Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Honoring Our Volunteers

The USDF is like many nonprofit organizations in that volunteers are its lifeblood. Recognizing this, the Federation awards a number of prestigious honors each year to volunteers whose efforts have been extraordinary.

First, there are Volunteer of the Year awards for each of USDF's nine regions. Regional Volunteers of the Year have made significant contributions within their home geographic areas.

On the national level, USDF Volunteer of the Year and Youth Volunteer of the Year awards recognize two individuals whose contributions permeate the entire organization. In 2012, those awards went to Trenna Atkins, USEF "S" judge and forward-thinking USDF "L" faculty member; and to Catherine Chamberlain, a tireless youth volunteer whose service exemplifies USDF's educational mission and dedication to excellence.

2012 USDF Volunteer of the Year Trenna Atkins (center) with George Williams and Lisa Gorretta 

Catherine Chamberlain (right) receives the 2012 USDF Youth Volunteer of the Year award from Roz Kinstler and Roberta Williams

Another longtime volunteer who was recognized at the 2012 Adequan/USDF Annual Convention in New Orleans was Fern Feldman. This was the retiring USDF Region 8 director's last trip to convention as a member of the USDF Executive Board.
Outgoing Region 8 director Fern Feldman and USDF president George Williamns
 One final individual who's not a volunteer but who nonetheless has contributed greatly to USDF's success is its executive director, Stephan Hienzsch. At the Board of Governors assembly, the Executive Board honored his decade of service with a plaque and a watch.

USDF president George Williams and USDF executive director Stephan Hienzsch
Thanks to all who have contributed to the USDF's success. We appreciate you!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Hijinks and Heartfelt Moments at Convention Gala

If the business portion of the 2012 Adequan/USDF Annual Convention in New Orleans was quiet, the Salute Gala and Annual Awards Banquet most certainly was not.

Mardi Gras, naturally, was the gala theme. Many attendees got into the party spirit, sporting elaborate masks, beads, feather boas, and other frivolity, like these festive folks:

Of course, the banquet is a time for celebrating the accomplishments of those horses, owners, breeders, and riders who have achieved dressage and sport-horse excellence in the past year. But it's also a time for honoring those who have left an indelible mark on our sport.

Two such individuals were inducted into the Roemer Foundation/USDF Hall of Fame tonight. The first, Michael Poulin, is a trainer, an instructor, an Olympian, and an instructor-certification pioneer. The Poulin family was on hand for the ceremony, making for an extra-special moment.

The Poulin clan turned out for the induction of patriarch Michael (center) into the Roemer Foundation/USDF Hall of Fame
The other inductee, Ravel, established new standards of excellence in American dressage and carried Steffen Peters to victories at Aachen, the FEI Dressage World Cup Final, and the World Dressage Masters. The pair competed in two Olympic Games and won America's first-ever dressage individual medals at a world championships, at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. "Team Ravel" was on hand for the great horse's induction ceremony.

"Team Ravel" accepts the horse's USDF Hall of Fame induction plaque. From left: USDF president George Williams, USDF Historical Recognition Committee chair Anne Moss, Steffen Peters, owner Akiko Yamazaki and daughters, and veterinarian Dr. Rodrigo Vazquez. Steffen's wife, Shannon, is behind Yamazaki.
It was a night--and a convention and a city--to remember. We bid adieu to New Orleans and look forward to gathering again next year in Lexington, KY.

A Quick Update

Indeed, yesterday's BOG luck held. Amazingly, there was nary a peep from the USDF delegates regarding the new USDF budget, which passed unanimously.

USDF treasurer Steve Schubert was so relaxed about the financials that he even had time for some Big Easy levity. Witness:

Dude looks like a lady: USDF treasurer Steve Schubert

Incumbent Region 6 director Donna Longacre bested challenger Peter Rothschild to win another term on the USDF Executive Board. Outgoing Region 8 director Fern Feldman was feted, and newcomer Debra Reinhardt was welcomed. GMO awards were bestowed.

And that, folks, was about it for the BOG, which wrapped two (yes, two!) hours early.

Now I'm off to two horse-health-related education sessions, followed by my own "Looking Back at London" panel discussion and then the Salute Gala and Annual Awards Banquet. Whew! Stay tuned for more news and photos.

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Pigs Are Airborne!

For years, USDF Board of Governors assemblies were long, dragged-out affairs. They consisted of tedium interspersed with heated discussions over the hot topic du jour. (In that, they reminded me of my airplane-pilot husband's description of flying: boredom occasionally punctuated by moments of panic.)

Would a BOG, as it's not-always-fondly called, ever go smoothly? Could this meeting ever (gasp) end early? When pigs fly, it seemed.

Well, today the pigs took off and are cruising in formation somewhere over New Orleans. There's always tomorrow morning (the BOG agenda continues for a few more hours); but today, few committees put motions before the BOG, and those that did were noncontroversial. (Example: The Awards Committee secured approval to award five placings instead of three in Adequan/USDF Vintage Cup standings.) Not really the kind of thing that gets people hot and bothered. And so it went.

Really, the only "interesting" moment today happened outside of the BOG. During the US Equestrian Federation Dressage Committee open forum, a representative from the association North American Western Dressage asked why the USDF has so far declined to formally endorse or support any of the Western-dressage associations. If you've been reading your USDF Connection, you know that Western dressage is a hot topic. (The response, from USDF president George Williams, was that the USDF must take care to protect the sport's name and terminology as defined by the USDF, the FEI, and in the scope of the Olympic movement. At this time, the USDF will link to WD organizations' websites but declines to endorse any sole WD entity.)

So there you have it: a quiet day and a BOG day 1 that ended a full hour early. The upshot was that I was able to use my unexpected free time to reminisce about my interview with Michael Poulin this morning. Poulin, as you may know, will be inducted into the Roemer Foundation/USDF Hall of Fame tomorrow night during the USDF Salute Gala and Annual Awards Banquet. He's quite a guy, and it was a privilege to speak with him. I look forward to telling you more about him soon!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Cuttin' Loose in the Big Easy

You know what they say about all work and no play. The first day's good work and education at the 2012 Adequan/USDF Annual Convention behind them, USDF members relished the chance to kick back and cut loose at the welcome party.

The venue, Michaul's N'Awlins Live Cajun Music Restaurant, is a big bar with an ample dance floor. Buoyed by the sounds of a terrific three-piece band--accompanied for one song on spoons by two USDF members--convention-goers boogied and relaxed their way into the evening. And of course we couldn't resist capturing the action.

Hospitality volunteers from SEDA get their Mardi Gras spirit on
Band plus two
Mr. and Mrs. Steiner (Axel and Terri) cutting a rug
Diane Holston, Sally Davenport, and Terry Ciotti Gallo twist and shout
Tomorrow: more educational sessions plus the start of the annual USDF Board of Governors assembly. But tonight we play!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

N'Awlins Sights and Sounds

These conventions tend to get crazier as the week goes on, so I've found it's best to get out and about ASAP.

To that end, I ventured into the French Quarter in search of an inexpensive, relatively authentic regional-cuisine dinner. Fortified by a large bowl of wonderfully spicy red beans and rice from the inauspiciously named Daisy Duke's, I wandered around, camera in hand. And I followed my ears to where a ragtag brass band was playing jazz and Christmas carols on a street corner.

As I write this, the strains of "Silent Night" on trombone are drifting up to my fifteenth-floor hotel room. Now that's charm, NOLA-style.

Enjoy the photos.

The USDF convention host hotel, the Sheraton New Orleans

Trolley tracks and lighted palm trees run down the middle of Canal Street
Just another NOLA establishment

Display in a jewelry-store window
Jam session on a French Quarter street corner. I thought this photo looked interesting in B&W.

View of Canal St. from my hotel window, with the Riverwalk in the distance.

Laissez les Bon Temps Rouler!

What's a trip to New Orleans without a little Mardi Gras flavor?

If you have time during your stay at the 2012 Adequan/USDF Annual Convention, take a tour of Mardi Gras World. It's a ginormous warehouse filled with Mardi Gras parade floats and props. Learn the colorful history of Mardi Gras and its traditions. Kids and adults alike love it. When I came here a few years ago during an American Horse Publications seminar, our group couldn't stop exclaiming and taking photos.

We're not here during Mardi Gras, of course, but here's a video that captures a bit of the flavor and spirit of the day. This is a music video of one of my favorite bands, the Aussie Hoodoo Gurus, filmed during the lads' trip to NOLA and Mardi Gras. Enjoy! (And yes, '80s-music buffs, those are the Bangles singing backup.)

Where the Movers and Shakers Gather

If you want to meet our sport's VIPs, head to the 2012 Adequan/USDF Annual Convention in New Orleans.

International coach and clinician Kathy Connelly was on my flight to NOLA. Major dressage supporters and sponsors Chuck and Joann Smith, plus USDF FEI Junior/Young Rider Committee member Roz Kinstler, were on the hotel shuttle bus. And now I'm sitting in a meeting room with the members of the USDF Executive Board, where I was just introduced to incoming United States Equestrian Federation president Chrystine Tauber.

In the fifteen-plus years that I've been attending USDF conventions, the thing that's continued to impress me is the degree to which top dressage riders, trainers, judges, officials, and others give back to the sport. Serving on the USDF Executive Board is an unpaid position. So is serving as a member of USDF's volunteer-driven governance structure -- its councils, its committees, and its Board of Governors. These dedicated individuals give a lot of their time, not to mention footing some travel expenses, to try to make American dressage better for everybody, and most especially our horses.

OK, enough pontificating. Where else can you meet a cross-section of our sport's greats? It's pretty cool.

Hope to see you in NOLA this week!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Tweet from NOLA!

I've added a Twitter timeline to this blog so we can all check out one another's tweets regarding the 2012 Adequan/USDF National Convention in New Orleans.

Going to NOLA? Please tweet your activities, news, convention thoughts and happenings, and fun stuff using the hashtag #USDFNOLA.

I'll do the same. Thanks! See you soon.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Dressage in the Big Easy

You'd want to visit New Orleans, even if the 2012 Adequan/United States Dressage Federation Annual Convention weren't taking place there this week.

Sultry, mysterious, raucous, steeped in jazz history and voodoo lore, the Big Easy is an unforgettable city. It's a French-tinged party town where ghosts walk and music talks.

Spend an evening (or all night, if you wish) savoring Cajun cuisine and the sounds of a jazz bar. Make a pilgrimage to the world-famous Preservation Hall, home of the equally world-famous Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Stroll the French Quarter, with or without liquid libation. Check out a voodoo shop (if you need to curse an enemy or win a new love, this is the place to go). Then in the morning, chase away the previous night's demons with café au lait and beignets (heavenly puffy "doughnuts" liberally dusted with powdered sugar) at the Café du Monde.

Start your exploration of New Orleans at the comprehensive NOLA Convention and Visitors' Bureau website, with event listings, maps, restaurants, clubs, shopping, and more.

Oh, and yes, there's also a USDF convention to attend, beginning this Wednesday. Highlights will include Thursday night's welcome reception at Michaul's Live Cajun Music Restaurant; a Friday-night dinner and ghost tour; and Saturday night's Salute Gala and Annual Awards Banquet, where we'll be honoring the 2012 Roemer Foundation/USDF Hall of Fame inductees, Michael Poulin and Ravel.

There's lots to come this week in New Orleans, so follow this blog for convention news, photos, memorable moments, and fun in the Big Easy.