USDF Delegates Vote For A National Championship

Dec 2, 2011 - 2:26 PM

San Diego, Calif., Dec. 2

The topic of a U.S. Dressage Federation national championship created lively discussion at the 2011 Adequan/USDF Annual Convention Board of Governors meeting today before the motion eventually passed.

The first dressage national championship will be held in November of 2013 at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington. It will include open divisions and adult amateur divisions for all levels from training to Grand Prix and is proposed to rotate from the east coast to the west coast every three years. Riders will qualify for the national championship through the current regional championship system; the champion and reserve from each regional championship division will be invited to the nationals. If one or both of the top riders decide not to go to the national championship, the next-placed competitor will be invited. Invitations will be limited to the top five placings.

Several delegates made motions to amend the initial proposal—attempting to move the start date to 2014, move the championships from late fall to early spring, and include juniors and young riders—but the final vote was for the proposal as originally written. There were 1,014 votes for the championship and 441 against. Nine delegates abstained from voting.

“We’re very pleased with the outcome of the vote,” said USDF President George Williams immediately after the meeting. “We think the time has come to do this. Part of our attitude is that we have to start somewhere, sometime, and this seems like a very good time to start. It will definitely take a while to grow, and there will be growing pains; there is going to be a lot of tweaking. We’ll now be working out all the details about things that were discussed here—like setting out a budget—and we’ll have to continue to come back to this Board of Governors.”

The issue of young riders and juniors being left out of the championships created the most controversy. An amendment to add them in was narrowly defeated with 694 in favor of including juniors and 719 opposed.

“I want to represent the youth in our region,” said Debbie DelGiorno of Region 1. “I wouldn’t be able to sleep tonight if I didn’t bring up that this doesn’t include the youth. I want to know if there’s an intent to add them later down the line.”

“The question about juniors and young riders has come up several times,” said USDF Secretary Janine Malone. “It’s better to start with something smaller and grow rather than start with something too big. Juniors and young riders have a lot of programs right now funded by USDF.  The intention always was to include them in the future; it would be good to have them by the second or third year. As soon as possible, USDF would want juniors and young riders included in the championships.”

Other delegates were frustrated at the idea of saying “yes” to a championship when there are still many details about it up in the air. There was no proposed budget presented with the national championships plan.

“In our GMO, we don’t even put on a schooling show without a detailed budget,” said Rebecca Chatfield of Region 6. “We’re concerned there’s not enough information to make a decision on the long-term health and viability of this event. I’d like to see the business plan for this event.”

“All that would have to be done starting immediately if we approve this, but there are many details based on what the Board of Governors would approve that could have an impact of $100,000 or more,” countered Malone. “We have nothing to sell until we know what the product is. You can’t go after sponsors until you know what you have, and we can’t go after sponsors until the board tells us to commit. Does anybody in this room realistically think we could have come up with a detailed budget before this meeting?”

Other details for the championships, including minimum qualifying scores, will be decided later.

“This is like getting married; we can all say yes and work out the details later,” joked Region 2’s Paula Briney before calling for the final vote.


  • The Board of Governors also elected three new at-large directors for the executive board. At-large positions are new ones, created last year to bridge the gap between the technical, administrative and activities councils and the executive board. Region 2’s Lisa Gorretta was elected for the activities council; Kevin Bradbury (Region 2) was elected for the administrative council; Carolyn Vandenberg (Region 9) was elected for the technical council. At-large directors will serve with the nine regional directors and the USDF president, vice president, secretary and treasurer on the executive board.
  • The selection trials for the 2012 Olympic Games will be held June 8-10 and June 15-17 in conjunction with the Collecting Gaits Farm/USEF Festival Of Champions in Gladstone, N.J.
  • After selection, the U.S. dressage team will spend three weeks training at a farm outside of London. “We knew if they had to be in training for three weeks, they would get a little stir crazy and would need to get out a little,” said team coach Anne Gribbons. “Now they can get on a train and be in London in an hour and a half.”
  • A balanced budget was presented and approved by the Board of Governors for the fiscal year 2012-2013.
  • USDF Executive Director Stephan Hienzsch talked about a decline in membership. Along with a decrease in members, the 2011 competition year had the lowest number of competition rides since 2003. “I think USDF has faired as well or better than some peers in the industry, but overall the sport is suffering from declining memberships,” he said. “The members still with us are participating at a lesser rate.”
  • A peer-to-peer commission was formed this year to address the question of what would entice members to compete more. The commission is discussing adding additional divisions to dressage classes, and the divisions could be based on age or the highest level a rider has competed at. “It seems there are a lot of shy adult amateurs reluctant to go out and show,” said commission chair Heather Petersen. “This group was basically commissioned to pursue ways to retain and attract folks to competitions, and to create a more level playing field for those currently involved.”
  • Half points are now allowed in national tests, and some judges have started using them. Show secretaries warned that it’s slowing the scoring process down significantly.
  • The Developing Horse Grand Prix program, for horses between 8 and 10 years old, will officially kick off starting Dec. 15. There is a special USEF Developing Horse Grand Prix test, and the competitors will also ride the Intermediaire II. A championship for the new division is planned for the 2012 Markel/USEF National Young Horse Dressage Championships in Wayne, Ill.
  • Young Horse coach Scott Hassler announced his plan to make all 2012 young horse training sessions open to the public. “We want the public involved, we want people to understand the program more,” he said.
  • The 2012 season includes 28 CDI competitions, 11 of which will take place in Florida. California has eight. “We felt the only fair way to approach all the applications in Florida was to leave it in a free-market situation,” said USDF President George Williams. “We understand every competition probably isn’t going to be able to survive. I think the market is going to determine which ones do, and hopefully it’s a broad range that does end up surviving. When you look through the list, you’ll see some shows that are close together and others that are on top of each other. We think the market is going to determine which ones competitors want.”


The Convention concludes with the Salute Gala and Annual Awards Banquet this evening. The Symposium begins in Del Mar, Calif., tomorrow morning.

Category: Dressage

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