By Katelyn Doyle
Editor’s Note: Sophia is a USDF Youth Convention Scholarship Winner
What a true honor, to have been selected as one of the recipients of the USDF Youth Convention Scholarship. I never dreamed that I would be back in Kentucky a second time, in one year, to attend another equestrian event. I spent two days at the 2017 Adequan®/USDF Annual Convention, attending the Region 7 meeting, Board of Governor’s General Assembly (BOG) meeting, several Youth Forum meetings, and the USEF Athlete Forum meeting.
My first day, I attended the Region 7 meeting, where I saw some familiar faces from when I competed in northern California. It was interesting to listen to the different opinions from members of the California Dressage Society, judges, and barn owners about changes to the rules in our sport, and other ideas that were being considered. I was also very fortunate to have met Cassidy Gallman, the USDF Region 7 FEI Jr/YR Coordinator. She was extremely knowledgeable about the youth side of the sport, and had a wealth of information and connections to help me find clinics to attend in my area.
After the Region 7 meeting, I took some time to look at all the wonderful Group Member Organizations (GMO) baskets, that were used as door prizes at the BOG. All of the GMO baskets, created by GMOs from each region, were so impressive. You could tell people had put a lot of thought into creating themed baskets, with a horse rider in mind. I had a hard time choosing which one I wanted to win the most. Next, I spent some time browsing around vendors’ tables and spotted an Ariat jacket I had to have. My parents and I also spent some time looking at the auction items Brooke USA had to offer, as well as learning more about the wonderful work this non-profit is doing to help working horses, donkeys, and mules.
On my second day, I sat in and observed the process of the BOG meeting. It was more of a formal and serious setting, with at least 200 people in attendance. It was intriguing to listen to the recommendations and motions brought forward, people giving their opinion, and then everyone voting on it. At one point, when there was a verbal vote that was too close to call, everyone had to cast their vote electronically in the back of the room. People had to line up and key in their vote, on a laptop computer, with the results later revealed. I had no idea how much goes into the decisions and changes that are made to better our sport.
I left the BOG meeting and headed over to the Youth Forum sessions. Here, I learned about the Discover Dressage Emerging Athlete Program, attending clinics, and how to get the most out of them. I also learned the importance of videotaping my rides every week and watching them with my trainer. I learned this will help me see what I need to work on and, if it doesn’t get better, then I need to reevaluate. It was also suggested to watch upper level riders, so that you can understand their language or style, and see if it works for you and your horse. There was much discussion on how to get more youth involved, as well as getting the ones already in the sport to participate in more clinics that are offered. Another helpful tip, was hearing about all the financial support opportunities for youth riders; I will definitely be checking into this. Afterward, I took some time to introduce myself to other riders and thought it was nice to meet other youth riders who are as dedicated, and passionate, about dressage as I am. I really felt like I made some new friends that day.
Later that day, I attended one of my favorite meetings at the convention, the USEF Athlete Forum. I learned a lot about FEI rule changes for 2018, the International Dream Program, the importance of attending big shows, competing outside my local area, supporting my local CDI, and the future plans for our US Olympic team. At one point, I realized that not only did I have my idol, Laura Graves, sitting to the right of me, but I had a panel of US Olympic team trainers sitting in front of me, giving us recommendations on how to further advance our training towards becoming a US Olympic team member.
I remember thinking to myself that I would probably never have been in the same room with all these amazing people, if I hadn’t been selected to win this scholarship. I felt like the luckiest girl in the world!
Although I was not sure what to expect before attending this convention, I have to say that I learned so much, met some amazing people, and am very thankful for having the opportunity to attend. The whole experience opened my eyes to how much work goes into our sport, the career opportunities I can now consider, and how I can help grow our sport, by getting more youths involved and supporting our local CDI. Thank you so much to the United States Dressage Federation for the opportunity to deepen my level of inspiration and my love for dressage.