Face to Face


Convening in person offers advantages that virtual meetings just can’t replicate
By George Williams, USDF President

Reprinted from the March/April 2023 issue of USDF Connection.

It was wonderful to once again be meeting in person for the Adequan®/USDF Annual Convention. The 2022 event was held in Lexington, Kentucky, after a two-year break due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The format of the 2022 convention was slightly different, or should I say refined, from that of past years. At the last couple of conventions, USDF’s goal had been to combine committee presentations with those of the other committees within a council. (For those unfamiliar with the USDF’s organizational setup, there are three councils: Administrative, Technical, and Activities. Seventeen of USDF’s committees [an eighteenth, the Audit Committee, functions independently] are each classified into one of the three councils depending on their function. The chair of each council sits on the USDF Executive Board (EB) as an at-large director.) In theory, this structure allows for more interaction among committees that oversee aspects of the sport that are similar in nature. I believe that we saw the concept truly working this year, as the open council meetings proved to be informative and productive.

The Administrative Council kicked it off with a lively discussion on USDF’s group-member organizations (GMOs, or affiliated dressage clubs) and how USDF can further help them. The Technical Council delivered a wonderful presentation on the new 2023 USEF/USDF dressage tests. The Activities Council fielded audience questions on the topic of youth in the sport.

As in the past, the meetings of members of USDF’s nine regions are a crucial part of the convention. These meetings are a tremendous opportunity to build unity within a region. Unity is essential in creating a strong region that can continue to build and grow dressage. If each region is strong, then our country will be strong, and the aspirations of the regions’ dressage enthusiasts have a better chance of being achieved.

One of the things mentioned in surveys from previous conventions is some attendees’ frustration at having to choose between an educational session and a business meeting. For 2022, educational sessions were scheduled in order to prevent such conflicts. One down side of this measure is that the schedule appeared less jam-packed with activities. The advantage, of course, was that one could attend all of the meetings and educational sessions offered. The educational session that surprised me the most was the Competition Management Committee’s presentation on the subject of safety measures at dressage shows. Far more than just another “do’s and don’ts of showing” lecture, the session was quite captivating, with interesting and important information.

The USDF’s governance system is unique in that the official business that keeps the doors open—including the election of officers and EB members—takes place during the Board of Governors (BOG) assembly. Voting is done by two types of delegates: those representing GMOs and those representing their regions’ USDF participating members.

For those on the EB, the week started off with the day-long fall EB meeting. Again, it was inspiring to be back in person. Some of the newer members who joined the board during the worst of the pandemic had never attended an in-person EB meeting. In my mind, there are some things that conference calls or virtual meetings just cannot duplicate. The motivation, interaction, and freewheeling discussion that can happen when we’re all in one room are priceless.

The Salute Gala is definitely the highlight of the convention. Fifty years ago, USDF’s founders sought to provide—as USDF’s mission states—education, recognition, and promotion of dressage. Recognizing our members’ achievements is front and center at the Gala. Whether we are honoring an individual who has contributed to dressage over a long span, an outstanding volunteer, or successes in the competition arena, attending the Gala is a fun, rewarding, and often moving experience. What better way to celebrate that we are once again meeting face to face.

The 2023 Adequan®/USDF Annual Convention will be held in Omaha, Nebraska. Perhaps I will see you there!

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