Hello and welcome to the first entry of my updates for the World Equestrian Games (WEG) in Tryon, North Carolina. Many of you may know me as the Chief Executive for British Eventing but this year I am working with the British team as the Chef de Mission and the word ‘team’ is one I would like to emphasise as we will be working together as one team.
To give you a bit more background about myself, I was in the army until 1999 as a Horse Gunner before becoming the Chief Executive for British Dressage after a year on the board during my time in service. I held this position for 9 years before joining the FEI as a Sporting Director where I oversaw the bidding process for WEG in Normandy. I then spent three years working with the Italian Equestrian Federation as their Sport Director where I was Chef de Mission (CDM) in Kentucky, before working for a number of years as a sports consultant with Wharton Consulting, I returned to British equestrian sport to become the CEO of British Eventing, a role I have enjoyed since April 2015.
Following Gordon’s [Burton] departure from the Performance Director role, I met up with Nick Fellows from the BEF along with British Showjumping’s Iain Graham and Jason Brautigam from British Dressage for one of our monthly Chief Executive meetings to discuss the role of Chef de Mission. A number of options were explored and we went away to think about it. It was during this time when I reflected on my past experiences that I believed I could take up the position having had a lot of experience with all of the Olympic and non-Olympic disciplines and having been CDM in Kentucky. I met with Nick again at Bolesworth to offer my services to the role and this was then taken up after the decision was approved by my chairman and my board. Whilst I am there, I will still very much continue to carry out my duties as a Chief Executive for British Eventing so when it’s quiet and people are looking for me they may find me working on my laptop at our team base!
Since the World Equestrian Games were awarded to Tryon in 2016, the World Class team have been working tirelessly to ensure no stone is left unturned in the preparations for the Championships. The World Class Programme is extremely fortunate to be one of UK Sport’s funded sports, receiving funding from UK Sport and the National Lottery, which supports our athletes throughout the year and our team in the preparation and planning for a Championships. From organising flights and accommodation to ensuring we have enough shovels and buckets, Sarah Armstrong, Sophie Thomas and Lucy Phillips have been doing a fantastic job leading the logistical operation.
I will start my journey to Tryon at 6am on Sunday morning, sadly I won’t be heading to the final of the Land Rover Burghley International Horse Trials, but I hope to be able to keep up to date with it from the flight. When I arrive it will be straight down to business and catching up with the World Class team as we await the first arrivals of our 178 strong delegation. When our first wave of arrivals land in Charlotte we will be looking to ensure that we give them the best possible welcome in their ‘golden hour’ - from the moment they land to the moment they are in their accommodation and then on site. We want to remove any distractions or any challenges that any of our team will face. For our grooms, who are a key part of our performance in Tryon, it could be the basic things such as “where are the wheelbarrows?”, “where can I exercise the horses?” or even “where are the washing machines?” Whatever they need, we are there to make sure everyone is well looked after and any challenges we face, we overcome them. Having worked on Organising Committees previously, I know there are going to be a lot of challenges for them out there but we will be looking to work with them to help deliver these Championships.
Another important group joining us for our journey to Tryon are our owners, who will be looked after by our liaisons’, Tina Goosen and Alex Van Tuyll. We are planning on hosting a couple of owner receptions across the two weeks but aside from this I will be hoping to spend as much time as I can with them on event. If we don’t have owners, we don’t have horses. They are vital.
I will be packing for all occasions and for all weathers and I, along with the team, am very grateful for the kit we have received from Musto. The kit is phenomenal, not only how it looks but also technically. Alongside our Musto kit, our equine athletes receive their own unique technical clothing from FALPRO England who provide not only the highest quality rugs and saddle pads but this year have also provided the team with stable drapes and guards to ensure the horses houses’ for WEG are as homely as possible.
As a squad, the British teams are lucky to enjoy support from key partners, who help to make sure that both athletes are best equipped to represent their country. The teams are very fortunate to enjoy the support of Dodson & Horrell, Equi-Trek, FALPRO England, Musto, NAF and Point Two.
This will be my second WEG in the States and I cannot wait to catch-up with all of the team when they arrive and see a fantastic couple of weeks of equestrian sport.
There is a saying in the army: ‘The boots fit and that the mail is getting through’ – which means that people are in the best situation to do their duty - and as Chef de Mission, I am confident that the detailed planning and preparation which our athletes, their home teams the World Class Programme have done will enable our athletes and their equine partners the best chance of delivering personal bests.
I plan to send more updates in the coming days.