I woke up on Saturday, the third and final day of my convention adventure in New Orleans at 7 am; that is 5 am Washington time. The morning started with a youth breakfast. This was just a casual get together to meet other young people from all over the US. This is my favorite part of all of the clinics, conventions and education seminars I go to. I admit to being a bit sleepy as I am not a great morning person. I think after some food and a Starbucks vanilla steamer I perked up a bit. Directly after the breakfast we had a youth education seminar about strengthening the core and how posture affects riding. The presenter really won me over and I intend to start doing some yoga when I get back to Kirkland! I have always thought I had great posture and position but I learned that there were ways I could increase this strength and minimize problems when I get older with back, neck and knee issues.
Then we had a meeting about the Dressage Seat Medal program. It was very informative and I realized that they are encouraging even upper level and FEI junior and young riders to compete. I had always thought that once I hit second or third level competency that it wasn’t really ‘sporting’ to ride equitation style classes. The program leaders definitely discouraged me of that notion. They want upper level riders competing they said in order to show proper position to lower level riders. So I encourage everybody out there who qualifies to participate. You can qualify by riding in a dressage seat qualifying test or by qualifying in any Jr/YR event in your Regional Championships. So in essence if you are already qualified and going to regionals why not do one more test and ride the Dressage Seat Medal event? Nationals are in Colorado. Don’t let the cost or travel discourage you though because organizers are trying to get local breeders and trainers to let youth riders use borrowed horses for the finals. This in itself is a great opportunity to get to show off your skills, learn and develop how to ride other horses. I know that every new horse I get to ride I learn something new about training and riding. Each has a new or unique quirk to work through.
Then it was on to the Conformation and Performance lecture by Dr. Clayton. I will admit to having heard this three times but each time she sneaks in something new so don’t wander off! It is a great lecture on how conformation affects the outcome not only of performance but potential health issues like suspensory injuries. She also gives specific things to look for when you go shopping!
After her speech, it was a quick dash upstairs to iron my dress for the Gala and then back down for the “Look at London.” While I always appreciate and hope to emulate Steffan’s riding, media and approachability I was particularly impressed with Aikeko, Ravel’s owner and her precocious daughters. She brought a level of humor, intelligence and frankness to the panel that was amazing. At times she seemed almost vulnerable in her love of Ravel. When she admitted crying whenever she read an article about him it reminded me of myself when I think about Sjapoer. I appreciated also the discussion on judging and the improvements in our sport and the direction and future of scoring with harmony over power. My Olympic dreams for Rio recrystallized as I rode the elevator up to dress for the ball.
Back down 30 minutes later to gawk at the glitter, sparkle and feathers. Everyone looked spectacular. I really enjoyed the more formal dress of New Orleans over the more casual event in San Diego. It gave the event more of an excited aura. Of all the speeches and honors I loved Michael Poulin’s easy manner as he got accepted into the Roemer Hall of Fame and Steffan Peters’ highly emotional choking up when he spoke of Ravel being his best friend and business partner.
So as I fly home on a ridiculously early flight I look back at the last few days and I have learned that the USDF takes an army of volunteers, delegates and enthusiasts across the nation to keep in going. They work hard to make us safe and allow us to pursue our riding and training goals. I also recognize that we love our horses. I mean really love them. We research how to make their lives happier, healthier and not only for improved performance but because we desire a deeper understanding of everything they think and feel. We desire their happiness and longevity.