Live from Omaha!

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

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Leaving Las Vegas

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.
Allyn Mann of Luitpold lectures on equine joint health. Photo by Jennifer Bryant. 
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.


  1. That's a good summary! It was a good convention. The location? Not my personal favorite. But, having never been to Vegas, it was at least worth a look around. The educational sessions were great, but by Saturday afternoon I couldn't sit through another ANYthing and wound up exploring The Strip. Certainly, there is a lot to see (some things you can't UNsee) and marvel at, but it won't be a destination spot for me anytime soon. When asked why I didn't gamble even the penny slots ... "I have horses". What else can be said? Taking care of, and riding, those magnificent beasts is a gamble we live and breathe every day. And the payoff, although it can't be measured in dollar signs, is much greater.

    Thanks, USDF, for another successful convention. It's always interesting being part of 'how things happen' at these conventions. I was intrigued by the open, honest, and passionate but very polite discussion about the Finals during the BoG. I appreciated both sides of the debate and look forward to seeing how it plays out in the future.

  2. I'm sorry you all had such a whirlwind experience! There are tons of non-casino things to do here and our chapter did reach out to the event organizers to try to publicize them! From Hoover dam to The Springs Preserve to Red Rock Canyon, there are amazing non-casino, non-glitz activities within 30 minutes of the strip. Cowboy Christmas is a shopping expo that many of the USDF attendees would have loved to walk through, so I hope some of you did get a chance to wander over and enjoy the western themed goods.

    As for the locals, not many of us gamble either! But we were thrilled to have you all here, and thrilled to host both the USDF convention and the FEI world cup in 2015! See you all next time.
    -Suzi Hill
    Las Vegas Chapter Chair, California Dressage Society

  3. As a transplant from Las Vegas, I'm always a little sad when people miss out on the other side of the city and limit their opinion of the city to that gained from the inside of a casino. Oh well, there's "pathetic" and "seedy" to be found everywhere.