Can you describe your role as the U.S. Dressage Team Technical Advisor and Chef d’Equipe? What do you do?

It’s very multifaceted because, when I took this job, the role was not exactly the role that I actually ended up filling. The specifics of the job looked different on paper than what I felt was necessary. For instance, the role of the Technical Advisor and Chef d’Equipe has a long list of requirements, but none of them were to raise the kind of funding I’ve raised over these last years in order to send the horses and riders to Europe.

I knew that fundraising was going to be one of the most impactful things that I could do.

I ended up sort of creating my job description as I went along because I knew that fundraising was going to be one of the most impactful things that I could do. I needed to raise enough money to have world-class competition and training programs. So that was my own personal goal. My fundraising efforts over the last six years were ongoing, and I held a major fundraising event every single year. I’ve helped raise about $1.5 million dollars. Then, I tried to bring in donors for the USEF and for programs. In the last six months we brought on Discover Dressage to fund the emerging dressage athlete program—and that’s another million.

Another part of the job has been to create the programs themselves for all of the different divisions. So while my job as the Chef d’Equipe is to oversee the elite division, another aspect of it is to make sure that the divisions below the elite division, meaning the developing and the emerging program (and the youth programs and the young horse programs) were also getting upgraded to a much higher class than they were and administered by world class leaders. It’s about the next generation of team riders. Since the beginning of 2013, it’s been another big goal for me to keep on honing and producing greater programs all the way from the bottom to the top of the pyramid, and to bring on the greatest possible leaders and coaches for those programs. Now we have coaches that are world class, most of them are medalists themselves.

The Roadmap to the Podium

When I first took over, I produced a 58-page document, with the help of the other coaches and the staff, called “The Roadmap to the Podium” because we had been off of the podiums since 2004. From the time that I took over in 2013, I was determined that we will be back on the podiums by the next Olympic Games in 2016. This gets into the third part of what I actually do—coaching. I work with the coaches of our elite riders. I go to the riders’ shows, all across the country and all over Europe, and make sure that their personal coaches have everything they need and that we all work together to produce great results.

The fourth part of my job is to fulfill the administrative role of the Chef d’Equipe. It’s very logistical and requires a lot of strategy. In general, the Chef oversees and is responsible for everything that goes on with the team when they’re at these competitions. When I first took over as Chef, I had the riders and everybody around a big round table at the Equestrian Team at Gladstone.

“If you have a hangnail, I want to know about it.”

I said, “Well, for the next four years, just so you know, you guys can call me day and night, and if you have a hangnail I want to know about it.” (I really thought I was only going to be Chef for just the four years). That’s really what I do—whatever they need and whatever I can do, whether it’s actual training or if they need me for whatever they need, they know they can call on me day or night.

Check out the ARCHIVES to read more about Robert’s experiences—decades worth—in EQ AM Vol. 9!