Marilyn Heath – 2013 Lifetime Achievement Award winner

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LIFETIME COMMITMENT: Marilyn Heath conducting an “L” program session in Pennsylvania in 2008 (Jennifer Bryant photo)

Marilyn Heath received the USDF Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013. Marilyn has been a long and faithful volunteer to USDF, through her dedication to judge education and involvement with USDF’s L Education Program, as well as Delaware Valley Combined Training Association (DVCTA). After becoming a USEF ‘S’ Judge in 1989, Marilyn could have worked towards becoming an FEI dressage judge. Instead, she chose to focus on judge education and went on to become a member of USDF’s L Program Faculty in 1992. Education was always an interest of Marilyn’s, and through her involvement with the L Program, it became a passion. Having served as both co-chair and chair of the USDF L Program Committee, Marilyn exhibited strong leadership in updating the program and its materials. Through her leadership, the program experienced growth in participation and auditors by providing accessibility of judge education to a wider audience. Marilyn also fostered consistency in judge education by reaching out to USEF and USEA in regard to their judge training programs.

Marilyn’s passion for judging, personal integrity, and leadership have positively impacted USDF’s judge education efforts, USDF’s education mission, and the development of consistent and correct dressage education for all.

The following excerpt is from the December2013/January 2014 USDF Connection magazine.

“You can sit on the bench,” says Marilyn Heath, “or take part in the game. You are rewarded more if you take part in the game.”

In dressage, Heath has taken part in a myriad of ways: instructing, training, judging, competing, organizing events, and sharing her knowledge through writing. It is in recognition for her extraordinary volunteer efforts to USDF, and in particular the “L” Education Program, that she is being awarded the USDF Lifetime Achievement Award.

“Marilyn has helped the ‘L’ program to become the premier dressage judge-training program in the world,” says Anne Moss. “Her passion, drive, and enthusiasm for this program, and her commitment to continually improving it, have been incredible.”

Heath, of Naples, FL, chaired the “L” program for almost a decade and currently serves as a faculty member. The “L” program, which educates prospective judges and can be audited by other dressage enthusiasts, has been emulated by other nations as the world’s premier program for teaching the essentials of judging dressage.

“I am passionate about judge education, so my goal is to educate candidates to judge consistently to a high standard,” says Heath, a USEF “S” and young-horse judge. “I teach them to judge as positively as they can, but not to reward poor training in the process.”

Heath has not only helped to develop the “L” program’s structure, curriculum, and content; she has also assembled a faculty of prominent judges to teach the program sessions.

“Thousands of ‘L’ graduates; licensed judges; and interested riders, trainers, and breeders have benefited from going through or auditing the ‘L’ program,” says Moss, herself an “L” grad who is now a USEF “r” judge.

While passionate about judge education, Heath feels just as strongly about the importance of volunteering.

“We all want to see our riders on the podium,” she says. “To do that, we need a broad base of young riders with good seats and enthusiasm. We need kids on ponies. And all of these things need volunteers. So whether you are a judge or a runner or a bit-checker or show secretary, you are still contributing to the effort. We are all on the same team.”

Of the Lifetime Achievement Award, Heath says: “My passion has always been to educate judges to judge consistently to a high standard. This award is the icing on the cake.”

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