|Homeward bound. Photo courtesy of the Las Vegas News Bureau.|
I’m writing this on the plane from Las Vegas, site of the 2015 Adequan/USDF Annual Convention. Personally I’d be OK with never having to set foot in a casino again — if there’s a more pathetic sight than a handful of all-nighter gamblers on the casino floor at 6:00 a.m., clutching their beers at the blackjack tables while Christmas music warbles in the background, I don’t know what it is — but the USDF members I talked to made the most of the less seedy aspects of Sin City, like the shows, the excellent food, and a classy wine-tasting venue at our host hotel. (But if anybody indulged in a Chippendales show, they haven’t admitted it to me yet.)
No beefcake for me in Vegas: I, like many other convention-goers, was so tightly scheduled that extracurricular entertainment was out of the question. And a number of Executive Board members and other committee VIPs had it worse than I, with meetings beginning at 7:00 a.m. and going nearly nonstop until 10:00 p.m. If I heard any complaints about this year’s convention, they revolved around the jam-packed meeting schedule. Some years ago the USDF cut a day out of the convention in an attempt to ease committee members’ travel burdens, but this year a few people were saying that maybe it’s time to consider adding that day back again.
The meetings, although a whirlwind, are always worthwhile. As a committee member (Historical Recognition), it’s wonderful to welcome USDF members, with their varied perspectives and backgrounds, to the open meetings. You’d be surprised at how many actionable ideas — not to mention story ideas for USDF Connection — bubble up from these informal exchanges. The cross-pollination of ideas can be especially valuable. In the open Membership Committee meeting, for example, I listened to several thoughtful comments regarding the challenges facing USDF group-member organizations (GMOs), which I then took to USDF Connection’s group of editorial advisors so that we could brainstorm ways to bring additional GMO-focused content to USDF’s member magazine.
And the education! It’s always a treat. This year, the USDF was fortunate to have chosen the same convention city as the AmericanAssociation of Equine Practitioners, the US professional association of horse vets. Our top veterinarians attend the AAEP convention, and several of them spoke at the USDF convention, on topics ranging from equine back lameness to the role of good old-fashioned horsemanship in keeping our horses happy and healthy. Some of the speakers are, or have been, US Equestrian Team or FEI veterinarians and are world-renowned experts. These are the kinds of vets whom you’d pay dearly for a consultation — and here they were in front of us in a meeting room, lecturing and answering questions. Priceless. I took notes as fast as my fingers could type, and I’ll be bringing you reports on selected sessions in future issues of USDF Connection.
|USDF president George Williams presents Melissa Creswick of the California Dressage Society with the 2015 Region 7 GMO Volunteer of the Year award. Photo by Jennifer Bryant.|
Convention concludes with a celebration of the year’s dressage accomplishments at the Salute Gala & Annual Awards Banquet. Outstanding volunteers are honored, and we learned about the many contributions of USDF Volunteer of the Year Roz Kinstler and USDF Youth Volunteer of the Year Rebekah Mingari, both of whom you’ll be meeting in USDF Connection soon. We celebrated our gold-medal-winning US 2015 Pan American Games dressage squad, and we clapped, cheered, and whipped out our smartphones to record friends and loved ones’ moment on stage as they accepted rider medals, year-end awards, and All-Breeds awards.
This year’s banquet did have one sad note, however, because 2015 USDF Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Lloyd Landkamer was not with us to accept his award. Lloyd, a former USDF Region 4 director and an internationally known show manager and dressage steward (I’m just scratching the surface of his many roles, contributions, and accomplishments here), lost his battle with cancer in September. It was obvious, based on the number of people at the banquet who wept openly before and during the Lifetime Achievement Award presentation, that Lloyd was far more than a colleague to many in the dressage world. The dressage world is a small world, and many in the dressage world and the USDF community considered Lloyd a treasured friend or even family. We have lost a family member and feel that loss keenly. But it is those bonds, and our shared love of the horse and our sport, that will help to keep the USDF and American dressage strong. If you couldn’t make it to Las Vegas this year, I encourage you to come to the 2016 convention in St. Louis. You won’t regret it.