What does a chef d’equipe do for dressage teams?
There are quite a few reasons to have a chef d’equipe with a team. It’s important to have a representative for the team who gets all the information coming from the show office so the riders can focus on their riding and the show office is not overcrowded with riders looking for information. Some of the important information is start time and order of jog, schooling schedule for the days riders are not showing, which arenas are open for schooling, sound check for freestyles and procedure and schedule for awards.
Chef d’equipes go to the meeting where draw is conducted and declare which riders are riding freestyle or grand prix special. The chef will always be at the warm-up arena when one of the team riders is schooling or warming up, and will sometimes help with warm-ups if a rider is without a coach. In general, part of being a chef is being supportive and available whenever needed.
You recently served as the chef d’equipe for the Dutta Corporation U.S. Nations Cup Team at the 5*CDIO in Compiegne. What was that like?
I flew to Paris and met up with USEF Managing Director of Dressage Hallye Griffin and team vet Paul McClellan.
The show is held in a very beautiful and large park. The stabling was permanent and also very nice. Some of the riders and grooms arrived ahead of the horses to make sure the stalls would be ready in time. We had quite a large group, because in addition to our four senior team members, we also had three riders in the Young Rider division. The riders who made up the Nations Cup Team were Katherine Bateson-Chandler, Nick Wagman, Heather Blitz and Shelly Francis. George Williams was chef d’equipe for Callie Jones, Ben Ebeling and Kayla Kadlubek, who all had been selected for the European Young Rider Tour.
The Nations Cup team didn’t have to compete until Saturday, so they were able to have two days of training before classes started. I think that really helped to keep everyone feeling well-prepared and fairly relaxed, especially considering the added pressure of riding on a team. Katherine trains with Carl Hester in the summer and he was there as part of the British team, but also to train and warm up Katherine. It was a treat for me to listen in on their sessions, as Carl is someone I greatly admire and respect.
Marie Meyers flew in from California to coach Nick Wagman. This was Nick’s first time being part of a Nations Cup Team and I’m sure it was great for his confidence to have Marie there. After the show, I asked Nick what it meant to him to be part of a U.S. Nations Cup Team.
“When I found out I was chosen to be a member of the Dutta Corp Dressage Team and would be representing the United States in the Nations Cup in Compiegne, I was beyond honored and excited,” he said. “It wasn’t until I was actually there, however, that I truly understood the pride associated with riding on a team for your country. Putting the American flag on your saddle pad, putting your team tailcoat on for the first time, riding down centerline seeing your fellow teammates and supporters cheering you on from the sideline in their red, white and blue is beyond anything I’ve experienced so far in my riding career. Dressage can be a very solitary endeavor sometimes. It was a true joy to be part of this team and get to not only ride for the flag, but also get to root for my teammates. I hope I get the opportunity to do it again!”
On Friday, our Young Riders competed in the individual test and had great success with Ben Ebeling finishing third and Callie Jones and Kayla Kadlubeck tied for fifth. Saturday was the Grand Prix and many of the world’s top riders were there, including Patrick Kittel, Carl Hester, Helen Langehanenberg and Gareth Hughes. At the end of the day our riders did great and were sitting in bronze medal position. The Nations Cup system is a bit complicated, but the three best placings from the Grand Prix and the three best placings from the Grand Prix Special/Grand Prix Kur count.
On Sunday, the pressure was on to keep our position, as the Netherlands were close behind. In the Special, Nick was our highest score/placing. He finished fifth with a personal best of 71.404. Katherine also did a great job and finished seventh with a 70.021. I didn’t get to watch a lot of the other countries’ riders, but I did get to watch Gareth Hughes from Great Britain on Briolinca. He rode a beautiful test with incredible harmony to win the class with a 77.170 ahead of Patrick Kittel and Carl Hester.
In the Grand Prix Freestyle, Shelly Francis performed her outstanding and very difficult freestyle for a 79.610. She ended up third, just behind Emmelie Scholtens on Desperado and Helen Langehanenberg on Damsey, who both had great rides. Heather was our last rider to go and finished her freestyle with a 69.830 on her new and very talented partner, Semper Fidelis. At the end of the two days, Great Britain won the gold ahead of Sweden and the U.S. got the bronze. Congratulations to all.