Live from Omaha!

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

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Giving Back

Red-letter day: Region 8 delegates at the USDF convention. Photo by Jennifer Bryant.

Saturday's theme at the 2014 Adequan/USDF Annual Convention was giving back to the sport of dressage. Throughout the day, officials, presenters, and honorees echoed the importance of returning something of oneself to the sport that has provided us with enjoyment, friendships, and opportunities.

At the conclusion of the Board of Governors assembly, Regional GMO Volunteers of the Year were recognized, as was excellence in media produced by GMO -- the organizations and their contributors, of course, nearly all volunteer-based. The award winners and photos, like all of the other awards and honors presented at convention, will be featured prominently in the 2014 yearbook issue of USDF Connection (February 2015 issue).

We recognized the USDF Executive Board, all of whose members give countless hours in an effort to improve the organization. And then we gathered together the Region 8 BOG delegates in attendance, many of whom put in extra hours this year helping to make the Cambridge, MA, convention a fun and memorable one. I think I speak for most convention-goers when I say it should not be 20 years before we return to New England!
2015-2016 Nutrena/USDF Adult Clinic Series presenters Kathy Connelly and Betsy Steiner. Photo by Jennifer Bryant.

Educational presenters give back to the sport and to the USDF by sharing their expertise. Renowned trainers Kathy Connelly and Betsy Steiner packed them in (literally -- people were sitting on the floor when chairs became scarce) for their introduction to their 2015-2016 Nutrena/USDF Adult Clinic Series.

You won't want to miss this dynamic duo in action. Longtime friends as well as colleagues, Kathy and Betsy share a delightful sense of humor and, more important, an abiding love for the horse that pervades their teaching and training. As Kathy put it, "We are shepherds for the horse while we are here on earth." She likened the training process to the famous quote by Michelangelo, who said that his job as a sculptor was to reveal the figure already present in the marble: "to bring out the talent innate in the horse while preserving his spirit, heart, and personality."

The 2015-2016 Nutrena/USDF Adult Clinic Series kicks off in April 2015 in USDF Region 9. Clinics are open to auditors of all ages -- in fact, these clinics, unlike the typical dressage clinic or symposium, is geared toward the auditors, not to the individual riders. Any USDF group or participating member over the age of 22 is eligible to apply to be a demonstration rider. Amateur rider or pro -- doesn't matter! Clinic selectors are seeking horses and riders of various levels. For all the details, click here.
Slide from Dr. Hilary Clayton's presentation. Yes, the horse's spine can bend -- but not always the way we think it does. Photo by Jennifer Bryant.

From training and riding, the educational focus turned to the latest findings in equine-biomechanics research, presented by the world-renowned expert Dr. Hilary Clayton. Her session, entitled "Going in Circles," explored the unique forces (and stresses) placed on the horse's body when he circles or turns. Some of the findings might surprise you. For the full story, you'll have to wait for the convention coverage in USDF Connection, but here's a teaser: Believe it or not, training a horse to carry himself "correctly" (without leaning in, motorcycle-style, as horses do naturally) in turns and circles may actually be more stressful on his limbs. Fortunately, there's something we can do to counteract the stresses, so don't miss this report.

Laura Marie Kramer of Standlee Premium Western Forage wrapped the 2014 convention educational sessions with a look at the importance of good forage to the performance horse. I may give one of her suggestions a try with my own ulcer-prone youngster: feeding him a couple of handfuls of alfalfa pellets 30 minutes before exercise. Thanks to its calcium content, alfalfa is basically Tums for horses, according to Laura; plus it's higher in protein and calories than other types of forage, which makes it a good choice for my rangy fellow. (Not all horses need alfalfa, and those with easy keepers may want to invest in a good slow-feeder, Laura said.)

The culmination of the USDF convention is the Salute Gala and Annual Awards Banquet, during which we celebrate members' accomplishments with their horses. We also celebrate those who have made outstanding contributions to USDF and to the sport of dressage.
USDF Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Janine Malone (center) with USDF Historical Recognition Committee chair Anne Moss and USDF president George Williams. Photo by Jennifer Bryant.

USDF Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Maryal Barnett (center). Photo by Jennifer Bryant.

This year, four remarkable volunteers were honored: USDF Youth Volunteer of the Year Christiana Logan, USDF Volunteer of the Year Terry Ciotti Gallo, USDF Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Maryal Barnett, and USDF Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Janine Malone. These four women have given back to dressage and to the USDF in ways that truly go above and beyond the call of duty. Christiana somehow manages to be both a dedicated dressage volunteer and a top student. Terry, a longtime USDF Freestyle Committee member, has immeasurably advanced dressage freestyle and has shared her musical and choreographic expertise with scores of enthusiasts. USDF certification examiner and Instructor/Trainer Program faculty member Maryal Barnett has worked tirelessly to improve dressage education in the United States. And former USDF Region 1 director, USDF secretary, USEF dressage-rules guru, and US Dressage Finals organizer Janine Malone has gotten things done, buttoned down, and squared away for decades.

Thank a dressage volunteer today. Better yet, become a volunteer yourself! For as Maryal Barnett pointed out in her acceptance speech, there is no greater satisfaction than in giving back.

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