Meet Me Under the Arch

St. Louis Arch

Meet Me Under the Arch

By Nicole Miller

The annual Adequan/USDF Convention for 2016 was held in St. Louis, Missouri. Almost directly under the famous St. Louis Arch! I was honored to once again represent SEDA as a delegate

Each Convention experience is a little bit different. Many of the faces are the same, but the location is always different and has its own brand of charm. One of the most interesting elements of the Convention is the Welcome Party on the first night: this is usually sponsored by the host Region and always gives a great bit of local flavor, plus an opportunity to mix and mingle with the other attendees. The highlight of this particular evening was the appearance of Fredbird – mascot for the Cardinals. Fredbird is a riot, I have to say. And what’s not to like about getting hugged by an oversized, plush bird? 

The rest of the Convention is a lot of meetings. Sounds boring, right? Well, it could be, but these meetings are always educational, and learning something new is always a good thing! Even the business meetings are an opportunity to learn about how things work and what is going on regionally and nationally.

The first meetings a delegate will attend are the Regional Meetings. There are two. In these meetings, you find out what has been going on, attend to other Regional business, and discuss the content of some of the other Convention sessions as well as discuss agenda items for the Board of Governors meeting. For Region 9, we discussed how the Championships went, what will be needed for next year, who will be applying for grants, how grants have been awarded, challenges faced by the Jr/YR competitors hoping to go to the NAJYRC, and a lot more. An important topic this year was how changes in USEF regulations have made it difficult to set up and advertise show dates, as well as determine which judges are available. 2017 is going to be a year of a lot of changes on the national level and how our Region and local club responds to those changes is going to be very interesting.

Presentations are given by The Dressage Foundation. I can’t encourage members enough to consider applying for grants from TDF. Every year money goes unclaimed! Yes, there is a bit of paperwork involved, but you could offset the cost of your riding education by applying for some of these grants. The staff is very friendly and willing to help you figure out the application process.

Several of the meetings I attended pertained to helping Group Member Organizations. Everyone has the same issue with retaining members, engaging volunteers, getting people willing to take on Board positions, and just keeping people interested. There were a lot of ideas passed around in some sessions regarding encouraging volunteers, making the banquets more exciting, and getting people involved to prevent burnout. It’s tough because everyone is busy all the time and ‘one more commitment’ is hard to swallow. But, if you’re a member, you should consider getting involved in a different capacity. Your skills could benefit everyone else! Plus, new blood keeps the ones who’ve been doing everything for so long from getting burned out. No one wants burnout – we want people excited about the club and working for the good of all the members. This is hard to accomplish when the workhorses don’t feel appreciated and few others step up.

Educational sessions are always just that – educational. One of my favorite sessions this time was sports psychologist Sandy Venneman. It’s fascinating to me how changing the way you approach your rides can make a huge difference for you and your horse. If you’re not aware of it, you will be surprised how much extra ‘baggage’ you carry into your ride. I hope someday we can get her to speak for us at SEDA, it would be beneficial to so many people!

Another fun session came at the close of the Convention. Our US Olympic and Paralympic Dressage Team riders were there for a special presentation. It was so moving to hear them speak about their funny and touching moments from the Olympics. I was touched by Steffen Peters’ tears when talking about his journey to the Olympics and what it meant for him to be there. I was not familiar with many of the Paralympic riders, so it was interesting to hear their point of view. I had to laugh with them as they joked about their respective challenges and the real – and often humorous – obstacles presented to them that the rest of us don’t have to think about. How beautiful to see those people who sacrificed so much and worked so hard to represent our country! 

Of course, the biggest event at the Convention is the Board of Governors meeting. It’s a very long meeting with a lot of business that has to be attended to. Reports are given, positions are voted on. This year, there was a lot of discussion about raising membership dues for 2018 for all classes of membership EXCEPT GMO memberships. It’s always tough to bring up dues increases, but after listening to the reasons behind the need, the increase was approved. Why the increase? Mostly because of unexpected expenses: USEF is restructuring and some of their administration for dressage will be moving under USDF’s supervision, which will necessitate the hiring of a couple more people; Changes in wage laws are making it necessary to pay salaried staff overtime pay; And there were also enormous increases in health insurance coverage costs. There was a good bit of discussion about this, but in the end, the increase was approved.

Also at the BoG, USDF distributes the GMO Awards. I was honored this year to accept three awards for SEDA! Best general interest article, best website, and best photograph. I think they are getting tired of seeing me, but I am so happy that our little club gets this recognition!

Next year, the Convention will be in Lexington, KY. I encourage everyone who wants to have a voice or who wants to find out how things work at USDF to consider making the trip. It’s definitely worthwhile!

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