Saturday, May. 18, 2024

Progress And Purpose Revealed At USDF Convention

Rule changes are in the works, but not without a lot of input from the grassroots members.

Change isn’t easy, and this year the delegates at the Adequan/U.S. Dressage Federation Annual Convention made sure no change was made without adequate discussion and research.
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Rule changes are in the works, but not without a lot of input from the grassroots members.

Change isn’t easy, and this year the delegates at the Adequan/U.S. Dressage Federation Annual Convention made sure no change was made without adequate discussion and research.

One pleasant change for the USDF was that officials didn’t have to spend much of their time fundraising in Orlando, Fla., Nov. 27-Dec. 2. The capital campaign to raise money for the USDF National Education Center in Lexington, Ky., is complete with $4.1 million in campaign commitments.

“When these donor commitments are paid in full, we will fully satisfy all financial obligations to the national education center building project,” announced USDF President Sam Barish.

Barish also told delegates about a few more positive changes that USDF is undertaking. He formed a task force in March, led by Margaret Freeman, to make recommendations to the executive board on implementation of the strategic plan.

The task force organized the plan into eight categories: competition, education, finance, governance, information technology, marketing, membership and outreach.

Four high priority projects will begin soon. The first is to list all USDF educational programs and activities, identify the ineffective ones and reallocate resources as needed. Next is to review the USDF’s governance structure regarding the organization’s roles and responsibilities, then redesign the council and committee structure.

News And Notes

•    The Bylaws Committee brought up an amendment that would allow someone to serve as both a Participating Member delegate and a Group Member Organization delegate at the same convention. While delegates were generally in favor of this amendment, it hadn’t been presented to the Bylaws Committee with enough time to properly discuss it, so delegates couldn’t vote on it.

•    Delegates voted for the Regional Directors of the odd-numbered regions this year. Winners included: Region 1—Alison Head; Region 3—Sandi Bishop; Region 5—Theresa Hunt; Region 7—Terry Wilson; Region 9—Bess Reineman.

•    Dressage outsold all other disciplines in the early ticket sales for the 2010 World Equestrian Games in Lexington, Ky., offered by the U.S. Equestrian Federation.

•    The Sport Horse Committee brought two amendments before the Board of Governors and both passed, effective Oct. 1, 2008. Applications for the U.S. Dressage Federation Breeders’ Championship Finals are now due on March 1 of the year prior to the competition year. Also, any horse receiving a score of 77 percent or better in its age/sex class at a qualifier will receive an invitation from USDF to participate in the Series Final competition.

Another priority is to develop an implementation plan for a national championship for adults or adult amateurs. This project has been on the backburner for years, but USDF members have shown overwhelming support for the idea.

The last priority is to formalize the purpose and structure of the national endowment fund to be attractive to lead donors.

The USDF website is also about to undergo some change. As of Dec. 10, a new-and-improved website will go live.

“We hired a web specialist, formed a volunteer website advisory group and redesigned the site to better serve our members,” said Barish.

“The new design will be easier to navigate,” said executive director Stephan Hienzsch. “This is a starting point. It will continue to improve.”

The Budget’s On Track

USDF officials implemented a new strategy on presenting the budget this year. Last year the delegates were angry after they ran out of time to discuss the proposed budget at the Board of Governors meeting and had to vote before finishing the conversation.

“We started six months earlier and presented a preliminary budget to the executive board at the spring meeting,” explained USDF treasurer Barbara Tuohino Funk. “All budget requests had to be in by Sept. 15, and the preliminary budget was posted online on Oct. 15.”

Extra time was devoted to discussing the budget at the annual convention, including a meeting before the BOG. The budget discussion at the BOG was moved to the beginning in case any issues came up.

This new process seemed to work well as there weren’t any concerns at the BOG, and the budget passed quite easily.

The proposed budget for 2008-2009 is $4,749,103. No dues increases were needed to balance the budget this year, but Hienzsch could not promise the same would be true next year. “Our last dues increase was in 2002,” he warned.

Volunteer Of The Year And Other Notables

Robert Higgins earned the prestigious Volunteer of the Year Award for his contributions to the sport.

“This year’s winner has been volunteering for USDF for a very long time,” said Sam Barish, president of the U.S. Dressage Federation. “He attended his first USDF convention in 1984 and soon became a member of the Fiscal Review Committee. He played leadership roles on both this committee and later the Budget And Finance Committee, serving as chairman of both for many years. He conceived the Audit Committee and is currently serving as its first chairman.”

Higgins volunteered at three major CDIs this year, three regional championships and at the North American Junior and Young Rider Championships.

“He will not break rules, but he will try to address your problem and make you as comfortable as possible,”said FEI O-rated judge Anne Gribbons. “He listens to the riders and tries to change the show for the next year. Listening is his best quality.”

Kristin Posner was named the inaugural Youth Volunteer of the Year and received the perpetual trophy donated by Colleen Akin’s family in honor of Lendon Gray.

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“We need to give back and encourage our youth from the very beginning,” said Gray. “Volunteerism isn’t just giving back, but we do it in a sense of helping the sport that we love and helping each other.”

Posner is from Kentucky and volunteered at many dressage shows and events.

“Her volunteer efforts started at a very young age, handing out tests and ribbons at the local shows,” said Gray.

Ellin Dixon Miller took home the USDF Lifetime Achievement Award. She was the USDF president from 1994 to 1999 and was the secretary before then.

“Ellin’s landmark achievement was making giant strides to improve the working relationship between USDF, the [American Horse Shows Association] and the [U.S. Equestrian Team],” said Barish.

Charles Smith, owner of the famous dressage mare Rocher, was recognized for his determined leadership of the capital campaign for the USDF National Education Center.

“Chuck is a tiger,” said Barish. “He worked on some of these projects for a long time and he got what we needed. He delivered.”

While the budget didn’t cause much controversy this year, the awards council report and regional championships committee stirred up a lot of discussion.

Councils and committees bring motions before the BOG. Some motions that are passed, such as those
concerning regulations for U.S. Equestrian Federation licensed competitions are recommended to USEF.

The most controversial motion from the awards council would have prevented scores earned in Great American/USDF Regional Championship classes and Great American/USDF Breeders Championship Series Final classes from counting toward year-end awards.

Chairman Peggy Klump explained that scores were often lower at these championships because there’s a panel of judges instead of a single judge. Members of the awards council were concerned that riders might sit these championships out so that their average wouldn’t be lowered for the year.

“As many as 10 percent of scores were dropped because of these scores,” said Klump.

Beth Jenkins, who organizes the New England Dressage Association’s Fall Festival, also pointed out that some regions have their championships after Oct. 1, the cut-off date for year-end scores.

“Our scores count, but other scores from states like California and Texas don’t count because they move up,” she said. Their regional championships are held later in the year, and many riders may move up to the next level after the championships, or their horse goes into the next age category for breeding points.
But other delegates were less enthusiastic about the change.

“I don’t understand the rationale,” said Peter Rothschild from Region 6. “At our championships we generally have three classes at each level—open, Northwest Championship and USDF Regional Championship. At least two of those will be judged by panels.”

Other delegates pointed out that they count on the championships to give them another score in areas where there are few recognized shows.

In the end the motion was tabled for next year so that it could be discussed further.

Six more motions from the awards council were presented and passed with little discussion and will be implemented by USDF, effect Oct. 1, 2008. These included:

•    Scores from restricted classes (with the exception of breed-restricted and Great American/USDF Regional Championship classes) will count toward year-end scores.

•    The FEI Junior freestyle test will be equivalent to third level for year-end awards.

•    The minimum median score required to qualify for year-end awards for Prix St. Georges through Grand Prix will be increased from 58 percent to 60 percent.

•    The minimum median score for all levels for the musical freestyle award and challenge will be increased to 60 percent.

•    The minimum score requirement of the highest test of the level will be increased from 58 percent to 60 percent for the junior/young rider, adult amateur, vintage cup, dressage horse of the year and all-breeds awards.

•    The non-freestyle score requirement for the musical freestyle award and the musical freestyle challenge will be increased from 58 percent to 60 percent for first through fourth levels and from 55 percent to 60 percent for Prix St. Georges through Grand Prix.


We’ll Choose Our Own TDs

The Regional Championships Committee also had more than its fair share of contentious rule changes. The first change was basically a housekeeping issue. It specified that automatic invitations for the regional championships would only be extended to the top 12 U.S. riders in the individual and freestyle competition at the North American Junior and Young Riders Championship.

It also cleared up that while the top 12 from the USEF National Junior, Young Rider and Young Adult ranking lists are invited to the regional championships, those rankings don’t qualify them for the regional freestyle championships because you don’t have to ride a freestyle to get ranked nationally.

But the recommendation to ask the USEF Dressage Committee to assign a technical delegate to every regional championship was overwhelmingly defeated.

“The concern is that even though you have to be from outside the region, there is a perception that show management will choose a TD who will give the show a positive report,” said Barish in support of the amendment.

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We’ll Have To Qualify To Ride Third Level?

Although numerous rule changes will be presented at the U.S. Equestrian Federation annual meeting in January, none is more contentious in the dressage world than DR 119.3 that would provide qualifying criteria for riders to show at third level and above.

Delegates expressed strong concerns about the new rule. They objected to the number of competitions necessary to qualify, the requirement of becoming a USDF participating member to show at third level and above and the effect it might have on non-traditional breeds.

 They expressed a general worry that installing a qualification system wouldn’t necessarily achieve the effect of benefiting the welfare of the horse.

Discussion continues on what the criteria will be to move up, and the USEF Dressage Committee members hope to have everything in place for the January meeting so that 2009 can be a test year.

Another proposed rule change would allow smooth leather half-chaps and matching boots at first level and below. The intent of the rule is that it should look like a boot and is a reasonable compromise for riders who are new to the sport.

The Dressage Committee also submitted a change to DR122.8 Execution and Judging of Tests. A score of 5 would mean marginal instead of sufficient.

One proposed change the USDF will not support is a general rule change to GR1212.5a that would require two or more currently certified or licensed EMTs, or paramedics, or physicians and/or nurses trained in pre-hospital trauma on the grounds. The few accidents at dressage shows make this an unreasonable expense for show management.

“That infers that show management and TDs don’t have integrity,” retorted Klump.

“Someone else is telling me who I have to pay!” objected Gerri Muldrow from Region 4. “If you want to give me a panel to choose from, I have no objection.”

Another contentious amendment was the decision not to award regional championships if the top score in a class was less than 55 percent.

“What would happen is that you would place the class normally, but the top two would not be named champion and reserve champion,” explained USDF secretary Janine Malone.

“We need to increase the minimum standard,” said Veronica Holt, incoming chairman of the Regional Championships committee. “We don’t want to attach ourselves to a champion who doesn’t get more than 50 percent.”

The current statistics indicated that there was only one region that this change would even come close to affecting, but that didn’t convince delegates.

“We already have minimum requirements to get to these shows,” said Will Davis of Michigan. “If I get there, and I have a really crappy, off day, but my really crappy, off day is better than everybody else’s, and I go up to pick up what I think is my championship ribbon and get some cheap little ribbon instead, then I’m going to be one hot, little guy!”

A roll call vote was necessary on this amendment, but it did pass in the end, 1,149 to 648.

The last two amendments passed easily. One created separate divisions at Intermediaire II and Grand Prix for junior/young riders and adult amateurs. The other will require horses entered in the regional championships to stay on the grounds for the duration of their championship classes.

They’ve Made The Sport

Rule changes are certainly an important aspect of the USDF Convention, but it’s also about honoring those who are the driving forces behind the sport.

Three deserving individuals were inducted into the Roemer Foundation/USDF Hall of Fame at the Salute Gala on Nov. 30. They included Gen. Jonathan “Jack” Burton, Edgar Hotz and Hilda Gurney.

Burton, 88, attended the U.S. Cavalry School at Ft. Riley (Kansas) and spent the next 60 years promoting horse sport in the United States. He rode on two Olympic teams (1948 and 1956) and helped found the NAJYRC. He still works as a USEF S-rated judge, a USEF R-rated sport horse breeding judge and a Fédération Equestre Internationale chief steward.

“This diversified horseman was truly one of the founding fathers of U.S. dressage,” said Barish.

The documentary A Life of Equestrian Substance: Conversations with Major General Jonathan R. Burton premiered at the convention, and Burton was there to accept his award and attend the screening of the Phelps/ Hathaway Enterprises Inc. production.

“In 1932 there were four horses that could do Grand Prix in the United States,” said Burton. “In 1948 we used dressage horses from the Germans. We had to start dressage because there was no dressage.”

Hotz passed away in 2001, but his contributions to dressage judging are still being felt. His judging career spanned 30 years and included U.S. Olympic selection trials, World Cup League Finals, U.S. Olympic Festivals and the NAYRC.

“Edgar was a giant among U.S. judges,” said Barish. “His love for the horse and compassion for the rider gave him a sense of fair play that made him an immensely popular judge and a well-respected horseman. Edgar laid the foundation for and helped create the USDF ‘L’ education program for judge
training.”

“Edgar passed away much too soon, and many of us are still missing him and missing his knowledge and his guidance,” said Marianne Ludwig, FEI I-rated judge. “I realized what a wealth of information Edgar had and how eager he was to share his knowledge with everybody. It was so fun to discuss things with him and to learn from his knowledge.”

Gurney, 64, is no stranger to judging herself as well as being an active competitor, breeder, trainer and all around dressage supporter. She competed in the 1976 and 1984 Olympics with Keen.

“She has had an enormous positive impact on U.S. dressage over the past several decades,” said Barish.
“Hilda and Keen stole the hearts of all who had the pleasure of seeing the horse perform. The magical
relationship she had with Keen took this Grade A American Thoroughbred to international heights.

“She is a dedicated teacher instructing a generation of students from the grassroots to international levels,” he continued. “Hilda has probably started out almost every California Grand Prix rider.

Sara Lieser

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