Trending Topics and Takeaways from the 2022 Adequan®/USDF Annual Convention

Maren Elise Fouché Hanson being named 2022 USDF Youth Volunteer of the Year. Photo by Lisa Michelle Dean Photography.

By Chelsey Burris and Ross Creech

As USDF Members Took the Reins, Our First In-Person Convention Since the Pandemic Certainly Proved One for the Record Books

It’s great to be back together! After two years of holding virtual Adequan®/USDF Annual Conventions, we were back in person in Lexington, Kentucky on November 30 – December 3, 2022. Members were eager to reunite with old friends, network with leaders in the dressage industry, and meet folks from all across the US who share their passion for dressage.  Below, enjoy some of this year’s trending topics and takeaways.

The Trifecta – Janine Malone Blazes a New Trail

Janine Malone being inducted into the Hall of Fame. Photo by Lisa Michelle Dean Photography

It takes a small army working behind the scenes, to pull off any successful horse show or event, and to keep our sport running smoothly.  Throughout the years, Janine Malone’s name has become synonymous with words like volunteerism, dedication, and champion.  Janine’s years as a hardworking and seemingly tireless volunteer allowed her to channel her fierce dedication to dressage into furthering its development in the US, championing its critical importance to all equestrian sport, all while playing pivotal roles in governance of both USDF and USEF to navigate and map out the future of dressage in this country and the Federations’ roles in achieving those objectives.  Janine was named USDF’s Volunteer of the Year its inaugural year of 1998, received the USDF Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014, and at this year’s Salute Gala and Annual Awards Banquet, was bestowed with her highest honor yet as she was inducted into the Roemer Foundation/USDF Hall of Fame, becoming the first to ever hit this trifecta!

Janine’s impact on our sport can be felt in everything from competitions, like the Great American Insurance Group/USDF Regional Dressage Championships and US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan®, to the next generation of Technical Delegates and Judges, with whom she graciously shares her wealth of knowledge.

“I would say that I always felt, from the earliest times, that the rules should serve the sport and make the sport better,” Janine shared during her induction speech, on the importance of making sure the rules that govern our competitions constantly evolve.

“Dressage is a passion,” Janine said.  “I’ve enjoyed working with all the other volunteers, particularly this hardworking staff, and I hope to continue to do if for more years. Thank you very much.”

New Board Members Elected

Newly Elected Board Members – Charlotte Trentleman and Debra Reinhardt

The 2022 USDF Board of Governors (BOG) General Assembly included elections for the positions of Vice President, Secretary, and all odd-numbered Regional Directors (1, 3, 5, 7, and 9). Kevin Reinig (Vice President – incumbent), Debra Reinhardt (Secretary), Bettina Longaker (Region 1 – incumbent), Charlotte Trentelman (Region 3), Carol Tice (Region 7 – incumbent), and Bess Bruton (Region 9 – incumbent), were all elected by acclimation. The race for Region 5 Director, between incumbent Heather Petersen and nominee Susan Skripac of Arizona, resulted in a Heather Petersen win, to continue term.

The 2022 BOG concluded with the recognition of outgoing and incoming members of the USDF Executive Board.  This year, we say (not ‘goodbye’ but…) see you soon to USDF Secretary Margaret Freeman and USDF Region 3 Director Sue Bender.  While both of these amazing women, who possess unmatched knowledge and passion for the sport, will be missed, USDF and the Executive Board are thrilled to welcome newly elected USDF Secretary Debra Reinhardt and Region 3 Director Charlotte Trentelman.  Outgoing members of the Executive Board can happily rest easy knowing the future of the organization is in the more than capable hands of its newest iteration of leadership.

Education on the Forefront

Featured Education Session – Constructing a Wellness Program for the Aging Performance Horse with Dr. Avi Blake

In the Featured Education session “Equine Podiatry”, Dr. Craig Lesser, DVM provided an engaging and lively presentation on various equine podiatry cases and how effective treatment was established.  There are countless options and highly individualized care available to help keep our equine friends comfortable.  Dr. Lesser provided suggestions on how to be proactive and discussed preventative measures to ensure healthy foot care. 

2022 USDF Volunteer of the Year Gwen Ka’awaloa was the speaker for the Featured Education session “First Aid – A Response to Equestrian Emergencies.”  She offered an interactive presentation on First Aid with everyday items found around your barn like saddle pads, whips, polo wraps, and more.  Gwen stressed the importance of having regularly updated emergency contact lists available and best practices on what to do while waiting for professional help to arrive.

Dressage riders understand the importance of longevity, with many mounts competing well into their 20s.  This is one of the reasons why the Featured Education session “Constructing a Wellness Program for the Aging Performance Horse” was so popular this year.  Featuring Dr. Avi Blake, DVM, the Technical Services Veterinarian for American Regent Animal Health, this session offered detailed tips on how to construct a wellness plan for performance horses through the years by documenting and observing changes in each horse.  Dr. Blake also highlighted various products that can help keep our horses active and comfortable. 

Youth riders in attendance were eager to attend the Featured Youth Education session, “Creating Effective Goals.”  Professor Reese Koffler-Stanfield, who led the session, presented a step-by-step slideshow on how to create and achieve your riding goals.  The presentation was approachable and contained attainable steps. Reese also provided many examples from her personal experiences and encouraged the celebration of both “the big and little stuff” along the way.

For the Competition Management Education Session, the topic was “Be Prepared: Execution of Accident Preparedness, Handling Emergencies, and Isolation Plans.”  The main focus of the discussion was on accident preparedness, emergencies, acts of nature/natural disasters (weather, fire), and how to manage a crisis when it happens at a show. Difficult topics, such as equine or human severe injury or death at a competition, and the emergency protocols surrounding such a situation, were broached in this session.  The session was very well-attended, with over 75 members and lots of great questions, and a focus on preparing for the unexpected and the worst-case scenario. 

GMOs in the Spotlight

Take a look at a few of the beautiful GMO baskets that were available this year.

The always popular GMO Roundtable discussions were well-attended this year, with topics including how to keep GMO-hosted competitions affordable for your members, how to attract and maintain sponsorship, and how to develop and support affordable GMO-hosted education for your members.  Attendees had the opportunity to discuss various topics as they related to the size of their GMO, with moderators from the Group Member Organizations Committee and USDF staff on hand to lead the interactive discussions.

There was also a GMO-focused education session, “The Do’s and Don’ts of Fundraising.”  Speaker Jenny Johnson, the Executive Director of the Dressage Foundation, and a panel of experts educated attendees on the difference between sponsorships, donations, and fundraisers, and how to approach each.  In addition to information provided by the presenters, a portion of the session afforded those in attendance the opportunity to share what has worked (and what hasn’t) within their own GMOs and get alternative perspectives on their own unique issues.

GMO baskets are always a big hit and a highlight of the Board of Governors (BOG) General Assembly meetings. Originally established by Ruth Arvanette, each year, Group Member Organizations from across the US donate customized gift baskets, given away as door prizes to attendees of the BOG. These baskets highlight the uniqueness and distinctiveness of the GMO’s club and region.

Another highlight of the BOG, the 2022 GMO Awards were presented to the winning clubs for excellence in photography, website design, newsletter content in the categories of first-person experience and general interest articles, and creating inspired and unique programs for their members. Additionally, the nine USDF GMO Regional Volunteers of the Year and the 2022 Ruth Arvanette Memorial Fund Grant recipient were recognized.  Read more about the 2022 award winners here.

Getting Down to Business  

Board of Governors (BOG) General Assembly

The USDF Executive Board held their annual fall meeting, where the majority of the year’s business is discussed and evaluated, and the immediate future of the organization is examined, while keeping our long-term objectives at the forefront of considerations.  Early in the week, closed meetings were held for the USDF Activities Council (comprised of the Adult Programs Committee, National Youth Programs Committee, FEI Youth Committee, Regional Championships Committee, Sport Horse Committee, and Awards Committee), Administrative Council (Membership Committee, Group Member Organizations Committee, Historical Recognition Committee, Bylaws Committee, and Nominating Committee), and Technical Council (Judges Committee, L Program Committee, Freestyle Committee, Competition Management Committee, Technical Delegate Committee, and Instructor/Trainer Committee).

The USEF Rules Working Group, and Competition Management and Regional Championship Committees also held closed meetings. These meetings allowed the At-Large Directors to meet with their respective committee chairs in preparation for the open council forums that the attendees so anxiously anticipate, and for the committees and working groups to finalize their presentations for the ever-popular USEF Rule Change and Competition Open Forums at Convention.

During the Board of Governors (BOG) General Assembly, both the President’s and Executive Director’s reports acknowledged a positive rebound from the impacts of the pandemic and an even more positive outlook for the future. With a comprehensive report from USDF Treasurer Lorraine Musselman and few question during either of the two sessions, the 2023-2024 USDF Annual Budget was approved unanimously, with its reflection of a fully balanced budget forecast. Always a highlight of the USDF Board of Governors, delegates and attendees listened attentively to the all too important USEF, USEF High Performance, and The Dressage Foundation reports. Each of these reports provide unique perspectives and shine a light on opportunities available to USDF, its members, and the dressage community at large.

Making Their Voices Heard

The Competitions Open Forum proved very popular

As the most preferred meeting format, the convention’s open forums provide members the chance to raise questions, express their thoughts and opinions on a variety of topics, and have their voices be truly heard by their representatives within the USDF governance structure.  With members traveling from all over the country and representing varying sizes of dressage factions, these forums offer a unique opportunity to discuss the common (and some not so common) issues faced, share ideas, and identify potential pitfalls related to topics at hand.

The USEF/USDF Open Forum, “Trending Topics in Sport and USEF Rule Changes” was a popular and well-attended session.  Janine Malone and Lisa Gorretta gave a thorough review of the rule change proposals that are being considered by USEF as standard rule changes and would be effective 12/1/2023.  During the review, Janine also noted rule clarification and extraordinary changes that became effective 12/1/2022.  To see a list of all the rule changes that became effective 12/1/2022 and are under consideration to be effective 12/1/2023, visit the USDF website, log in, and provide your feedback.  You may also provide feedback directly to USEF.

At the USEF Athlete Forum, Hallye Griffin, USEF Managing Director of Dressage, talked about the pathway to both the 2024 and 2028 Olympic Games for Dressage.  She also addressed the plan for the development of the athletes, and the hopes for the future of the sport.

The Administrative Council Open Forum was filled with great questions from members.  One topic of interest was how to get more people who are interested in dressage engaged with USDF or their local GMO.  USDF Executive Director Stephan Hienzsch was eager to list as a great tool for this.  YourDressage is free and accessible to the general public, shares stories from riders/breeders/owners of all levels, and helps build the sense of community that welcomes those new to our sport. There are also some exciting things coming out of the newly instituted USDF Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Taskforce that should help address these concerns as well.

Each Region also hosted its own Regional Meeting, which helps facilitate discussion about what topics and issues affect your region, with discussion led by each Regional Director.

The Competition Open Forum is always an engaging and energetic session, with lots of great back and forth between members and leadership.  The hot topic at this year’s session was the launch of the 2023 US Dressage Tests, which just went into effect and will be used for the next four years.  Attendees were also provided tips from both ‘the judge’ and ‘the trainer’ to assist in learning the new tests and the changes from previous versions.  A few other topics of interest included how a stretchy trot should look, how collection is not just going slower, and how to ride a proper centerline and corner. 

Meanwhile, the US Dressage Finals Open Forum also generated a lot of interest.  As reported by the US Dressage Finals Organizing Committee, 2022 showed increased participation by west coast riders and full utilization of the available travel grants.  Overall, 2022’s event hosted a total of 432 horses down centerline, making this our second largest Finals to date (bested only by last year’s edition, which included the combined qualifiers from 2020 and 2021 since the 2020 edition was cancelled due to the pandemic.)

Commemorating the Year

Saleska H2O being honored at the Salute Gala and Annual Awards Banquet, pictured with USDF President George Williams and Kathy Sazueta of Dressage Extensions, the supporting sponsor of the Adequan®/USDF Year-End AwardsPhoto by Lisa Michelle Dean Photography

After working hard all year, Friday night’s Salute Gala and Annual Awards Banquet was the perfect place to celebrate!  Getting a chance to walk across the stage and have their photos taken to commemorate their achievements were USDF Bronze, Silver, and Gold Medalists; Bronze, Silver, and Gold Freestyle Bar Recipients; Master’s Challenge Award Recipients; Diamond Achievement Recipients, Breeder of Distinction Recipients, as well as the 2022 Adequan®/USDF Dressage Horses of the Year, including the Grand Prix Horse of the Year; Dressage Breeder of the Year; Dressage Sport Horse Breeding Horse of the Year; and Materiale Horse of the Year. 

Awards and accolades were also given out for Adult Amateur, Adult Amateur Musical Freestyles, Junior/Young Rider, Para-Dressage Rider of the Year, USEF Four-Year-Old, Musical Freestyle, Musical Freestyle Challenge, and Vintage Cup.  Capping off the evening, was the presentation of the Adequan®/USDF All-Breeds Awards, with breed enthusiasts from a number of our participating organizations receiving special recognition.  Our thanks to Adequan® and Dressage Extensions for sponsoring our year-end awards.

Appreciating Those Who Work So Tirelessly for Our Sport

Lisa Gorretta at the podium accepting her Lifetime Achievement Award. Photo by Lisa Michelle Dean Photography

At Friday night’s Salute Gala and Annual Awards Banquet, recognition was given to some of the hardworking folks who carry out USDF’s mission and serve as ambassadors and champions of our sport.  Gwen Ka’awaloa was named the 2022 USDF Volunteer of the Year for her outstanding commitment of 20+ years to the federation.  As a volunteer in Region 5’s largest Group Member Organization, Rocky Mountain Dressage Society, she has held many different titles, including that of President. Her impact is felt nationally through her continued volunteer work on the USDF Adult Programs Committee and as part of the USDF Disasters Task Force and chairing the newly established USDF Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Task Force.

Bonna McCuiston, of Region 2, was honored as a USDF Member of Distinction.  Bonna has spent many years sharing her passion for dressage and has dedicated much of her life to the sport in her native Midwest.  An active member of the Indiana Dressage Society for more than 30 years, she is well known as an enthusiastic teacher, strong leader, and advocate of dressage education.  During her moving acceptance speech, Bonna said, “I want to recognize my late husband Robert.  Without him, I never could have pursued my love for horses and my quest for dressage knowledge.” 

The recipient of the 2022 Lifetime Achievement Award was Lisa Gorretta.  While perhaps best known as the previous USDF President, there are very few areas of the dressage industry that Lisa hasn’t influenced.  Current USDF President George Williams shared, “From the beginning, and we are far from the end, Lisa has wanted to make a positive contribution to the sport she loves.  She does this by volunteering (emphasis on volunteering) her time on committees and task forces, and at schooling shows, national championships, and international competitions. Her knowledge of, and experience in, many aspects of the industry, her ability to level all dressage fields of play from the grass roots to the Olympics, for all horses and riders, at all levels is unmatched.”

Up and Coming – Youth Riders Make Their Mark

Youth Convention scholarship winners . From left – USDF Education Director Katherine Robertson, scholarship recipients Marley McCourt, Cheyenne Duncan, & Dalton Furkis, & USDF Senior Education Coordinator Sarah Delahanty.

Youth attending the annual convention and representing the future of the organization and sport are encouraged to utilize the opportunity to meet with industry leaders, learn about developing and achieving their dressage goals, and become involved in other aspects of the sport, outside the competition arena. 

During the Salute Gala and Annual Awards Banquet, youth leadership was on full display, as Region 3’s Maren Elise Fouché Hanson was named 2022 USDF Youth Volunteer of the Year.  At only 15-years-old Maren is actively involved in two different GMOs, and frequently volunteers her time to support many different dressage events.  As Roberta Williams said in her speech honoring Maren, “The Youth Volunteer of the Year is one of the parts of the Gala that I look forward to. It is a little bit like peering into the looking glass and getting a peek at perhaps one of our future leaders of dressage. I am looking forward to seeing more of this young lady.”

In the Activities Council Open Forum, Roberta Williams gave the FEI Youth Committee Report, where she recapped the FEI Youth Clinic Series.  This year featured a successful fall season of clinics in Regions 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 9 with clinicians Lilo Fore, George Williams, and Anne Gribbons.  The next round of these clinics is planned for spring, with Sabine Schut-Kery being added as a fourth presenter. The clinic topic also included discussion regarding ways to increase GMOs’ accessibility.  When the topic turned to the 2022 North American Youth Championships (NAYC), attendees heaped praise on both the 2022 location in Traverse City, MI, and the overwhelming success of the event.

When presenting the National Youth Programs Committee report, Roz Kinstler highlighted the many opportunities available to USDF Youth Members to be recognized for their achievements.  Focused on character, volunteerism, and good sportsmanship, and not only accomplishments in the competitions arena, USDF offers a number of opportunities for youth members to be highlighted and celebrated, specifically through the following programs and awards: Youth Dressage Rider Recognition Pin Program, Youth Shining Star Program, Ravel Education Grants, Youth Convention Scholarship, and Dressage Spirit Award, among others.  

Youth who are aging out and interested in developing a professional career in the equine, or specifically the dressage, industry have an unparalleled opportunity to learn from and pick the brains of experts from varying aspects of the industry through the USEF/USDF Young Rider Graduate Program. Held bi-annually, the next program is right around the corner, scheduled for January 14-15, 2023, in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Closing out the Activities Council Forum, an in-depth discussion was initiated by Roberta and Roz on how USDF can support our sport’s youth, with various individuals speaking on how their GMOs encourage and facilitate youth involvement.  One example of these efforts is the Lehigh Valley Dressage Association – Decades of Dressage 2022 Video, featuring the club’s youth, which can be viewed here.

On hand to be recognized were this year’s Youth Convention Scholarship winners: Marley McCourt, Cheyenne Duncan, and Dalton Furkis.  These scholarships provide financial support to young dressage enthusiasts to help defray the expenses associated with attending convention, an invaluable resource for education and an introduction to USDF’s governance.

Unveiling New Ideas and Projects

USDF members attending the convention like to be “in the know” and are eager to learn about anything new coming down the pike.  A few of the new and exciting things coming our way include:

  • A new Para Rider Award is coming soon! Starting in the 2024 competition year, USDF Para-Dressage Athlete Rider Award program will recognize three performance levels (similar to the USDF Bronze, Silver, and Gold Medals)
  • A new instructor development program is in the works for 2023.
  • The new USDF Awards Resource Guide has officially launched on the USDF website.  This user-friendly tool makes it easy to see which types of awards you are eligible for, as well as lots of handy links to help you navigate the process.
A timelapse from the Welcome Reception

Facts & Figures

A few interesting facts and figures that came out of the 2022 Convention included:

  • 18 Diamond Achievement recognitions were awarded in 2022
  • Rider Medals with Distinction are new this year.
  • The GMO Education Initiative hosted 9 events in 2022.  Grants available for up to $1,000.
  • The Adult Programs Committee is hosting quarterly virtual education sessions.

An Eye Toward the Future

As folks started to say their goodbyes to head out to the airport and go back to their home Regions, many were already discussing reuniting again next year.  Make sure you join us in Omaha for the 2023 Adequan®/USDF Annual Convention! 

Sights From Convention

Here are a few sights from around Convention.  See our full gallery here.

Our special thanks to Lisa Michelle Dean Photography for the wonderful photos. Photographs from the 2022 USDF Salute Gala & Annual Awards Banquet are now available.  Use code USDF22 at checkout to receive a discount on purchases.  

All awards not picked up at the event will be mailed the week of December 19, 2022.  If you do not receive your award, contact USDF by no later than January 31, 2023.

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