Live from Omaha!

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

Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Rio Grande

Our convention host hotel: The Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino. Photo courtesy of the Las Vegas News Bureau. 
Everything's supposed to be bigger and better in Texas, but perhaps they haven't compared the Lone Star State to Las Vegas.

Here, everything seems outsized. The portions. The rooms. The sheer number of eateries, casino attractions, lit-up twinkly signs, and crowds of determined-looking gamblers.

Have I mentioned the hike from the main hotel portion of the building to the convention-center area?

Folks, if you're coming to convention, pack your comfortable shoes. It can be upward of a 15-minute walk from your hotel room to a meeting room. The cavernous hallway that winds past the breakfast restaurant, and the Starbucks, and the spa, and the Penn & Teller theater, and a bunch of other meeting rooms before you arrive at the promised land of friendly USDF faces and enticing sponsor displays goes on...and on. So don't say I didn't warn you!

On the bright side, if you don't have time to squeeze in a workout, you'll get some measure of your daily aerobic requirements just going to and fro. If you do that 10,000-steps fitness-counting thing, these next few days are going to be a piece of cake. And speaking of cake, if you eat any, you'll walk it off.
Fitness expert Jennifer Kotylo (front) leads USDF members in an early-morning Pilates class. Photo by Jennifer Bryant.

But just in case you want more than walking, you can get up early every day and meet equestrian-fitness expert and Pilates and Balimo instructor Jennifer Kotylo (whom you may recall having met in "Loosen Up!", our article on dealing with tight hips, in the November issue of USDF Connection) for a fitness session. This morning about 20 intrepid USDF members got a 45-minute introduction to Pilates and its core concepts -- literally, since Pilates is all about core strength and stability. (It's changed my riding. I highly recommend it.) Tomorrow Jennifer's going to teach us about Balimo exercises as developed by biomechanics expert Eckart Meyners, and Saturday's going to be devoted to "a whole bunch of other stuff" from Jennifer's bag of tension-easing, balance-promoting, rider-enhancing tricks.

Each of USDF's nine regions had the first of two meetings this morning. I'm from Region 1, and the hot topic in my meeting was the US Dressage Finals -- specifically, the issue of whether to execute the original approved plan of initiating the Finals in the eastern part of the US (the first four years, 2013-2016, will have been held at the Kentucky Horse Park) and then moving west in 2017, most likely to the HITS Thermal grounds in California, according to Finals organizer Janine Malone. There are strong feelings on all sides of the location issue, and I'm betting it'll be the flash point of this year's USDF Board of Governors assembly, which begins tomorrow.

What else has gone down thus far? Several committee meetings and the annual United States Equestrian Federation rule-change forum, at which members of the USEF Dressage Committee explain proposed USEF rule changes that could affect dressage and solicit input in advance of January's USEF convention. One proposed rule change, which would disallow double bridles at Third Level in USEF/USDF dressage competition, was not met with enthusiasm. A straw poll of forum attendees showed strong support for the current rule, which gives riders the option of using either the double or the snaffle bridle at Third Level.

The other rule-change forum hot button involved two proposals pertaining to the current rule regarding the use of logos on saddle pads. Although members of the USEF Dressage Committee expressed strong support for rules that help enforce the distinction between amateur and open (professional) riders, the audience favored a rule-change proposal that would allow all dressage competitors to display a modestly sized logo on saddle cloths. I can't predict how this one will wind up, so we'll have to wait to see what comes out of the USEF convention.

OK, speaking of meetings, I have another one in 15 minutes, so I'd better wrap up this post. Tonight: welcome reception. Watch the blog and the USDF Facebook page for photos!

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