Robert “Bobby” Costello has been named the U.S. Equestrian Federation interim eventing Chef d’Equipe and team manager following several months of discussions among the Eventing Elite Program Task Force. Costello’s appointment comes nearly five months after former USEF Eventing High Performance Director Erik Duvander’s contract was not renewed.
The Task Force was put together to find Duvander’s replacement during a period of an overhaul for the high performance eventing program. Several riders expressed surprise at Duvander’s departure at the end of 2021. More recently, U.S. team rider Phillip Dutton, voiced his disappointment with the “lack of urgency” in finding a new leader.
Costello’s contract extends until Sept. 30, which will include this year’s FEI World Eventing Championships in Pratoni, Italy.
“I am very excited and grateful to be named interim Chef d’Equipe through to the World Championships in Pratoni this fall,” said Costello in an emailed statement. “My job is not to come in and make sweeping changes to the program but to use my experience of 25-plus years in the sport as an athlete, committee member and volunteer selector to steadily guide the program through the consequential next five-and-a-half months, ultimately delivering a team in Pratoni that is prepared in every way possible to produce the results U.S. athletes and horses are well capable of on the world stage.
“I am looking forward to working with our athletes to ensure their preparations are moving forward as we continue our planning for Pratoni, which will lay the foundation for team qualification for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games,” he continued. According to the USEF job description, in his role, Costello will assist with the development and implementation of a plan for the World Championships, attend several major competitions and mandatory training sessions, and work to support riders with their own personal coaches.
“We are thrilled to welcome Bobby on board,” said Will Connell, USEF Director of sport. “He has intimate knowledge of the USA Eventing programs and structures and is very familiar with the athletes, grooms, team staff and owners, which is critical in the lead into the World Championships. His focus will be on leading and creating a cohesive environment for the team and not on providing coaching support to ensure stability for the program to meet its outlined goals in the short term. His appointment allows us [to] focus on delivering 2024 Olympic qualification and medal-winning performances at the FEI World Eventing Championships in Pratoni in September.”
Originally from Hamilton, Massachusetts, Costello, 56, earned team gold at the 2003 Pan American Games (Maryland) on Dalliance and was eighth individually at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games on Chevalier. He’s ridden to the five-star level and is now a coach based in Southern Pines, North Carolina, at his ROC Equestrian.
He’s served as chair of the USEF Eventing Selectors—with his tenure as a selector ending after the Tokyo Olympic Games—and on the boards of the U.S. Equestrian Team, the U.S. Eventing Association and the USEF. He’s also chaired the USEF Active Athletes Committee and the USEF Eventing High Performance Committee and served on the USEF Performance Advisory Team.
Source and image The Chronicle of the Horse