Robert Dover Reflects on Retirement

Friday, December 14, 2018
Posted by Mary Phelps


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Robert Dover
A Happy Robert Dover at the Tryon World Equestrian Games 2018 ©Mary Phelps

While photographing the Wellington CDI 5*** in 2016, I found myself side by side with my longtime friend Robert Dover. Since 1980 when I first began covering Dressage, Robert and I have shared many a conversation, our feelings and philosophies. This day was no different as he tirelessly worked with the Developing and Elite Dressage US athletes in the midst of the winter season. He looked a bit tired, and I asked him "So Robert when are you going to retire?" He replied "When we win a Team Medal."

That year, he guided the US to an Olympic Team Bronze. But he would not be allowed to rest and continued his efforts along with a passionate group of dedicated and devoted colleagues building a foundation of strength and talent supported by a massive and focussed fundraising effort that would finance a long range plan for growth from Young Riders to the top US Team. 

Horsesdaily's Mary Phelps

Today marks my last day as U.S. Technical Advisor/ Chef d’Equipe and I want to share how grateful I am to have had the honor to represent our great country in this role for the past 6 years. It has been a true labor of love for me and I feel so lucky to have had the very best riders, horses, coaches, grooms, trainers, owners, sponsors, veterinarians, farriers, equine and human physiotherapists and specialists, Jenny and Hallye and the entire USEF staff, family and all our friends who have supported our efforts and as Allyn Mann calls it, the journey. 

US Team Silver Medal at the Tryon World Equestrian Games 2018 ©Mary Phelps
US Team Silver Medal at the Tryon World Equestrian Games 2018 ©Mary Phelps

In 2012, I was on the Dressage High Performance Committee for the first time since I had been back from coaching for Canada since 2008. As they discussed 2013, the Chairman told us there would only be enough money in the budget to send 2 combinations to Europe that year.

Naturally, we got into a heated conversation and out of it we produced the first of many annual fundraisers to come. In 2013 we sent 10 combinations to Europe and with each following year, we sent more until now when we are sending up to 20, including U25 and Young Riders to train and compete among the very best in the world.

Robert Dover and Debbie McDonald ©Mary Phelps 2018
Team USA

In 2013, my first task was to produce a 4-year plan and with the help of my assistant coaches and staff, we created, “The Roadmap To The Podiums.” The 58 page document consisted of annual markers which I, personally, as well as the High Performance Divisions in our sport needed to meet from both a training and competitive perspective in order to be deemed successful for that year.

I also was very clear that none of it would be possible without adequate funding necessary to realize our goals. Here, again, is where our fundraisers became a huge game-changer in our eventual and ongoing success.

Robert Dover and Debbie McDonald ©Mary Phelps 2018
Robert Dover and Debbie McDonald ©Mary Phelps 2018

Additional funds allowed us to enhance our programs up and down the pipeline.

With George Williams and Charlotte Bredhall-Baker coaching our Youth Division, Christine Traurig coaching the Young and Developing Horse Division, Debbie McDonald coaching our Developing/U25 Division, and me with the Elite International Division and as TA/Chef, we had in place a group with not only a combined 9 Olympic and World Championship Medals but decades of experience in producing world-class results and sustainable excellence.

Debbie McDonald

In 2012, I wrote that America would have a medal in Rio. What is truly so wonderful is that, looking back at our “Roadmap To The Podiums”and also at the “Roadmap To The Top”, which we produced in 2016 for the next 4 years, up through our U.S. Team’s brilliant, Silver Medal in Tryon last September, we have achieved practically every single goal throughout the last 6 years!

This weekend, our super WEG’s Team and their new TA/Chef and my friend, Debbie McDonald, will be receiving well-deserved honors at the USDF Convention. Debbie is going to continue to do a brilliant job and the future for our teams is bright.

They all know how much I care for and am proud of them and they represent the awesome “machine” we have built which has truly made the United States of America one of the two strongest nation in the world in Dressage and knocking hard on the door of the 1st!

Robert Dover November 30, 2018

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