Dr. Moritz trained horses to the Grand Prix level for over 45 years. Awarded the German Equestrian Federation's Golden Riders' Badge, He also judged for almost 40 years. One of the highest rated Dressage Judges; he held FEI 'O' level credentials for 20 years before retiring in 2010 (due to the FEI age rule.) His vast judging resume includes three World Cup Finals, the 1998 and 2002 World Equestrian Games, and the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Additionally, he was part of the ground jury of the prestigious CDIO Aachen competition for more than 30 years. Since retiring from judging, Dr. Moritz has stepped up in more of a coaching capacity, including being appointed as the Belgian Dressage Team Coach for the 2012 Olympics.
His role on Dillingham's team of experts will include providing Canadian Dressage Team riders with technical support, advice, and a judge's interpretation of their scores during CDI-level competition at the 2014 Global Dressage Festival series in Wellington, FL, USA this winter.
Moritz shared, “The first goal is to build up a team for WEG. The Dressage Committee of Equine Canada, the governing Federation has set up very high criteria demands."
“This is the first time I have seen the Canadian’s competing on this show grounds. I believe there are between 25-30 horses from Canada, so I am running back and forth from ring to ring. I must see all of them, see who has talent. When I come next trip, I will concentrate a little bit more on the more developed and confirmed ones, to help them improve, to fulfill the WEG selection criteria,” he shared.
What is your plan in working with an athlete who has a coach?
“That is very easy. I’m very happy when a rider has a professional experienced good coach, who they regularly work with. There are riders working with Lars Petersen, Oded Shimoni and Ashley Holzer, all super!”
“For instance, I was standing in the corner next to Lars who coached Diane Creech. It was so amazing, he gave the exactly the same second a comment I would have given. It’s super. It cannot be better.”
“Sometimes I say to the trainer and to the rider, ‘I would focus more on the canter work, or on the balance in the canter, or the steadiness in the contact, just principle things. When I see something to improve, then I tell it to the rider and to the trainer.”
“It must be cooperation amongst all of us. Otherwise it doesn’t work at all. So far, I accept all the trainers, and I have the feeling they like the way I do it.”
Desi shared, “Next I wanted Victoria Winter but thought there would be no way, she’s head of her own law firm, has a child and a husband, a full life. She is on the Pan-Am Committee, so I phoned her up and she has said yes.”
Victoria Winter will be Chef d’Equipe for Canada for the 2014 WEG in Normandy. She groomed for Cindy Ishoy and Dynasty from 1986 to 1988 during their finest hours at World level ending with the Olympic team Bronze medal at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. As a rider, Victoria won Individual and Team Bronze at the 1995 Pan American Games in Argentina and represented Canada as a member of the Canadian dressage team at the World Equestrian Games in Rome (1998) and Kentucky (2010). In addition to this very impressive background, Victoria was Chef d'Equipe of Canada's dressage team for the 2003 Pan American Games in The Dominican Republic, where Canada won Individual gold, and team silver.
Victoria is a partner with the Toronto based Law Firm, Beard Winter LLB and a member of the Board of Directors of the 2015 Pan American Games which will be held in Toronto, Canada. She has a seven year-old daughter and her husband Curt Harnett, is a four time Olympian in Track Cycling where he won silver and two bronze medals for Canada.
Victoria said, “The first step is having Desi involved, her enthusiasm and experience bring so much to the table. Her enthusiasm is contagious.”
“Being Chef d’Equipe, it’s not something I thought about. I jumped at the opportunity to be involved in what, I hope, is a positive change for Canada.”
“Because I’ve had fairly recent experiences as a rider, in the 2010 WEG, I can understand what the riders are going through, what they need, to help them perform at their best.”
On the Canadian Florida Fortnight
Winter Shared, “When I first met with the riders, I asked them to think about their training plan, horse’s fitness, their fitness, sport psychology, nutrition for their horses and themselves, to think about their whole plan. Could they say, ‘I could do a little more?’ It’s those segments, we want them to come to us and say, ‘This is what I need?’ We will do our best to provide the direction. These two weeks in Wellington are all about that. There are seminars on every aspect of being an international high performance rider preparing for the World Equestrian Games (WEG).“
“Volker will help us with the connection to Europe. He has incredible experience as a judge, as a rider, as a trainer. He’s in touch with the European scene.“
The Florida Fortnight was only made possible thanks to partial funding from the Canadian Dressage Athlete Assistance Program (C-DAAP)
About the Program
The goal of the Canadian Dressage Athlete Assistance Program (C-DAAP) is to provide supplemental funding to Canadian dressage athletes by assisting these athletes with funds to off-set training, competition and educational expenses incurred during their quest for excellence, thus creating a bridge to high level international competition.
The mandate is to ensure all programs are developed based on an athlete centered support system by providing the necessary support to ensure recipient athletes serve as role models in the dressage community.
C-DAAP ensures all of its leadership programs are developed in conjunction with the Canadian dressage community and various organizations to capture the vision of C-DAAP, results in empowering our athletes to achieve their full potential without the lack of financial funding inhibiting their ability to achieve their goals.
• To provide financial support to Canadian dressage athletes, identified using criteria established by Equine Canada / Dressage Canada enabling them to compete both nationally and internationally;
• To allow Canada’s dressage athletes the opportunity to participate in year-round national and international training culminating in competition regimes which will further their athletic goals and move Canadian athletes to the top of the international ranking lists;
• To provide a contribution towards helping off-set entry fees, travel, accommodation, training and other such expenses associated for Canadian dressage athletes in need of financial support to attend sanctioned events;
• To provide support to recipients that demonstrate strong leadership qualifies and promote good sportsmanship to other athletes by participating and contributing in various fundraising and coaching programs.