By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
Robert Dover has been selected as the new dressage Technical Advisor/Chef d’Equipe of the United States, the U.S. Equestrian Federation announced Wednesday saying that a contract is still to be finalized to fill the position that is expected to be through the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janiero.
Robert, 56, who is based in Wellington, Florida was successful in his second run for the post that is the coach of United States teams for the Olympics, World Equestrian Games, Pan American Games, World Cups and other high performance events such as Nations Cups.
He rode on six United States’ Olympic teams–Los Angeles in 1984, Seoul in 1988, Barcelona in 1992, Atlanta in 1996, Sydney in 2000 and Athens in 2004–winning four team bronze medals.
He was selected over Rien van der Schaft, a 59-year-old classical dressage trainer and former Olympic rider for the Netherlands, who is based in Europe.
Robert succeeds Anne Gribbons, an International Equestrian Federation top ranked 5* judge and operates a training business near Orlando, Florida. She beat out Robert for the job in 2009 but resigned after last summer’s Olympic in London where the United States was out of the medals for the second straight Games.
The U.S. federation said in a brief statement that its Executive Committee approved the recommendation of Robert as the next Chef d’ Equipe/Technical Advisor for America’s dressage team pending the successful negotiation of a contract.
The USEF selection process was onerous with candidates needing to be vetted by a search committee, approved by Eligible Athletes (U.S. team riders), then the High Performance Committee then signed off by the Executive Board.
The posts of technical advisor and chef d’equipe were combined under the job description that was drawn up after the London Games. The previous post was split between Anne Gribbons as coach while Eva Salomon was chef d’equipe. Both resigned within a few months of each other.
The description for the job also emphasized more of an advisory role to riders and their personal coaches rather than the more direct coaching that was applied by Anne Gribbons and her predecessor, Klaus Balkenhol, the German Olympic gold medalist who held the post for eight years.
There are indications that the role Robert Dover will fill will evolve into more emphasis on coaching and leading teams while shedding the bureaucratic functions of team management.
Robert Dover was on more Olympic dressage teams than any other U.S. rider before retiring from competition in 2007. He has also been coach of dressage for the U.S. eventing team as well as heading up coaching for Canada after he missed out on the American job in 2009.
Known as a tireless worker, he proposed a detailed pipeline for development of American dressage from the beginning levels to high performance that was implemented to a large extent by Anne Gribbons.
After his recent appointment to the USEF Dressage High Performance Committee which approved an ambitious program of European tours for 2013 but there was not enough money to fund the effort. Robert then created a U.S. Equestrian Team Foundation benefit to coincide with the Wellington Nations Cup with the goal of raising money to pay for rider and horse combinations to go to Europe ahead of next year’s World Equestrian Games in Normandy, France.
In addition to his Olympic record, Robert was named “Male Equestrian of the Year” in 1994 by the U.S. Olympic Committee after winning the team bronze medal at the World Championships at The Hague.