5 Facts About the Hall of Fame Class of 2020

Verdades's halter

By Chelsey Burris

In mid-July, USDF announced the 2020 inductees to the Roemer Foundation/USDF Hall of Fame.  A renowned equine veterinarian, top level judge and rider, and a fantastic horse have all been welcomed into the revered club.  Here are 5 facts about our newest Hall of Famers.

Groundbreaking Work

Hilary Clayton conditioning by cantering uphill

Dr. Hilary Clayton, BVMS, PhD, Diplomate ACVSMR, MRCVS, has been at the helm of many groundbreaking dressage-related research projects through the years.  An award-winning dressage rider herself, Dr. Clayton always keeps the health and well-being of the horse at the forefront of her work.  She has influenced improvements in our sport in everything from arena footing, to training, to veterinary care.  She is the first veterinarian to be inducted into our Hall of Fame.

Changing the Sport for the Better

Among Dr. Clayton’s important works, some of her research has led to big changes in our sport.  While studying gaits and movements, her findings caused US Equestrian to revise rules regarding the piaffe and pirouette movements.  Always eager to share her conclusions with the dressage world, Dr. Clayton has provided numerous articles for USDF Connection magazine as well as YourDressage. Check out the recent article she wrote with tips for conditioning your horse for a return to competition after a layoff: https://yourdressage.org/2020/05/19/returning-to-competition-after-covid-19-lay-off/

A Globetrotting Career

As a former competitor who rode on the US Equestrian Team, Gary Rockwell was well-traveled, competing with his Danish Warmblood mare, Suna.  As an FEI 5* Judge, he has continued to add stamps to his passport.  He has judged at numerous Olympics and World Cup Finals across the globe, as well as many events in the US.  He’s also very involved in dressage education, like the Adequan®/USDF FEI-Level Trainers Conference (pictured at the 2020 conference.)

Gary Rockwell instructing a rider at the 2020 Adequan_USDF FEI Level Trainers Conference (Photo by Meg McGuire)

The Champion Who Almost Wasn’t

Verdades (Photo by Susan J Stickle)

Laura Graves has been candid about her struggles with a young Verdades, nicknamed Diddy.  Purchased as a yearling, there were many growing pains along the way. Often temperamental and sometimes unrideable, Graves has admitted she tried to sell him at one point.  However, she stuck it out with the big KWPN gelding, and they are now one of the most popular horse-and-rider pairs in modern history.   

Inducted Right After Retirement

Verdades took the world by storm the last few years.  Many hopes were on him to lead his team to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.  However, earlier this year, Graves announced the retirement of her bronze medal winning horse on social media.  Having been together for 17 years, Graves had a tremendous bond with her mount, and when he let her know it was time for retirement, she listened to him. “It is with both a heavy heart and a grateful mind that today, I announce the retirement of my great friend, Diddy,” she announced on Facebook back in January. 

The Roemer Foundation/USDF Hall of Fame is located at the USDF National Education Center in Lexington, KY.  Although currently closed to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is typically open to visitors Monday-Friday, 9AM-5PM.  You can learn more about the Hall of Fame here and plan your future visit by checking the latest status on the USDF website, or by calling 859-971-2277.

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