George Williams Welcomes a New Phase for American Dressage

Monday, December 21, 2009

Newly elected president of the United States Dressage Association, and Chairman of the USEF Dressage Committee George Williams is looking forward to the USEF Annual meeting which will bring the development of American Dressage out of limbo, and into a new phase. "Even though she hasn't officially started yet Anne Gribbons has already brought a sense of energy and commitment to the job and we are looking forward to working with her. From the beginning she has had the support of many of the athletes. Like several of the applicants she was encouraged to put her name in for the job by riders and then she won the support of the Eligible Athlete Committee as evidenced in their recommendation to the Dressage High Performance Committee last August.

At a meeting in Chicago in 2008 the athletes expressed an interest in working with their own coaches as well as others and agreed in the need to have expertise in the top position. We already have had some training sessions with top riders and trainers this fall, with more planned for the coming year.

In my opinion the future looks good for US dressage. As was recently announced Eva Salomon will be taking over the position of Managing Director and Chef d'Equipe. With Anne as Coach in the Technical Adviser position and Eva supporting her as Managing Director and Chef I believe we have a dynamic duo in place. I want to thank the staff of USEF, especially Jim Wolf and Jenny van Wieren, for their work over the last few months in helping to bring this all together.

Gribbons Speaks Up

Now that the wheels are in motion, Anne Gribbons describes the time line and facts behind her application and how the process played out.

"I could not attend the meeting in Chicago, since I was judging a show, but I submitted a letter which outlined a new concept of having more of a team manager/coach in place who could oversee the entire dressage program and yet be of help to the elite athletes.  At that time, I had no intention of applying for the position myself. As the year went on, I was approached individually by the members who rode on the Olympic team at Hong Kong, as well as past team members and other riders who have been part of our top rider group, all asking me to apply. Quite late in the process, I decided to hand in my application, after trying to find out whether or not I was going to be invited to judge the WEG.

The FEI could not tell me the answer before the deadline for the application for the position. I applied under the clause of confidentiality, as did nine other candidates. From my point of view, the process was well conducted by champion driver Chester Webber, who is independent from dressage and volunteered his services and his time to help the sport.

Three candidates were selected for interview by the Eligible Athletes committee, which took place in the beginning of August in Denver. At the interview, I again presented my concept of the direction we could take, and answered questions posed by the athletes. I made it crystal clear to the athletes at that meeting that, if chosen, I would not be able to start working until January 2010 because of previous commitments.

A week later, the vote was announced, and no more than two weeks later I was invited to judge the WEG as head of the ground jury. This fact, along with some problems with confidentiality in the High Performance Committee and irresponsible press who took advantage of the situation, held up the contract negotiations for a while. When I was ready to sign in October, the FEI Dressage Committee appointment came up on the screen, and I was very surprised to see that I was still a nominee, since I was certain my position with the USEF would constitute a conflict. When this was not confirmed by the FEI, everything came to a stand still until after the FEI General Assembly, which did put me on the committee. After a change is title and confirmation by the FEI that all was a go, and now the appointment of Eva Salomon as the USEF Director of Dressage we are readydy to start with our new team in January.

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