To the uninitiated, an Adequan/USDF National Convention is a bit of a mysterious affair. I frequently get asked what takes place at convention and how it differs from the business that takes place at United States Equestrian Federation conventions.
With the annual USDF Board of Governors assembly -- USDF's major governance meeting -- set to begin this afternoon, I thought it would be timely to offer this quick convention rundown.
The US Dressage Federation comprises affiliated dressage and dressage/eventing clubs (group-member organizations, or GMOs), "direct" USDF members (participating members, or PMs), and business members. GMOs and PMs elect delegates to represent their interests and cast votes at the Board of Governors (BOG) assembly, which is sort of like Congress convening once a year for two days.
The BOG delegates and the USDF Executive Board (the officers and regional directors) convene in a big ballroom, where they hear reports from the USDF officers, executive director, USEF VIPs, and USDF committee chairs.
When a proposed USDF program or policy change is put forward, the BOG votes yea or nay. The process is strictly democratic and also wide open to debate. Any USDF member who wishes to voice an opinion pertaining to the issue on the floor may queue at one of several microphones and address the BOG. As you can imagine, the more contentious the issue, the longer the queues.
Although there can be times when one wonders whether agreement will ever be reached, all in all, the process is distinctly more civilized than that of today's Congress. It helps that the delegates, despite their differing backgrounds and interests, are united by a love of the sport and the horse.
Up the Chain
The USDF is an affiliate organization of the USEF, the US national governing body for equestrian sport. USEF makes the rules for national-level dressage competition, but there is overlap between the two organizations. Several people who serve on USDF committees also hold USEF committee positions, such as on the USEF Dressage Committee. Therefore, the USEF dressage folks hold their own meetings during the USDF convention, and USEF open forums are part of the USDF convention agenda.
USEF's affiliate organizations must meet and formulate any rule-change proposals before the Big Daddy convention, the USEF annual convention, held in January. That's largely the reason USDF's convention falls, somewhat awkwardly, after Thanksgiving and during the busy holiday season. The other reason is that the USDF convention also features an annual awards banquet. USDF's competition year ends Sept. 30, so there's a narrow window of opportunity during which awards standings must be finalized, awards produced, and recipients given sufficient time to plan their trips to the convention.
That's a summary of the business end of a USDF convention. I'll be bringing you BOG updates over the next couple of days. But rest assured, a convention is not all meetings and voting. There are many educational and fun shopping opportunities, culminating with this weekend's Adequan/USDF National Dressage Symposium featuring Anne Gribbons, Scott Hassler, Debbie McDonald, and Jeremy Steinberg. Stay tuned!