The current state of international coaching could be likened to a dance of some description, but what dance? Ballroom or square dancing? Whichever, it certainly involves a lot of swapping partners (as in countries and coaches) and fancy footwork!
Equestrian Sports NZ has been advertising for a High Performance Eventing Manager since Graeme Thomas resigned because of his back issue in April 2017 after just a very short time in the role (appointed January). As yet, ESNZ has not made any announcement on progress. We were interested to see a comment from Captain Mark Phillips recently in Horse & Hound that “there is also talk that Graeme Thom has been reinstated as team manager for New Zealand, having resigned soon after his appointment due to back problems.”
We approached ESNZ for an update a few days ago, but they are yet to get back to us. Graeme certainly had rave reviews on his initial appointment, and it sounded as if he was a good man for the role, so hopefully Captain Phillips’ comment can be confirmed soon.
New Zealand’s Andrew Nicholson has been dipping his toe into the coaching dance recently and seems to be enjoying his experiences with the Germans. We don’t know much about German dancing but can’t see Andrew donning the lederhosen outfit required for the traditional folk dance of Schuhplattler – though wouldn’t that be a great image!? With the state of the relationship between Andrew and ESNZ, there is not much chance of him getting involved in coaching for them.
Andrew has been helping the German team at events by walking the cross-country courses with the riders. This paid gig has certainly been the subject of a lot of interest, with Andrew even cracking jokes about it at Badminton, especially when he ended up beating his “pupils” Ingrid Klimke and Michael Jung!
Andrew also walked the course with the Germans at Luhmühlen, and they certainly dominated the leaderboard at their home four-star. It will be interesting to see whether he plays the same role at Burghley. If there is one event where he should be able to earn top dollar (sorry pound) in sharing his knowledge of a course, it is Burghley!
The German coaching vacancy came up when Christopher Bartle was appointed as Performance Coach to British Eventing’s World Class Programme. He had a great record with the German team and they were sorry to see him go in January this year. Chris successfully jigged between the German coaching role and his UK-based one, so there is a precedent that may suit Andrew.
Bettina Hoy is another who both competes and coaches. She is currently coaching the Dutch team as well as running her own, and it hasn’t affected her success in the saddle: she recently won the CIC3* at Luhmühlen. How the Dutch eventers go under her watch is a work in progress; it’s early days yet. Their highest rider on the world rankings is Merel Blom (83rd). The Dutch apparently don’t have a national dance of sorts, and are happy to borrow their dancing styles from other nations, so this bodes well for Bettina.
Meanwhile, Bettina’s ex-husband Andrew is now coaching the Spanish team, and may or may not be learning the flamenco and paso doble. The Australian will no doubt enjoy the weather in Spain during his trips there. But, while Spain is a real horse country, with horses deep in the Spanish soul, its current equestrian strengths do not lie in eventing. Carlos Diaz Fernandez is their highest ranked rider (91st) and he finished 21st in the CIC3* at Luhmühlen recently.
Another who has been able to ride and coach at the same time is New Zealand’s Sir Mark Todd. He’s been showing the Brazilian team all the right steps, but we understand this may have come to an end now.
The USA Eventing team is currently looking for their new choreographer, as David O’Connor has recently stepped down.
In the show jumping world, Rodrigo Pessoa has recently taken on the role of coach for the Irish team. Rodrigo is no doubt accomplished at samba, but will now have to learn some more rapid leg movements, tap and fancier steps. Such an accomplished man should have no problems.