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Live from Omaha!
On the scene at the 2017 FEI World Cup Dressage Final

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Thanksgiving at the USDF Convention

Roemer Foundation/USDF Hall of Fame portraits are displayed amid awards on stage before the start of the USDF Salute Gala and Annual Awards Banquet. Photo by Jennifer Bryant.
The 2013 Adequan/USDF National Convention draws to a close with a brief pause to smell the roses. Especially for us perfectionist dressage enthusiasts, it’s important that we take the time to recognize achievements and contributions to the sport and to the organization.


It began this morning during the second day of the USDF Board of Governors assembly, with the presentation of the annual GMO (group-member organization) and regional awards. Excellence in websites, newsletters, photography, and writing is recognized among the various sizes of GMOs. And each USDF region has the opportunity to nominate a deserving person for Regional Volunteer of the Year.
Region 2 Volunteer of the Year Bonna McCuiston and USDF president George Williams. Photo by Jennifer Bryant.
Some of our GMOs have top-class media. That accomplishment is all the more impressive when you remember that they are created largely by volunteers, in time squeezed in between real jobs and families and even riding from time to time. Please thank the volunteers in your dressage clubs -- or better yet, become one!

There are also special thank-yous to outgoing USDF officers and regional directors. For her long years of service to USDF, retiring USDF secretary Janine Malone received a bouquet of flowers, a framed portrait commemorating her efforts in organizing the 2013 US Dressage Finals, and a beautiful watch.
Janine Malone and George Williams. Photo by Jennifer Bryant.
The final evening of the convention is all about getting gussied up and, often surrounded by proud family members and friends, fulfilling one of USDF's mission items: recognition of achievement. Dressage is a solitary, sometimes lonely sport. Behind every shiny rider medal or championship cooler likely lies a story of perseverance, setbacks, and grit in addition to the wins and the exhilarating breakthrough training moments. It says something about the meaningfulness of these awards that USDF members take time out during the busy holiday season to travel to the convention to accept them.
Roemer Foundation/USDF Hall of Fame inductee Charles de Kunffy (right) chats with an admirer before the gala. Photo by Jennifer Bryant.
If you've been following this blog, you know that my favorite part of the entire convention is the ceremonies for the Roemer Foundation/USDF Hall of Fame inductees and the USDF Lifetime Achievement Award recipients. Here is where we recognize those who have made truly extraordinary contributions to American dressage (the Hall of Fame) or to the USDF itself (Lifetime Achievement). And this year did not disappoint.

First, longtime USDF "L" Education Program chair Marilyn Heath was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award. It is largely because of her efforts that the hugely successful program is structured as it is today, with enormous benefits to offer all dressage enthusiasts who audit the first three sessions of the program.
Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Marilyn Heath (center) with USDF Historical Recognition Committee chair Anne Moss and USDF president George Williams. Photo by Jennifer Bryant.
Then we inducted a living dressage legend, Charles de Kunffy, into the Hall of Fame. The Hungarian-born de Kunffy is one of our living classical masters, whose knowledge of horses and dressage will live on through his books and his many successful students.

Also inducted was the tireless international competitor, coach, trainer, FEI 5* judge, and former USEF national dressage technical advisor Anne Gribbons. Gribbons has served on something like 20 USDF committees, helped to found the Long Island Dressage and Combined Training Association with her husband, David, and has trained 17 horses to Grand Prix. She set up the USEF "pipeline" of national dressage coaches, whose efforts are beginning to reap great rewards, just as she predicted. 
Anne Gribbons (center) admires her Hall of Fame portrait. Photo by Jennifer Bryant.
Finally, we took a trip down memory lane with a video and photo retrospective of the USDF's origins and milestones over the past 40 years, culminating with reminiscences by the legendary Sally O'Connor. The dressage and eventing clinician, instructor, judge, and author is one of USDF's founding members: She was in the room in Lincoln, Nebraska, in 1973 as the USDF organized and held its first meeting. O'Connor was tonight's special guest, and she shared stories of the early days, such as when USDF founder Lowell Boomer recruited the University of Nebraska's marching band to parade through the meeting room to diffuse tension.
USDF founding member Sally O'Connor (right) with USDF Historical Recognition Committee member Anna Lucy Keller. Photo by Jennifer Bryant.
Tomorrow, the final day of the USDF convention, I'll be moderating a fireside chat with Charles de Kunffy, and we'll enjoy one additional educational session. Tonight I'll leave you with some more images from today's festivities. Good night from Lexington!
"The Derby in December" was the awards banquet theme. Photo by Jennifer Bryant.

Jen Vanover (center) accepted DSHB Horse of the Year awards for two of her horses: MW Fabulous (Yearling Colt/Gelding champion) and MW Feinermark (Three-Year-Old Colt/Gelding champion). At right is Allyn Mann of Adequan/Luitpold Pharmaceuticals. Photo by Jennifer Bryant.

2013 USDF Volunteer of the Year Sally Davenport brought her mother, Katherine, who's 101! Photo by Jennifer Bryant.

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