By Stanley Horton

The 2016 Adequan®/USDF Annual Convention wrapped up recently in St. Louis, MO. Although I attend the convention every year, this was my first time participating as a group member delegate for the Eastern New York Dressage and Combined Training Association (ENYDCTA), my Group Member Organization (GMO). Region 4 did a fabulous job hosting this year’s convention at the Hyatt Regency, a lovely venue just a short walk from the city’s iconic arch.

I was asked to focus on my experience as a first-time delegate to the Board of Governors (BOG), but there was so much more packed into the convention schedule! The educational offerings included early morning Pilates, before the day’s business began with Regional meetings, a selection of educational sessions, and open committee meetings. As a GMO board member, I found the GMO Committee presentation especially helpful for planning programs for our membership. And as a competition manager (Dressage at Stockade in Glenville, NY) I always come away with new ideas to improve our shows.

The big topic for this year’s BOG was presented to delegates in our orientation meeting: the proposed budget included an increase in membership fees, the first since 2010, to support USDF programs and keep the organization on solid financial footing. Friday’s BOG meeting began with a roll call, which is a misleading term. If your name is called, it is because you neglected to log in before you sat down. Any delegate who has forgotten this important detail must proceed to the row of computers and log in before the business meeting can begin. I was forewarned to avoid this “walk of shame.” After all of the delegates were accounted for, President George Williams asked for approval of the agenda – and we were off and running! USDF Executive Director Stephan Heinzsch spoke first, and then Treasurer Steve Schubert. I was happy to hear that USDF is in good shape under the watchful collective eyes of the Executive Board. The Auditor’s report was next up, and the organization received a clean bill of fiscal health. President Williams spoke again, before handing the microphone back to Treasurer Schubert.

Stanley attends the Board of Governors General Assembly

But first, time out for some GMO baskets! In a long-standing USDF tradition, every GMO is invited to send a gift basket of regionally representative goodies, to be awarded to a lucky BOG attendee. (I have never won a GMO gift basket. Just saying….) Winners must be present at the meeting in order to claim their baskets, an additional incentive for convention attendees to participate in the nuts and bolts of USDF governance. After a few drawings, back to the budget we went.

Treasurer Schubert reviewed the organization’s financial position and projected needs, explaining that new programs and increased costs would require additional funds. The recommendation to increase the price of a USDF Participating Membership from $75 to $90 was followed by lively discussion, with concerns raised over whether this increase might drive some members to forego their membership with their GMO.

After a quick break, featuring spectacular cupcakes, we returned for more: a few basket drawings, and then a preview from USEF CEO Bill Moroney of some proposed and upcoming changes that will impact the dressage community. Then, a report from Will Connell, Director of Sport, recognition of outgoing USDF Executive Board Members, and the BOG adjourned for the day.

On Saturday morning, the BOG session began with elections. USDF Vice President Lisa Gorretta and Secretary Margaret Freeman were re-elected, along with Regional Directors for the odd-numbered regions. Beth Baumert reported for The Dressage Foundation, which administers a rich array of educational grants and scholarships, and next up was the budget vote. Treasurer Schubert again explained the rationale for the proposed increase in membership dues, noting that this amounts to approximately $2.14 per year. The budget was approved unanimously.

The meeting ended with GMO and regional awards. With so many ways to earn recognition (detailed on the USDF website), this is an excellent way for people to get involved at the local level.

Friends had joked that reporting on a USDF Board of Governors meeting would be akin to watching grass grow. Not true! Looking around me I saw a standing-room crowd of people interested in the business of our sport. Our group shares a passion and a goal: to make dressage stronger in our communities and fair for all who participate. Everyone in that room took time away from families, farms, and businesses to be there, and it was my privilege to be included.

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