How to Start a GMO (Group Member Organization)

GMOS MAKE IT HAPPEN: At a USDF L program session with Axel Steiner (center) hosted by the California Dressage Society (USDF File Photo)

Could your area use a USDF-affiliated dressage club? Here’s how to get started.

By Jill Chamblin

Reprinted form the May/June 2019 issue of USDF Connection magazine

Are you an individual looking to start a club for like-minded people who share a passion for dressage? Is there a need in your area for organized dressage education or competitions? If so, you might be surprised to learn how easy it is for a club to be affiliated with USDF as a group-member organization, or GMO.

USDF affiliation benefits both the club and its members, providing the opportunity to be part of a larger community that shares a loyalty to dressage and horses while receiving support from the only US national organization devoted exclusively to dressage.

Although there are more than 100 GMOs affiliated with USDF, not all dressage enthusiasts have easy access to a local organization. Visit the USDF website ( to view a current list of GMOs in each of USDF’s nine regions. Even if an existing GMO serves all or part of your area, know that USDF does not regulate GMOs’ geographic proximity. In some parts of the country, dressage enthusiasts enjoy the benefits of belonging to multiple GMOs, with their varied benefits and educational and competitive offerings. Ask friends, barn mates, and local trainers to gauge whether there’s enough interest to form a new club. All you need to qualify for GMO status is 25 members!

What Kind of Club Do You Want?

GMOs range in size from small, localized clubs to large organizations with paid staffers and a sophisticated system of chapters serving an entire state or broader area. As you formulate your prospective GMO’s model, evaluate the needs in your area in order to create a package that is appealing to your future membership base. Some GMOs host large competitions and year-end award and championship programs, while others focus primarily on education. And not all GMOs are dressage-only: Many cater to equestrians with interests ranging from dressage and eventing to driving.

You’ll need to choose the membership structure that best serves the needs of your GMO’s prospective members. Some clubs offer only one type of membership; others have diverse membership categories and prices, such as for individuals, families, and youth. However the membership categories are structured, all dues-paying members automatically become group members of USDF. Failure to submit rosters and dues for all dues-paying members to the USDF office can jeopardize the group’s USDF affiliation status.

Why Become a GMO?

USDF affiliation offers numerous benefits, both to GMO members and to the club’s officers and directors and any staffers.

GMO officials have access to platforms in which they can discuss and share ideas, and learn from individuals and other groups across the nation in a fun, safe, and creative environment. Officials can interact and get the latest news and information through the GMOPrez List (a Yahoo forum for GMO officials), the USDF GMO Officials Facebook group, and quarterly USDF GMO Officials eNews.

USDF offers services, promotional materials, and educational programs to benefit any club, including:

  • Voting representation at the Board of Governors General Assembly at the Adequan®/USDF Annual Convention
  • Opportunity for national exposure through USDF media
  • Eligibility to host educational programs through the USDF National Education Initiative
  • Access to prepackaged educational materials for use at GMO events
  • Eligibility to receive recognition for excellence in GMO websites, in newsletter articles and photography, and in innovative programming through the annual USDF GMO awards.

USDF group members—the members of your GMO—enjoy many membership perks, as well, including a hard-copy mailing of USDF’s award-winning magazine, USDF Connection; the ability to compete at USEF-licensed/USDF-recognized competitions without paying the USDF nonmember fee; eligibility for USDF rider awards; eligibility to participate in USDF’s new Regional Schooling Show Awards Program; discounts through the USDF store and at USDF events; and discounts with USDF’s Member Perks partners.

Intro to GMO Affiliation

The USDF membership year is December 1-November 30, but a club can become affiliated with USDF at any time. The requirements to attain GMO status are quite simple.
Provided a group does not have policies or bylaws that conflict with USDF’s own bylaws, your club and its members will enjoy all of the benefits associated with USDF affiliation by submitting the following.

  • Start-up fee of $25 (one-time fee)
  • Affiliate Verification Form (submitted annually)
  • List of your GMO’s officials (submitted annually)
  • Roster of current members (submitted quarterly)
  • Dues for current members (submitted quarterly).

To maintain USDF affiliation, GMOs are required to submit membership rosters and updates along with membership dues. Rosters must be submitted quarterly, but we encourage GMOs to submit roster updates and dues as frequently as possible so members don’t miss out on their USDF group-membership benefits. GMOs are required to have 25 members by September 1 of the current membership year and must meet this requirement in order to have voting rights at the annual Board of Governors General Assembly. The Affiliate Verification Form must be submitted to USDF annually.


As you explore the possibility of forming a club or of affiliating an existing club with USDF, visit the GMO Guide page of the USDF website. This comprehensive resource contains a marketing guide, ads and logos for GMOs’ use, all forms relevant to affiliation with USDF, and nomination forms for GMO awards. Also housed on this site is the GMO Handbook, which contains information on establishing and running a GMO.
For more information on USDF affiliation or starting a GMO in your area, contact the USDF office at

Jill Chamblin is the USDF’s GMO coordinator.

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