Boogie Shoes in Savannah

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It’s fun to stay at the YMCA: USDF convention attendees dance to the Village People’s 1970s hit song at the disco-themed welcome party

Story and photos by Jennifer O. Bryant

Sue Bender was determined to inject a note of fun into a convention agenda that’s become a grueling schedule of meetings, meetings, educational sessions, and more meetings.

As the director of USDF Region 3, host region of the 2019 Adequan®/USDF Annual Convention, which officially kicked off today in Savannah, Georgia, Bender helped to plan the traditional welcome reception. In addition to the usual hors d’oeuvres and mingling, Bender and our hospitality sponsor, Georgia Dressage and Combined Training Association, brought in glittering disco balls and a DJ, who spun an hour’s worth of disco classics while convention-goers got down on the dance floor. Although it appeared that few outside Region 3 had gotten the memo, several attendees sported disco-themed costumes, and an informal applause meter decided the two winners of a best-costume contest.

Region 3 director Sue Bender (left) presents costume-contest awards to Georgia Dressage and Combined Training Association members Mary Freil and Julie Shannon

Although there’s a steady undercurrent of US Equestrian Dressage Sport Committee and other closed meetings during the USDF convention, for most USDF Board of Governors delegates and other business-meeting attendees the events get under way with regional meetings. That’s where the topics du jour bubble up, and today the conversation revolved around the proposed “rebranding” (with tweaks) of the low-priced USDF education membership into a category designed to attract the more casual dressage enthusiast—say, one of the many USDF Facebook-page followers who isn’t formally engaged with the organization, according to USDF executive director Stephan Hienzsch.

There are fears among some USDF group-member organizations (GMOs) that such a category would siphon members away from GMOs. In several meeting settings it was pointed out that many parts of the country have little to no access to GMO activities, but concerns clearly remain and will undoubtedly surface again at the Board of Governors (BOG) assembly, which begins tomorrow.

Otherwise, it was a fairly quiet first day. A US Dressage Finals open forum drew mostly kudos for the seventh edition of the championships, held last month at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, and excitement is building for the planned addition of junior/young rider championships for Training through Fourth Levels in 2021, according to USDF president Lisa Gorretta.

Before day’s end, focus turned back to the GMOs with the first educational session of the convention: a talk on managing GMO finances by Dr. Iris Berdrow, associate professor of management at Bentley University in Waltham, Massachusetts, and the New England Dressage Association’s membership-services coordinator. The theme will continue tomorrow with the eagerly anticipated annual return of the GMO roundtable discussions. This year’s topic, by apparently unanimous agreement: the ever-vexing problem of volunteer recruitment and retention.

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