The annual USEF convention is a must go to event. It’s the place where people from all the breeds and disciplines congregate to resolve issues and add rules to an already cumbersome rule system.
I enjoy this annual event not because of the rules but because of the people. Here at one event are friends and those I’ve done stories about in reining, dressage, driving, show jumping, eventing, hunters, vaulting, endurance and so much more. It gets me up-to-date on what is going on across the nation and even across the world.
I only caught the last two days of this event but those are important days. On the final day, Saturday, January 19th, the Board of Directors met to discuss, debate, challenge, and support the proposed rule changes and other items being presented.
There was discussion on reducing the size of a Board of over 50 to closer to 20; a topic that brought a lot of debate. In Marketing the discussion focused on finally truly marketing the organization, something that has been done in the past but not at the level it should be.
Other topics talked about a new expansion of USEF Network by adding the word Prime. This new feature was presented along with an overview of how strong the reach has been for this social media part of the organization which continues to stream more and more of the events it oversees.
Surprisingly the rules were the smallest part of this year’s convention. The chance to network and the many awards presentations was the main focus.
Friday evening featured the long, tedious but well-deserved presentation of all the National awards as well as the Horse of the Year honors. The overall National Horse of the Year honors went to hunter horse Jersey Boy, ridden by Jennifer Alfano, while Flexible, ridden by Rich Fellers, was the winner of the International Horse of the Year award. Rich also received Equestrian of the Year honors. What was special about that event were the kind words spoken by Flexible’s owners, Harry and Mollie Chapman, who think the world of the rider and hope the horse continues with his many solid performances.
Saturday night focused on the Pegasus Awards, undoubtedly the most prestigious awards given out at the annual convention. The Lifetime Achievement Award went to double Olympic Gold Medalist Joe Fargis, an honor well deserved for his many years of showcasing some of the top horses, from his Olympic mount Touch of Class to so many other superstars that I was lucky to witness carry Joe to many a victory.
I had the honor of training with Joe for a short time when I was competing in jumpers. He is truly one of the kindest riders to the horse and his words reflected his appreciation for all that horses have brought to him. At one point in his acceptance speech he remarked that the horse has no agenda. The horse doesn’t come out of his stall and say I’m going to buck you off today. It all has to do with how we ride them.
As always I left the event realizing just why it continues to be the one event I attend every year. In just those two days walking around the Louisville Kentucky Marriott were some of the most notable faces in the various horse worlds; from past president and Gold Medalist David O’Connor, to incoming president Chrystine Tauber. There was Olympic Gold medalists Will Simpson and Beezie Madden, who is also on the Board of Directors,
For the Reining world was WEG Gold Medalist Shawn Flarida. Endurance Chef d’Equipe Emmett Ross was also there showing how he and others have mapped out a plan with a goal of having the Endurance team medal at the next World Equestrian Games in Normandy. There were these people and so many more stellar figures, who all converged at this one event all focused on keeping the various breeds and disciplines alive and well.
It’s one of those must go to events even though sitting in those networking sessions or listening to close to 100 awards being presented could at times put you to sleep. When it was all said and done I always leave the Convention feeling it was worth my while seeing another year of history being made, visiting with old friends, getting a glimpse of some of the horse world’s future stars and so much more.
The future continues to be bright for this organization and all it brings to the many organizations it represents.