Reply of FEI Dressage Committee to Resignation Request

Mariette Withages, Chair of FEI Dressage Committee, Replies

November 5, 2008

Mariette WithagesH.R.H. Princess Haya Bint al Hussein
Schoten 4th November 2008

Your Royal Highness:

With reference to your letter dated October 31st 2008 we would like to submit our comments, by making reference to the points raised as follows.

1. Although we still do not understand the negative implication, if not actual discrimination at times, for being a judge, D.C. decided to comply with your wishes and reduce the number of judges on the committee and therefore decided to suggest Mrs. Bobby Bobadilla (non judge) instead of Mrs Maribel Alonso de Quinzanos who incidentally is an FEI judge.

The reference made in your letter to “personal issues” was not well received from D.C members on the grounds that, on the contrary, they retain the highest appreciation of Mrs De Quinzanos as a person and as a judge however the committee did not believe that her strengths lay in working on a committee.

This is so true that at the D.C. meeting in Antwerp she was recommended for promotion to “Official judge” (see the D.C. minutes).

2 and 3.
Following a letter dated April 27 2007, again from Margit Otto Crepin for the IDRC, as to the composition of the jury for H.K. and a subsequent letter from Mr. De Jong for the Dutch Federation, you gave us, during the D.C. meeting in April 2008 in Interlaken, some suggestions in this respect, which were all examined and debated in great detail and seriousness.

We came to the conclusion that it was not legitimate, under present FEI Statutes and regulations, to deliberate or even make recommendations against FEI rules and specifically art. 437 which, just as a reminder, states “ At Olympic Games and Senior Championships at G.P. level, the FEI Dressage Committee will appoint a Ground Jury consisting of seven members . The President of Ground Jury will judge all classes with the rest of the panel rotating”.

Despite this lack of legitimacy, it was anyway decided, in order to be proactive towards your suggestion, that any decision on such a matter be deferred to the final deliberation of the FEI Bureau.

Meanwhile the legal dept of FEI had investigated as to any possible conflict of interest of the HK jury members coming to the conclusion that no such conflicts existed for all of them.

Furthermore, in order to comply with the request of FEI Bureau for supporting evidence as to the competence of the appointed judges, D.C. fully supported the HQ initiative to request an independent statistical research (Mr. D. Strickland) on the performance and quality standard of judges in general and in particular for all Official judges, including those that officiated in H.K..

The result of such extensive statistical work is available, and can be requested at any time, in FEI HQ and shows that almost all official judges have a very high so called “quality factor” including the panel of judges for H.K. Same evidence, from the same source, exists for the performances of such judges in H.K.

The letter of Mr. De Jong was addressed to the Dressage Dept. and Dressage Manager was instructed to give a due reply to such a letter reporting nothing more than the above.

We might have missed some steps under development, but we could not find any rule which prevents the Chairman of D.C. to act as a Technical Delegate, whereas such a rule was introduced for the case of a judge.

The Dutch Federation states in its letter: “the position of FEI TD is a function that can be fulfilled by a member of D.C. like Mariette Withages is doing for the Olympic Games in H.K.”

Furthermore, we do not understand how the jury of the Athens Olympics is relevant in this context, but may be worth mentioning, that such a Jury was considered as the highest technical level or at least one of the best ever
6, 7 and 8.
No dressage committee meeting was called or held in H.K. Some members were not even present there! The matters referred to in your letter do not relate to Dc functions which are quite different from TD functions

You will recall that the 2nd Vice President and member of the executive board made a report at the Olympic Games and stated that the Judging was of the high standard expected at such an event.

We would like to point out that we strongly believe that FEI dressage judges do not deserve comments such as “fear for their displeasure through their judges’ role”.

On the contrary D.C. is proud of the professional and ethical attitude shown by all judges at all occasions

We stated in our previous letter that we really thought, or at least hoped, that some misinterpretations had occurred with journalists as to what reported by them in relation to “popularity of dressage abnormally low” (Horse and Hound) or to the fact that the selection of judges for championships be made within a restricted circle of friends (EPERON, translation from French).

Just in order to avoid speculations like the latter and use the full range of O judges , previous members of D.C. had decided, long time ago, to apply an unwritten rule whereby all Official judges had to be employed on a rotational basis and therefore no judge was to officiate in more than one edition of O.G.

Under new FEI Statutes and regulations the appointment of officials for O.G and Championship is not any longer under the responsibility of D.C, which acts only as a consulting body and as such making recommendations to FEI H.Q, who can even decide to ignore their suggestions completely
It is then up to FEI H.Q, and not to DC, to decide to change the the method of selection of judges for such championships

D.C members are convinced that acting according to the FEI Statutes and Regulations will, in the long range, prove their dedication to our sport and their integrity despite the unfounded accusations that have been made in various newspapers and magazines.

We intended to remain within FEI boundaries when we referred our comments to the Bureau of FEI.

We trust that members of Bureau will appreciate our full respect and observance of FEI rules.


Mariette Withages Chairman of Dressage Committee
and on behalf of DC members

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Replies to This Discussion

I have to concur with her Royal Highness Pricess Haya's request that the Committee resign. You have done nothing to counter the abusive (whether mental/physical or otherwise - there is nothing natural nor beneficial in the Roll Kur or "hyperflexion" or whatever other euphemism you choose to disguse the term.) Seeing it disgusts me, yet you and your fellow judges continue to reward the riding that is the result - how can a ride like Anky's in the Olympics which showed her visibly standing in her stirrups and hauling on her horses mouth be given any decent score for "riders position and use of aids," submission, etc., let alone harmony, grace, and an example of what proper training is supposed to achieve.
You have done nothing to address the inequities in judging - where a "name" rider can get away - even in the Olympics - with her horse flat refusing to do a movement - where was the lowered score for the transitions in and out? for Submission? You would have crucified a lower level or lesser know rider not only on that single movement but across the whole test.
The dressage community as a whole is tired of watching the name riders get scores that from a lesser known rider would have scored 2,3 and even as much as 5 points lower. Why? Are you afraid they won't show up again? They have to - they're professionals. What you have succeeded in doing is discouraging the lesser known riders from competing - and they represent the backbone of the industry - we pay the bills! And you have fostered the appearance of bad riding, abusive treatment, poor training is OK, opening the door for the inexperienced to think that what they see is OK to emulate.
Wake up and get off your self-serving, self-aggrandizing, insulated little world and listen to what the community is saying to you!
You are an embarrasment to the sport.
In response to the letters of Princess Haya and Ms. Mariette Withages,

I also agree with the decision to ask for the resignation of the committee. Above all, the decision for several of your members to take it upon themselves to hold the secret meeting in the middle of the night during the Olympic Games was astonishingly unethical and unsportsmanlike. Certainly enough to merit a resignation of the relevant committee members immediately following the Games.

I was surprised that it was not requested at the time.
With Princess Haya taking the extraordinary and, to my knowledge, unprecedented step of publicly airing the FEI's grievances with the Dressage Committee's numerous missteps and the International Dressage Riders Club welcoming the resignation of the dressage Committee, surely the members must recognize that the most unselfish and dignified thing they can do is step aside.

With a strong list of problematic issues coming publicly to light, it is time to for the Committee to "walk the walk" and step aside if they really are acting in the best interests of the dressage world, rather than drag themselves, the FEI, and the image of dressage even lower into the mud.

I would strongly recommend that they consult a good PR team to help them work out an agreement with the FEI that will allow them to resign with at least some of their dignity intact. It can still be done.
FEI Dressage News

Spanish Equestrian Federation Opposes New FEI Dressage Committee, IDTC In Favour

November 9, 2008

Spanish Andalusian horseIn view of the situation that has arisen from Princess Haya's request for the resignation of the members of the FEI Dressage Committee, the President of the Spanish Equestrian Federation (RFHE), Javier Revuelta del Peral (a former Spanish Olympic eventing rider), sent the following statement to the President of the FEI, its General Secretary and the Group I and II Federations:

“Regarding the petition for the resignation of the FEI Dressage Committee issued by the
Executive Board, leaving aside the motives and reasons made public both by the
President of the FEI as well as the Committee, the RFHE thinks it fundamental to remind
that the FEI is a democratic institution, with internal functioning rules duly approved by the
different bodies, that determine at all times the way its members must proceed.

Based on this, since the capacity to propose, designate and remove members of
committees is a prerogative of the FEI’s General Assembly & the Bureau’s, it is before
these two bodies, and not in other forums, where the petition at hand needs to be
presented; therefore our federation can not agree with the decision made public by the
Executive Board.

In any case, due to the importance of the matter, we requested that it is addressed at the
meeting of the Assembly in Buenos Aires, as well as in the previous leading-up sessions of
the working groups”

The International Dressage Trainers Club has also taken a stand in the current debate and is in favour of a new committee. The IDTC wrote that it "regrets the fact and the public nature of the current controversy surrounding the FEI Dressage Committee. However, the IDTC has long held the belief that the current composition of the FEI Dressage Committee does not reflect the interest of all stakeholders. Therefore we hope that the current situation is seen as an opportunity to restructure the administration of dressage affairs within the FEI to be fully representative of the interests of all stakeholders, riders, trainers, judges, chef d’equipes, organisers and developing countries. Now is the time for the dressage community to unite and focus on the long term interest of our sport."
Thank you for the reminder, Astrid!

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