Meet the Committee Chair – Nila Venkat, Youth Programs Advisory Subcommittee


What is your committee’s mission?

The Youth Programs Advisory Subcommittee (YPAS) represents the thoughts, opinions, and needs of youth in each region, and conveys them through the Youth Programs Committee to the USDF Executive Board and Board of Governors for motion and action.

How long have you been on this committee?

This is my third year serving on YPAS.

How long have you been the committee chair?

This is my first year as committee chair.

How did you get involved in the sport of dressage?

I accidentally fell into the sport of dressage when my 24-year-old leased eventing horse refused to keep jumping cross country. I ended up focusing on his flat work, which led to my discovery of my passion for dressage, and I’ve stuck with it ever since!

How did you get involved with USDF?

I have been a member of USDF since I started showing at recognized shows in 2010. I became more involved when I received a YPAS scholarship to attend the Adequan®/USDF Annual Convention in Las Vegas. Before then, I was involved with my local chapter of the California Dressage Society as the social media and communications chair.

How did you get involved in the committee?

When I competed at the North American Youth Championships (NAYC) in 2015 and 2016, I was able to meet passionate dressage athletes my age from all across the country. I wanted to make sure that the voices of these competitors would be heard throughout the larger organization. I got involved with YPAS to not only promote the best interest of youth in dressage, but also learn more about the sport for myself.

What is your favorite part of being involved with this committee?

One of my favorite opportunities this committee provides is the convention scholarship. Every year, we choose recipients of this scholarship which allows them to attend the USDF Annual Convention, learn new skills at workshops, meet influential dressage riders from across the country, and further their passion for the sport. I love reading everyone’s applications as it reminds me how qualified and passionate our dressage youth are across the nation.

What unique qualifications made you an expert in the committee’s area?

I started dressage at a young age, so I have been able to see the sport from the perspective of a youth. I am also a A rated dressage member of the United States Pony Clubs, which gives me the perspective of how youth members of other organizations view the sport of dressage, and the needs of the dressage rider as they participate in other organizations.

What has been your committee’s greatest accomplishment, or what do you hope to accomplish during your tenure?

During my tenure as YPAS chair, I hope to encourage youth members of USDF to pursue their passions in the sport regardless of socioeconomic background, and strive for excellence both in and out of the saddle. I also hope to foster better communicative relations between USDF and other youth equestrian organizations to provide the most opportunities possible for our members.

Please share a little bit about yourself and your background.

I am a second year student at Claremont McKenna College studying Science Management with a Public Health sequence. I am also involved in the United States Pony Clubs as a member of the National Youth Board on the marketing and upper level committees. I have been training with my coach, Hilda Gurney, in Moorpark, CA for three years now, and I enjoy working with her young horses during my winter and summer breaks!

Do you currently compete in dressage, or have you competed in the past?

I am currently competing at the Intermediate Level, and am hoping to compete my horse at the Grand Prix Level soon.

Please share a favorite dressage-related memory.

My first time competing at NAYC, Jan Ebeling made a deal with me that if I got all my changes clean during my ride that he would do the chicken dance for me. I ended up nailing my changes, and later that day during dinner, he ended up dancing in front of the whole restaurant! Our sport often gets the reputation of being too serious, but seeing one of my idols doing the chicken dance over clean changes made me realize how fun dressage can be.

What horse impacted your love for the sport the most?

My current horse, Skyler, has impacted my love for dressage. He’s an incredibly intelligent horse, which makes for very difficult rides at times as he often thinks he can outsmart me. You can really tell he tries his best in this sport, which makes it so that every new movement we pick up and every achievement we get feels like a victory for the both of us.

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