FEI race heats up as candidates announce teams - video

October 27, 2010

FEI presidential candidates Sven Holmberg and Henk Rottinghuis have both announced their candidates for the vice-president positions should they be named to lead the governing body for horse sport.

» The race for the FEI presidency


Sven Holmberg discusses his vision for the future of the FEI.


Henk Rottinghuis discusses his aspirations for the FEI, in an interview recorded in July 2010.


Christopher Hodson QC


David O'Connor


Catherine Weber de Rize

Both are up against Princess Haya, who is seeking a second term as FEI president. She recently laid out her campaign pledges, which included proposals for greater athlete representation, a move to commercial partnerships rather than sponsorship packages, closer ties with other horse sports and growing income streams.

The presidency of the FEI will be decided at a meeting of national federations in Chinese Taipei on November 5.

Swedish contender Sven Holmberg has announced that Catherine Weber de Rize, Guatemala, is his candidate for first vice-president, and Christopher Hodson of New Zealand is his choice for second vice-president. Hodson is currently second vice-president of the FEI.

Dutchman Henk Rottinghuis has also pointed to Hodson for the position of 2nd VP, and has named current President of the United States Equestrian Federation, Chair of FEI Group IV and FEI Bureau member, David O'Connor, as his choice for 1st VP.

Holmberg said the composition of his team was based on "extensive discussions with National Federations, FEI Group Chairs and several distinguished persons in the Equestrian sports".

He had also considered O'Connor for his 1st VP. "David O'Connor, being very well known and highly respected, stated at an early stage that he wanted to be able to continue his activities as coach and team-leader in eventing in parallel with taking on a wider role in the FEI. He also made it clear that his coaching activities must be allowed to be in the foreground, particularly at bigger Events like Championships and Games," Holmberg said.

"Catherine Weber de Rize, coming from a Group with several smaller NF's and where many countries are in the process of developing the sport intensely, can contribute with experience from that area and prove to be a valuable in expanding our sport.

"Two very good candidates were available for the position of 1st VP and it has taken great time and efforts to come to this conclusion."

However, in selecting Catherine Weber de Rize, Holmberg said she had proved to be a "doer" in her term as Chair of the FEI Group V, which covers Central America. The group consists of three large National Federations in Mexico, Venezuela and Colombia, as well as a large number of smaller NFs.

"I felt it to be important that both "my" VP candidates must be without even the smallest possible conflict of interest at any time," he said.

Weber de Rize was born in Algeria but lived in France up until about the age of 20. "She has a good knowledge of what is needed to make equestrian sports grow in developing countries," Holmberg said.

Should Holmberg be elected as president of the FEI, David O'Connor will not miss out on a job, however. Among Holmberg's proposals will be the appointment of an Executive Board, with representation from Asia, Africa, Europe and North America, as well as an Athletes' commission representative. "It is obvious that David O'Connor will be the candidate representing North America, a proposal he has accepted should I be elected."

Holmberg said his board "is not appointed by the President, and certainly not by presidential candidates."

Holmberg said that Hodson had from the very beginning been his first choice as 2nd VP. "His great legal expertise and huge experience puts him in an outstanding position as a member of the team."

In naming O'Connor as his 1st VP and Hodson as his 2nd VP, Henk Rottinghuis said the composition of the team fits perfectly with the needs of the FEI. "I am very happy that both David and Chris have subscribed to my Agenda."

He said leading New Zealand lawyer Christopher Hodson is generally perceived as a guardian of continuity within the FEI and had recently announced his willingness to serve with him.


Princess Haya


Sven Holmberg


Henk Rottinghuis

"To achieve this Agenda, which the federations have themselves requested, we need individuals with great knowledge of the sport, experience of the requirements and cultures of federations across the world, sound commercial principles and great integrity. I am confident that this team delivers that and much more," Rottinghuis said.

"It is testament to the strength of the Agenda that both the US Equestrian Federation, the largest equestrian federation in the world, and two people of such individual qualities, who have themselves been talked about as presidential nominees, have recognised the task that lies ahead and agreed to act as my partners in our quest to deliver the Agenda.

"There is much to be done, not through 'change' but through a fresh approach that safeguards and builds on the FEI's successes to date, not one which abandons them and starts all over again," Rottinghuis said.

"David's in-depth knowledge of the sport and athletes across the world, as well as his leadership of his federation, represents a good example of cooperation of established and developing countries, both small and large. This, coupled with Chris' commitment to continuity, integrity and development, complement the skills that I bring," he said.

O'Connor is a two-time Equestrian of the Year and only the fourth US rider to win Individual Gold in Equestrian sport. He has been an integral part of the US eventing program for nearly two decades as an athlete; since his retirement in 2004 he has taken on the role of president of the US Equestrian Federation, chairs two committees for the FEI, and is also bureau member of the FEI. With his wife, Karen, he teaches many student each year and continues to train young horses.

Hodson is a Queen's Counsel, and is General Counsel in New Zealand to the Medical Protection Society, London, Judge Advocate General of the New Zealand Armed Forces, and Chief Judge of the Court Martial of New Zealand. He has been a director or chair of several organisations and was elected to the FEI's 2nd vice-president role in 2006. From 2001 to 2004 he was Chef d'Equipe for Eventing New Zealand, which included two Trans-Tasman Championships, WEG 2002, the Pan Pacific Championship in Blenheim in 2003, and the Olympic Games in 2004.

"National Federations have a clear choice. Those who have been happy with the last four years have two candidates to choose from - each of whom has been responsible for administering the FEI during that period. However, if they are looking for a new approach with a knowledgeable and committed, globally focused team, delivering a clear agenda, then they have only one choice."

Commenting on the announcement, David O'Connor said: "From my experiences as an International athlete for 20 years and a National Federation President these past seven I believe that the FEI is poised to make great strides in promoting equestrian sport around the world. I believe that Henk's global view and pragmatic viewpoints make him the right person at the right time for the FEI. I am honoured to be thought of as being valuable to the team that Henk is putting together to guide equestrian sport into the future."

• Upon election by the FEI General Assembly on November 5, 2010, the President-elect will be asked to immediately provide the Chair of the Nominations Committee with his or her nominations for the positions of First and Second Vice Presidents, along with their curriculum vitae (signed by their supporting National Federations), from among those candidates submitted by the National Federations to the Secretary General by 1 October. The candidates will thereafter be presented to the General Assembly for election.