15 February 2011

Eventing Day's Kim MacMillan Covers the USEF Convention - With A Slide Show!

Eventing Day Contributor Kim MacMillan gives us an inside look -- including a slide show of gorgeous photos -- of the recent USEF Convention and Awards Ceremony, in Lexinton Kentucky.  Thanks Kim!  ~ ed

Accepting the USEF Pegasus Medal of Honor from presenter Karen O’Connor (center) for recently deceased Rebecca Broussard were her daughter Sarah Kelley (left) and her husband Jerome Broussard (right).  ©2011 Kim MacMillan
2011 USEF Annual Meeting Report - It Takes a ‘Village’ to Run a Federation -
 by Kim MacMillan

I was a complete rookie to the inner workings of a United States Equestrian Federation Annual Meeting when I arrived in Lexington in late January. From the minute I fastened on my name tag and entered my first committee meeting, then attended three, yes, three, awards banquets, and finally watched the largest Board of Directors meeting I had every witnessed, it was an eye-opening experience.

Board meetings were open for all to attend and most committee meetings were open for at least part of the time. The number of people walking around with colored ribbons on their name badges identifying them as either Board of Directors members or committee members was impressive, quite literally a whole “village” of equestrians coming together to keep the Federation running. The USEF includes a large number of breed and discipline representation and it was an enriching experience to visit with folks from these various special interest groups. I made it a point to sit with people from many different backgrounds at each meal and attended a large cross section of committee meetings.

The five-day run of the 2011 USEF meeting included many, many committee meetings where the proposed rule changes were hashed out, with amendments suggested to some, then approved or disapproved. These proposed rule changes were handed to me in the form of a three-quarter inch thick booklet at check-in. The approval or disapproval record of each rule change and any suggested amendments were then included in a three-ring binder that eventually came before the Board of Directors on the final day. For those proposed changes lucky enough to make it to a vote, the Board’s decision determined which would be adopted.

A number of proposed changes were referred to a future board meeting for further discussion, but among those that did pass were the new helmet rules for dressage and eventing. The new rules requires safety helmets be worn at all times when mounted at dressage shows and in eventing. This includes practice, schooling, warm-up and competition for Training through Fourth Levels in dressage for adults, in all levels of dressage for riders under 18 and at all times in eventing (including dressage tests). The only exception was for riders 18 and older in the FEI levels of dressage, where the choice was offered to wear a top hat or a safety helmet in the warm up immediately before their test and in the competition ring. The rules also say that judges may not penalize a rider for choosing to wear a safety helmet in lieu of a top hat at the FEI levels. The rule takes effect immediately for eventing and on March 1 for dressage.

 The first night of awards featured the Silver Stirrup Awards for horses registered with the Performance Horse Registry and the second night of awards were the USEF Horse of the Year Awards. Perhaps the most touching part of the final night of awards, called the Pegasus Awards, was the presentation of the Richard E. McDevitt Awards of Merit (presented posthumously in the name of the former American Horse Shows Association President McDevitt for meritorious service to the USEF) to Saddlebred show organizer William Munford, Olympic eventer Walter B. Staley Jr. and hunter rider Charles Weaver. Staley’s award was accepted by his youngest son who shared stories of his father’s three Olympic Games and had the crowd rolling with laughter at the story of his father in full riding gear on a hot summer day in Rome in 1960 commandeering a bicycle, when the bus didn’t arrive in time, to peddle to the equestrian venue in time for the start of competition.

On the heels of the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, Lexington was the perfect host for the 2011 USEF Convention, and it was a fitting cap to the Games when the 2010 USEF Horse of the Year winner was the WEG gold medalist in reining, Gunners Special Nite, a six-year-old American Quarter Horse stallion owned by Sarah B. Willeman, South Hamilton, MA, and the 2010 Equestrian of the Year was his rider Tom McCutcheon, Aubrey, TX. In his acceptance speech, McCutcheon outlined the highs and lows of his year in 2010 which culminated in his winning two gold medals at the WEG, more than any other American athlete. "This whole thing has changed my life," he said.  

Winner of the Jimmy A. Williams Trophy for the USEF Lifetime Achievement Award and the signature silver cowboy hat was Don Harris, legendary Saddlebred trainer from Cox’s Creek, KY. "I've had such a life," said Harris. "Sometimes I can't believe it. It takes lots of things to get to a place like this."

The USEF Junior Equestrian of the Year and winner of the Youth Sportsmanship Award was 17-year-old high school senior Kelsey Kimbler, an endurance rider from Aberdeen, SD. Kimbler completed five 100-mile endurance rides in 2010, more than any other junior ever. She also shows her Arabian horses in 4-H. "I'd like to thank the horses I've ridden," said Kimbler. "They do so much for us. Every time we put a saddle on them they give us 110 percent."

Besides the meetings and banquets, the convention attendees were treated to a bag of USEF goodies upon arrival, all meals each day, a welcome reception on Wednesday night and a country music concert by Paul Bogart on Thursday night for their registration fee. The 2012 USEF Annual Meeting will be in Cincinnati January 8 - 12. For more USEF Annual Meeting news and a complete list of the award winners go to www.usef.org.

For information about Kim MacMillan's USEF awards photography, please email: kim@looncreekenterprises.com, or call 260-468-2392

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