By: Kathryn Kostenbader
‘Dressage Elevated’ was the designation of the 2018 Adequan®/USDF Annual Convention, held in Salt Lake City, Utah. Situated 4226 feet above sea level and amongst the beautiful Wasatch Mountains and the Great Salt Lake, Salt Lake City boasts a metropolitan culture, beautiful architecture, and historical importance. Park City, just 28 miles away, the site of the 2002 Winter Olympics, lured a few adventurous convention goers to its slopes!
Running between November 28 and December 1, the Convention held important committee meetings, from Judges Forums to the Board of Governors General Assembly, Regional Championships Committee, Sport Horse Committee, and a number of forums, discussion groups and closed sessions. It also had a USDF Apprentice Technical Delegate Clinic.
I arrived on Wednesday, after an 8-hour delay in the Denver Airport (argh!), to the user-friendly Salt Lake City International Airport, rented a car, and headed for the Downtown Marriot at City Creek, and a cozy room. The convention check-in folks had all headed out for the day, so I woke early and registered on Thursday morning
The first meeting I attended was the USDF Regional Meeting for Region 4, headed by Nancy Gorton and Kathryn Hanford. Kathryn was sitting in for Anne Sushko, who needed to head home unexpectedly. Nancy Gorton discussed the Adequan®/FEI North American Youth Championships (NAYC) budget and the newly designed Welcome Packet for New Juniors, Youth and Parents.
I attended 17 meetings, which were quite educational. The Judges Forum was really great, which was a perk for being an ‘L’ graduate. They had a lively discussion on the new freestyle rule changes. That topic was continued in the BOG meeting under the guidance of USDF President George Williams
There were also Instructor/Trainer committee meetings that discussed the increased attendance in their certification clinics and a discussion of the GMO Education Initiative. Other meetings’ issues were the increased dues for USDF for 2020, ‘Preparing Your Horse for Competition’ with Christine Traurig, Lilo Fore, and Lisa Wilcox, and ‘Utilizing the Pyramid’ with Gary Rockwell, Lilo Fore, Marilynn Heath, and Lois Yukins. The USDF Training Pyramid has had an update to coincide more closely with the FEI. The time-tested “training scale” has some wording changes. Check out the latest update in the USDF Connection Magazine, Dec 2018/ Jan 2019, written by Marilyn Heath.
A highlight of the conference was a wonderful lecture by Beth Baumert on her book, “When Two Spines Align: Dressage Dynamics: Attain Remarkable Riding Rapport with Your Horse”. She discussed why there are some riders who are perpetual beginners, those who have a litany of excuses for their riding, and how to take responsibility for your riding education. She explained her ‘nine principles to enhance learning’ which seemed very logical to me. One was the principle of intensity. For example: to Lilo Fore it means teaching by caring for the student; with Carl Hester it is teaching with humor; to Conrad Schumacher it means teaching with stories; to Kyra Kirkland it means to demonstrate on the horse. The principle also wants you to consider the results of negative intensity for horse and rider. She discussed the concept of being consequent, where you have the ability to give a precise aid for a precise result, which is the result of consistency and persistence. She was a lovely lecturer with international experience and a great depth of knowledge in horsemanship. I highly recommend the book.
The Board of Governors meeting was exciting, filled with voting on issues and new board members. George Williams is stepping down after two terms, and the new president of USDF is Lisa Gorretta. Debbie McDonald is the new US Dressage Technical Advisor taking over from Robert Dover. Several points McDonald discussed were the continued commitment to establishing a strong pipeline of young horses through US breeders, to collaborate with the USEF/USET for US dressage programs. She also stated the US Team is a clear threat in Tokyo and how we need to stay on the world ranking list, headed now by Laura Graves and Verdades.
It was a great experience to attend this convention! Our GMO’s newsletter, “On the Bit” brought home an award for Donna Hammond’s article “Members Unearth Free Digital Content at February EIDEA Meeting” as well as a website award, and I got to accept both of them. I was honored to receive the Ruth Arvanette Award, shaking hands with George Williams while our photo was taken. The Salute Gala was quite fun, watching everyone get their awards and being recognized for their hard work. It was a memorable trip, and I’m going to try to go again next year!
Finally, I would like to thank Eastern Iowa Dressage and Eventing Association for their helpful donation of $300.00 for my trip, and to USDF and the Ruth Arvanette Award, which paid for my registration, hotel, and airfare, to Anne Sushko for her donation of a Gala ticket, and to my horse Sera, who waited for me to get home and was ready to get to work!
To learn more about the Ruth Arvanette Memorial Fund Grant, which can help you with travel expenses when attending convention, visit the USDF website.