Sunday, May. 26, 2024

You Can’t Please Everyone All Of The Time

Let’s face it. No one likes paying more. Sometimes increases are unavoidable, though—if gas goes up, you probably can’t stop driving altogether, and if grain and hay costs increase, you’ll still have hungry horses waiting at the gate.
   
But this year the delegates, who represent participating members and group membership organizations, said no to dues and fees increases at the U.S. Dressage Federation Convention.
   

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Let’s face it. No one likes paying more. Sometimes increases are unavoidable, though—if gas goes up, you probably can’t stop driving altogether, and if grain and hay costs increase, you’ll still have hungry horses waiting at the gate.
   
But this year the delegates, who represent participating members and group membership organizations, said no to dues and fees increases at the U.S. Dressage Federation Convention.
   
I left the USDF Convention in Denver, Colo., (p. 8) feeling like the organization was between a rock and a hard place. Delegates argued that they were unable to accept the additional burden dues and fees increases would put on the membership. In the same conversation, they openly wondered if they were getting their value from their USDF membership. There seemed to be the feeling that the USDF could just cut some fluff out of the budget and all would be well. But my impression was that USDF officials had already worked hard to whittle away at excess spending, and more cuts would have a very negative impact on the variety of excellent programs and services that the USDF offers.  

Quite simply, without increased revenue, the USDF won’t be able to maintain the existing programs, let alone expand for the future.   

Dr. Samuel Barish, current USDF president, once said that one of the goals of the organization was to make the USDF the “must join” organization for anyone interested in dressage.

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This year I began to wonder if that was a good idea.   

Dressage enthusiasts cover a wide range. Many never show at all, preferring to train at home. Others show only at schooling shows, or the occasional recognized show, while still others compete consistently with the goal of qualifying for and winning at the regional championships or beyond.
   
The mission of the USDF is to educate, recognize achievement and promote dressage. While I applaud trying to do that for every level, I think some members may get more bang for their buck if the USDF focuses less on trying to draw in people on the fringe of dressage and more on those who are actively pursuing the sport.
   
If the USDF has to reduce spending across the board in every council and committee, which is what the delegates at this year’s convention voted for, then every USDF program will suffer.
   
It makes more sense to eliminate funding for the programs that have less of a following, and put available revenue into the strong programs. In an ideal world the USDF would be the vehicle to bring in new members and help them become diehard dressage participants, but in times of economic hardship I think outreach has to go on hold. That decision won’t work indefinitely, though, because the USDF should grow and bring more people into the sport. But for the moment, group membership organizations can fill the gap. They do an excellent job of encouraging grassroots dressage at the local level, and they’re already affiliated with the USDF.
   
For now, the USDF should focus on the current USDF members and give them as much benefit as possible for their membership. That way, when the subject of dues increases comes up again, members will feel confident that USDF is worth it.

Sara Lieser, Editorial Staff

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