SMART Goals at the USDF Annual Convention


By Cheyenne Duncan

I’m so privileged to have received the 2022 USDF Youth Convention Scholarship. This was my first opportunity to attend the Adequan®/USDF Annual Convention and it was a remarkable experience. It was so special to be around fellow aspiring athletes, knowledgeable USDF staff, and people dedicated to the sport of dressage working together to make changes. The USDF Youth Convention Scholarship is an amazing opportunity for any youth looking to dive deep into learning about all aspects of dressage. The convention showcased topics covering everything from learning about how USDF runs, rule and test changes, and what to do in an equine emergency, to name a few. The convention affords you and your fellow dressage enthusiasts the opportunity to speak up and ask questions. 

The convention featured multiple education sessions, all of which I had the privilege of sitting in on. They were wonderfully planned out, and I was engaged and learning every minute. One that stood out to me, in particular, was the featured youth education session,  Creating Effective Goals, with Reese Koffler-Stanfield. I was particularly interested in this, since I had started outlining my goals and the plan to achieve them in the upcoming year, 2023. I had accomplished my 2022 goals and was excited to raise my expectations for myself. The featured speaker started by outlining the importance of forming realistic and well-suited goals. She gave us some questions to honestly ask ourselves, to help us find our difficulty level for each goal. Reese shared that your goals must be tailored to your specific horse and rider team, along with individual goals. For example, a personal goal could be something such as sticking to a strict healthy lifestyle plan including fitness, diet, and time management. A goal for your horse could be to learn a new movement, gain more muscle, or perfect an existing movement. A team goal could be achieving a USDF Rider Award, competing at the North American Youth Championships (NAYC), or maintaining a consistent training regimen. She had us list our detailed goals on our paper, along with the steps we need to pass through to get there. Reese also introduced the audience to the SMART acronym, standing for “Specific – Measurable – Assignable – Relevant – Time-based.” You can make specific unique goals for yourself using this method. After this meeting, I effectively outlined my goals and what I need to do to achieve those goals for the short term of this year, and the long term of my riding career.

I met so many lovely people throughout this experience, including the other youth scholarship winners, USDF staff and representatives, dressage enthusiasts, and fellow competitors. I appreciate USDF for offering its Youth Convention Scholarship because otherwise, this learning experience wouldn’t have been possible for me. Although this was my first year attending the convention, it definitely will not be my last. Again, I am so grateful to have received such an honorable opportunity and I hope to encourage other youth to apply for this amazing scholarship. 

USDF’s Youth Convention Scholarship provides an amazing experience that should be taken advantage of, and is accessible to all USDF Youth Participating Members. Receiving this scholarship opened a door to a whole new world of learning I had never had. A piece of advice I would give to youth applying for this scholarship is to “Be you!” Being your true authentic self is so important and it brings out the best in people. The committee that looks at these applications wants to know what you can take away, and if you can read between the lines and seek out those little pearls of information that will give you the edge. They want to know why you should be given this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. They want to know that you can be responsible and take away as much information as possible. There are thousands of other riders your age, at your level, that also deserve this scholarship, and your application needs to make you stand out. Showcasing your strengths, as well as noting your areas for growth, are important in any application. Qualified applicants need to have the capacity to take the knowledge gained from the experience home and utilize it to improve their riding, the riding of others in their dressage community, and involvement of themselves and others in the sport. They want you to take this experience home and promote not only the sport of dressage but also the fundamental art form, on which it is based.

Are you interested in applying for the USDF Youth Convention Scholarship? Applications are due by August 31. Apply here.

Want to read about past Youth Convention Scholarship winners experiences? Check out Marley McCourt’s Youth Convention takeaways in Learning How Things Run Behind the Scenes Through the 2022 USDF Youth Convention Scholarship, 2019 winners Sophia ChavonelleSavana Garvey, and Olivia Gray‘s stories, and 2018 scholarship winner Ellanor Beohning‘s account of her trip to Convention.

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