In 2019, Fern Feldman received the USDF Lifetime Achievement Award. Here is the speech, given by USDF President Lisa Gorretta and Olympian and Dressage4Kids founder Lendon Gray, when she was awarded it.
This fall Fern called me (Lisa Gorretta) to tell me she had been chosen for USDF’s Lifetime Achievement Award – she wasn’t pleased to say the least – despite all she has done for USDF, for dressage, and for people in and out of her circle. She has always been difficult about receiving recognition – it’s even hard to find photos of her – but that was exactly why I nominated her. Sorry Fern.
Growing up in upstate New York, Fern rode once a week at the local stable until she was 11; then 34 years later after education, marriage, raising two boys (and now has six grandchildren), she took it up again. Spending $200 on her first horse, she found her way to dressage.
With the assistance of some wonderful schoolmasters, Fern worked her way up the levels getting her USDF Bronze, Silver, and at age 70 on her Connemara pony, she got her Gold Medal in 2012.
Of course, she then wisely got a young pony whom she is bringing up the levels now!!!
Fern wasn’t just a fanatical dedicated amateur rider, but about 30 years ago she joined the Connecticut Dressage Association, was for many years its president and continues to host most of their meetings; and she’s a terrific cook.
In 1995, she became the Region 8 Director, a post she held for 20 years. While on the USDF Board she was also a member of the several committees, including Regional Championships, University, Development, and Bylaws before joining the Instructor Trainer Committee on which she is still active. She was a major supporter of this program AND she still helps to organize and volunteers at many workshops and testings.
When the idea for Dressage4Kids first came up, it was to Fern that I went for advice. Little did she know that 22 years later, she would still be doing all the fun jobs like reading the fine print on all the legal papers, bookkeeping, taxes, talking with the accountant, and lawyers. Without her D4K would cease to be what it has become.
More recently, she has also become an invaluable member of the Board of The Dressage Foundation. I also know she is an active member of other non-horse boards about which I know nothing.
She is an avid skier and daily runner.
She assisted her family in developing a super starch for her grandson with Glycogen Storage Disease – this product is now not only used by marathon runners, climbers of Mount Everest, and pro football players, but also by dressage professionals who are notorious for not eating properly during the day.
Whether it was USDF, CDA, NEDA, D4K, or as a client in my stable and undoubtedly on the other non-horse boards she is on, Fern is invaluable as an idea person, as the worker-bee who gets things done, and as a peacemaker or smoother of the waters (she’s helped me out of a lot of scrapes). She’s always up for trying something new although some things take some convincing.
Fern has become a sought after mentor for many in the dressage world – not just kids – but I personally know many young dressage riders who have sought her advice or been given guidance as they grow into their lives as young professionals.
Passion for the sport, insight, dedication, willingness to give her time, toughness, and her always present smile make her a unique and effective advocate for the sport of dressage.
Thank you to Barry, her husband of 56 years, for sharing this remarkable lady with the dressage community all these years
Fern, if I ever grow up I want to be like you.