Winter Storm Dion, as the system has been dubbed, made its way into the Lexington, Kentucky, area today, bringing nonstop rain that this evening began to change to ice as temperatures dipped. This being the land of little snow-and-ice-removal equipment, the Lexington airport has already began canceling flights, which of course led to anxious speculation: "Will I be able to get out of here Sunday?" "I wonder whether my family will be able to drive in tomorrow for the awards banquet." Ah, the joys of staging a convention in the (almost) wintertime.
But inside the Hyatt it's warm and cozy, and few souls ventured outside the hotel today. (We're thanking our lucky stars the hotel is connected to shops and restaurants.) You might think this scenario makes for cabin fever and cranky Board of Governors delegates, but day 1 of the BOG assembly was almost certainly the smoothest, quickest, and least fraught with conflict in USDF history.
This ease can be attributed to two things. First, the inaugural US Dressage Finals, which wrapped just a few weeks ago, went incredibly well and have earned nothing but accolades from both competitors and the equestrian press. Had the event been problematic, I have no doubt that the I-told-you-so'ers would have been lined up 20 deep at the microphones in the BOG meeting room.
|One big happy family: The USDF Board of Governors. Photo by Jennifer Bryant.|
Second -- are you ready for this? -- there were no committee motions to come before the BOG for a vote. Zip. Zero. The excitement of the day was approving a minor addition to the USDF bylaws that had gotten left off the agenda printout. (If you're curious, the bylaws now affirm the longstanding policy of electing by acclamation any Executive Board candidates who run unopposed.)
|GMO basket from the Potomac Valley Dressage Association. Photo by Jennifer Bryant.|
Frankly, the BOG delegates showed a lot more animation whenever a drawing was held for another GMO basket. In this charming tradition, GMOs donate regionally themed gift baskets to be awarded as door prizes during the BOG assembly. (I wish I could win one, but I'm not a delegate.)
There was also excitement during the coffee break, when convention-goers were treated to mini cupcakes decorated with chocolate horse heads or the number 40 -- in honor of USDF's 40th anniversary, of course.
|40th-anniversary cupcakes surround a "Happy Birthday USDF" cake. Photo by Jennifer Bryant.|
Happily caffeinated and fortified, the delegates settled back in to listen to the customary presentations by a United States Equestrian Federation representative and by the head of the USEF's high-performance dressage arm. Today we heard from USEF CEO John Long and USEF dressage chef d'equipe Robert Dover.
Long, who announced that he will step down next June, reaffirmed the USEF's determination to self-police in the area of equine welfare:
"We’re continually reminded of the problems the Tennessee Walkers have. The [US] government has intervened; as you may have heard, two Tennessee Walker trainers were arrested this week. But that’s not what we want to happen to us. Better for us to take care of those issues than someone else coming in from the outside and telling us what we have to do."
That's why, among others, USEF rules prohibiting injections 12 hours prior to competition have been passed, Long said.
|Robert Dover addresses the USDF Board of Governors. Photo by Jennifer Bryant.|
A couple of tantalizing quotes from Dover, who laid out his "big audacious goal" of getting US riders atop medal podiums in his "Roadmap to the Podiums" earlier this year:
"We are on the march to have [dressage] combinations that can [score] between 75 and 85 percent. That’s the formula for a medal."
And for those dressage-pony advocates out there:
"I’m so determined to enhance this [the US pony dressage program] until we have the strongest pony division in the world."
Amidst these developments, the USDF itself appears to have turned the economic corner, said executive director Stephan Hienzsch, with horse registrations, membership revenue, and recognized-show participation up a tick this year. And USDF treasurer Steve Schubert announced that in 2013 the USDF achieved his goal of amassing six months' worth of operating cash reserves.
Safe travels to all who are Lexington-bound, and we'll see you tomorrow for BOG day 2, more great education sessions, and the Salute Gala and Annual Awards Banquet.