Learning How Things Run Behind the Scenes Through the 2022 USDF Youth Convention Scholarship


By Marley McCourt

I first received the email that I had been one of the lucky recipients of the 2022 USDF Youth Convention Scholarship while sitting on the bleachers after competing in my first CDI class, at Dressage at Devon. I was in shock when I checked my phone and saw the email, as I had already been in a joyful mood, it just made my day even better! 

On November 29, my family and I left for Kentucky from New Jersey. It was about a nine-hour drive but could not have been more worth it. The hotel was beautiful, and there was a lovely view from our room’s window. Welcoming signs and staff made my first trip to Kentucky much better. 

Thursday December 1, the first open meeting of the 2022 Adequan®/USDF Annual Convention was held. The Administrative Council Open Forum started at 8 AM and the Technical Council Open Forum started at 9:45. It was intriguing listening to the committee reports, along with the questions and answers from the standpoint of judges, riders, trainers, TDs competitors, and the council. Since Covid, the memberships through USDF have recovered, but many Group Member Organization (GMO) memberships are still down. I think it was an eye-opener to see how much the horse industry needs us; USDF is not able to function without voting delegates! This opened me up to running as a Region 1 delegate in the spring.

The Activities Council Open Forum was very informative, and there is so much detail and effort put in by all the different areas of the USDF committee to make this sport run smoothly. It is truly amazing to see how everything runs behind the scenes. A big discussion throughout the day on Thursday was how to get more youth involved in dressage. It was very interesting to hear, as a fifteen-year-old dressage rider, all of the ways that barns are trying to raise up future generations. There were many ideas shared about events to plan how to get the youth more involved.

L to R: USDF Education Director Kathie Roberson, USDF Youth Convention Scholarship winners Marley McCourt, Cheyenne Duncan, and Dalton Furkis, USDF Senior Education Coordinator Sarah Delahanty

On Friday, I was able to meet some more lovely people at lunch, most importantly the USDF Education Director, Katherine Robertson, and USDF Senior Education Coordinator, Sarah Delahanty. I also saw some familiar faces at the Region 1 meeting in the morning, and some new faces at night during the Salute Gala and Annual Awards Banquet. I was fortunate enough to receive my USDF Bronze Medal at the awards ceremony Friday night. 

Saturday was filled with two education sessions, along with the Board of Governors meeting. One of my favorites of the education lessons took place on this day; Constructing a Wellness Program for the Aging Performance Horse with Dr. Avi Blake. There were so many good questions being asked, and Dr. Blake did a phenomenal job answering them. 

I had such an educational experience at the 2022 USDF Convention. I am looking forward to attending next year in Omaha, NE, hopefully as a Region 1 delegate! Thank you to everyone who made this trip possible, USDF for providing me the opportunity with the scholarship, my family for coming with me, my trainer for telling me about the opportunity of the scholarship, Sarah Delahanty for her fantastic communication and organizational  skills, and so many others. I am so grateful for the opportunity, and I think that it is a great experience for any young rider who is interested in learning more about dressage – USDF also provides so many other wonderful educational opportunities!

Interested in applying for the USDF Youth Convention Scholarship? Find out more here!

Want to read about past Youth Convention Scholarship winners experiences? Check out 2019 winners Sophia Chavonelle, Savana Garvey, and Olivia Gray‘s stories, and 2018 scholarship winner Ellanor Beohning‘s account of her trip to Convention.


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