So, USDF, thank you!
I don't know if I am simply the last person to discover Your Dressage, but I am sure enjoying it. I am not sure how USDF describes the site, but it feels like a better version of a magazine. It's a dynamic platform, changing all the time, loaded with all kinds of (what we in education call) multi-media text. There are videos, articles, polling questions, Words of the Week, Photos of the Week, and on and on.
Besides the landing page and a link to the USDF website, there are five other topics to browse: Education, Competition, Achievement, Community and Quick Reads. Within in each section, there are tons of articles, videos, and other things related to that general idea. If you haven't checked out the page, you might find it worth your while.
I am not joking when I say that I am quite possibly the last person to appreciate (and even notice) what USDF is sharing. Recently on my radar is USDF's eNews. I never have time to read everything, but I like being able to scroll through quickly to see if there's anything I need to know about. Like yesterday, when I saw the July 2020 "issue," my curiosity was piqued about what's going on in my own region - Region 7. You can obviously read it for yourself, but I was quite proud of how my own Group Member Organization (GMO), the California Dressage Society (CDS), has responded to COVID-19. I know I am lucky to have such an active and enterprising GMO.
As if all that weren't enough, I opened my July/August edition of the USDF Connection to read about a "new" face on the Executive Board, CDS's own Kevin Reinig. His election to the position of Vice-President wasn't news to me of course, California's not that big, but it was great to see someone I know and recognize, representing my interests at the national level. I know Kevin will do a great job.
One last thing. Speedy and I are headed to a CDS/USDF/USEF show this weekend. While I know that many states are probably not allowing equestrian shows to happen, I am ever so grateful that CDS, along with help from both USDF and US Equestrian, has persevered through the governmental red tape in order to provide a safe way for many Californians to still compete this year.
So, USDF, thank you!
Actually, this could be about membership cards in general. Well more specifically, dressage association cards. Your gym membership card is on you.
It all started because I never received my California Dressage Society card. I had forgotten about it until this weekend when I sat down to do my first show entry of the year. I am sure a lot of you do something similar, but I like to lay out all of my cards on one sheet and print up a whole year's worth.
I pulled out my trusty show binder, prepared to do just that. I found both boys' USDF Lifetime Registration certificates, those are always easy to find, but couldn't find my USDF or CDS cards. My USEF card had only recently arrived so it was still encased in its plastic case.
No matter how many times I shook my binder, the two missing cards were nowhere to be found. I wasn't too worried about the USDF card because that one is easy to print. In fact, I stopped searching and immediately went and printed a copy. If you're not sure how to do that, go to the USDF website and click Members/Horses at the top of the page. Under Person, click Print Card/Receipt. Type in your name, hit submit, and your info will pop up. Simply hit the mini print icon and your membership card will pop up, ready to print.
Even though I received my USEF membership card, I actually printed the copy from USEF because the online version now includes your SafeSport training information. From the USEF webpage, simply click the account button although you'll probably have to logon first. Once on the member dashboard, you'll see the option to print your card at the top of the page.
The CDS card was another matter. I went to the website and took a peek at the member page, but I didn't see an option for printing my card. I immediately emailed Paula Langan who runs the CDS Central Office. Paula is amazing. She answers questions from all 3,000 plus CDS members, and if the rest of the membership is anything like me, she does a lot of emailing. I must ask her no less than a question a week, and no matter how many times she sees my email address, she answers me anyway.
It must be particularly tiring to answer questions that a member can answer for herself. Even so, Paula politely informed me that CDS is no longer mailing out cards, Instead, riders can go to the member page and simply print their own. Guess where riders can do that? Yep, on the member page. I just hadn't scrolled down far enough. D'oh.
Sheesh. So, now my membership cards are all printed and ready for this year's show season. While I had planned to wait until March to start things off, it looks like Speedy and I are aiming for a show in just under two weeks.
Fingers crossed that we both stay healthy!
Peggy Klump is a former CDS president who lives in in my showing area. I've taken two lessons from her, and she's been my judge at least a few times. I am also very good friends with one of her former students. Since Peggy and I are "friends" on Facebook, this popped up on my feed on yesterday.
My Friend Jen puts on at least a dozen USDF-rated shows throughout the year. When USEF added the Safe Sport training to the list of things she had to verify for each competitor, her workload got even heavier. Having proof of training right there on the card will certainly make the job easier for show managers.
I haven't renewed my membership yet; I'll do it in December, but I am looking forward to a card that sports more information. Has anyone else already seen this?
I don't think I've mentioned this yet, but I somewhat reluctantly volunteered to serve on the board of my chapter of CDS, the Tehachapi Mountain Chapter (TMC). I've been a member since 2010, but since I live an hour away, I've never volunteered before. In all honestly, the team that has served until now has done an excellent job. I am not sure how welcome my help would have been anyway.
So here we are, a decade later, and as always happens, the core of the old board decided to retire. You know how it is though. When someone's been doing a really good job, it's hard to find people to step up to fill their shoes. After some deliberation, Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, stepped up and agreed to serve as the chapter Chairperson. She asked me to serve with her. Darn it.
At the chapter's annual awards banquet, Terry Quinn, the outgoing Chairperson, handed off a literal gavel to Chemaine and introduced the new board. Up until that moment, being chapter Vice-chair was really just words on a page. Once Terry formally introduced us to the membership though, my stomach gave a little flip flop. Stuff was about to get real.
Last night was our first official meeting. I am nothing if not dedicated, so as Vice-chair I've already logged in a few dozen hours. I started off by attending a Golden Empire Arabian Horse Society meeting in an attempt to join forces. We're hoping to put on a joint TMC/GEAHS show in the spring. So far, the folks at GEAHS are on board. Now we just need to get the venue lined up, the date established with CDS, and about a million other details ironed out.
Besides being the liaison between the two chapters, I also volunteered to redesign and manage the chapter's website. It's a job I like and actually feel that I can do well.
You're probably going to hear more about what it's like to actually work behind the scenes of a dressage organization. I love to show, and that won't change, but I felt like this was a good time to start giving back a little.
If you're part of the Tehachapi Mountain Chapter of CDS, or you just want to be, give us a holler. It'll be fun!
I will never again complain about the lost hour and a half that the original SafeSport training took me. Just before school started, my district office notified its teaching staff that we would be required to complete 3 hours of online "interactive" training courses on our own time. Oh, and I didn't get a certificate either.
The first one-hour course had three modules, one of which included our annual Employee Training. This is the SafeSport type of stuff: recognizing the signs of child abuse, child neglect, bullying, sexual molestation, etc. It also included all that business about teachers being mandated reporters (MR). Being a MR means I can get in big, BIG trouble if I knowingly turn a blind eye to anything that even smacks of child abuse. I've actually filed more than one Child Protective Services (CPS) report during my tenure as an educator. Forget about SafeSport's sanctions; not reporting could get me arrested. And jailed. And fired.
We were also notified of various laws that are new to California along with what to do if we have a shooter on campus. It was all pretty basic stuff except there was no way to pause or rewind the videos, so if you missed something, you were kind of screwed. Or in my case, the custodian came in to clean, and I had to ask him not to vacuum because I couldn't hear the video!
The second training, a mere 45 minutes, involved some really basic material. If you've been a teacher for more than ten minutes, you should already know this stuff. Heck, even my husband, who is not a huge fan of pint-sized munchkins, could have passed the test without seeing the video. In case you're worried, I scored 100%.
It was the third training that really made my eyeballs roll. I listened to a solid hour of how terrible adults can be to one another. Jeez, people, how inappropriate can you get?
I had to watch video after video about how it is not appropriate to comment on someone else's sexuality. I was also told that no still means no which means I am not allowed to keep asking the next door teacher out on a date after he has previously told me no 10,000 times. Really? Who does that? I am married of course, so it isn't me.
At one point in the video I was "welcomed" to my annual training. My ears perked up at that phrase. Annual? You mean I have to watch this same video again next year? While teachers get these trainings every year, this version, the online interactive thing, was new. I was horrified that I might have to spend three hours again next August listening to the same training. And on the heels of my SafeSport training which renews on September 1, 2020.
Rest assured all you moms and dads out there. I am the BEST TRAINED dressage rider you'll ever meet!
Man. They aren't messing around. On Sunday morning, I got this email from US Equestrian.
Last year, when the SafeSport training was launched, I dutifully, if not particularly willingly, completed the training well in advance of the required date. I did it on August 31, 2018 to be exact. US Equestrian's email arrived on September 1, 2019. I knew I was due for the refresher course, but since this is the first year for a refresher course, I wasn't quite sure how it was going to work. I assumed I'd get a friendly reminder just like when it's time to renew my membership. I got a reminder all right, but I didn't expect it to be so snappy and accusatory. Sheesh, US Equestrian. You made it sound like I failed to show up for a court hearing.
How about a slightly friendlier letter? Maybe along the lines of Dear Karen Sweaney, You are due to complete the SafeSport Refresher Course in order to be eligible to compete at USEF-licensed competitions. Yada yada yada. In fact, the email doesn't even mention that it's the refresher course I needed to take. Nope. Instead, I got a big fat accusation, "Because you did not complete the required SafeSport Training ..." Which kind of freaked me out because I did take the initial training, and I had a certificate to prove it.
While I might not be shy about voicing my opinion, I am still a rule follower, so I sat down on Sunday afternoon to take the course. I don't know if it was because US Equestrian's website was down over the weekend - I think they were moving to a new building, but logging on to my account on USEF and then getting to the SafeSport training both took a fair amount of time. Thankfully, I didn't have to retake the whole thing though. SafeSport seemed to know who I was and sent me to the Refresher Course.
Once I was finally on and ready to go, the course took no more than 15 minutes. I watched an introductory video, answered 7 questions on a pretest, and then read through a number of note cards all designed to remind me of what bullying, harassment, and sexual misconduct look like. I was also reminded of when to report a violation. The course ended with a posttest that was made up of the same 7 questions I took as a pretest.
As a classroom teacher who goes through much broader training each year, SafeSport's refresher course was thankfully quick and painless and certainly much better than was the original course.
And of course, when you finish, you get this handy dandy, very official certificate recognizing you for successfully completing SafeSport's Refresher Course. As I was studying the certificate though, I noticed that it stipulated that I had done Refresher Course 1. That got me wondering just how many Refresher Courses there might be, so I zipped back over to US Equestrian to see if I was truly finished.
Since I am hoping to take Speedy to a USDF-rated show in October, I wanted to make sure to get this done in as timely a manner as possible. I just wish US Equestrian would have been a bit less brusque in their communication. We're all supposed to support one another in a positive and friendly atmosphere, right?
I think we should expect the same thing from our governing bodies.
Mid-May seems awfully late to be starting the show season, but Speedy's winter of maiming himself put us a little behind schedule. Our first show will be at the Bear Valley Equestrian Center in Tehachapi over Labor Day weekend. We'll do Third Level tests 1 and 2. While the show is "only" CDS-rated, the scores count for a lot of different awards.
Any scores of 60% or better (ever hopeful!) count as qualifying scores for the Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC), the adult ammie's version of a championship show. While I love RAAC, getting there is not my primary goal for the season, but if we qualify, I'll undoubtedly go.
With a 60% or better, I will be able to check off one of the two score I'll need at Third Level to earn the CDS Sapphire award. I'll also need two qualifying scores at Fourth Level, so this is not a pressing goal.
Speedy needs 6 scores of 60% or better to earn his CDS Third Level Horse Performance Award. Earning 1 or 2 of them at this show would be exciting. So while it's "just" a CDS-rated show, the scores matter.
A week or so ago I wrote about US Equestrian and how much the organization bugs me. A few of you agreed with me while others didn't. I thought I'd clarify my comment about professional riders not needing to join USEF to maintain their pro status.
In order to compete as an adult amateur here in California, I HAVE to join US Equestrian. If I simply want to compete in my GMO's shows that are not USDF/USEF rated, I still have to join US Equestrian to get my my AA card. Professional riders who do not want to earn national titles do not have to join US Equestrian to be considered professional riders. Yes, they'll have to pay USEF non-member fees, but they don't HAVE to join. They are still permitted to show as professional riders. In my opinion, the adult amateur card should be free while professional riders should have to pay to play. But hey, I am only one person.
My Adult Amateur card is paid for, my SafeSport training is complete, and that first show entry of the year has been mailed. While I am working hard for good scores, I know that we're not quite performing in the 60% range yet. This show will give me an idea of what we have down and on what areas I most need to focus.
All that's left is to trim up Speedy's bridle path and drag out my show shampoos. Well, I should probably memorize those tests as well!
I have a love/hate relationship with US Equestrian, the official sanctioning body of all equine sports. And really, it's more of a hate relationship. There is so much that bugs me about the organization that it's hard to pick just one or two things. The only thing I "love" about them is that they make the rules, and I am a rule-follower through and through.
Before you jump all over me about how great US Equestrian is for equine sports, I get it. It works much the same as Trickle-Down Economics where favoring top horse and rider teams will eventually benefit grass-roots riders like myself - in theory anyway. We need to subsidize and promote the Laura Graves and Verdades of American equestrian sports. Without them there wouldn't be a place for the Speedys and Izzys of the world to compete. Insert big eye roll. Nothing personal, Laura. You're my idol.
I recently received the "yearbook" version of US Equestrian Magazine. It's the issue that chronicles all of the Horse of the Year Awards. It also included an article wherein US Equestrian's president, Murray Kessler, described the "Strategic Plan's five-step 'virtuous circle.'" A what circle? The plan, I refuse to call it a "virtuous circle," included:
The "plan" was followed by a lot of yada yada yada ... heard it all before kind of stuff that initiated yet another massive eye roll. Number 1 being ...
Revenues have climbed and reserves are up. No kidding, US Equestrian. Don't you remember your ridiculously high rate increase of two years ago? Our membership rose from $55 a year to $80, a 62% increase. When was the last time you got a 62% raise?
I guess the real reason that US Equestrian annoys me so much is that I get exactly two things for my $80 yearly fee: the privilege of showing as an adult amateur (professional riders don't have to join US Equestrian to maintain their professional status) and a magazine that I rarely read. That's it. There are no atta girl certificates, no patches or plates, nothing to earn. To US Equestrian, I am simply another $80 to add to their coffers.
To earn anything, I'd have to pay an additional $95 a year to bump up Speedy's Horse ID to an Annual Recording membership. And if I did that, I'm not quite sure what we'd be eligible for, but I am pretty sure it wouldn't be the types of awards that USDF and CDS offer when a horse earns a specified number of scores. So, no thanks.
In an effort to be fair to US Equestrian, they did finally send out something useful: the 2019 USEF Guidelines for Drugs and Medications. This little pamphlet was actually put together with the membership's needs in mind. The very first page has four QR Codes that actually work and take you right to the form you need.
The next page very succinctly sums up the rules and requirements relating to Pergolide, the drug used to treat Equine Cushing's disease. Speedy was diagnosed with the disease this winter, so US Equestrian's recent decision to allow Therapeutic Use Exemptions came at the perfect time for us.
The pamphlet covers a few other drugs as well and includes a Common Prohibited Substance list along with a quick guide as to when the last dose of some common drugs can be administered and how long many drugs remain detectable.
I am sure US Equestrian makes some positive contributions to dressage that actually benefit adult amateurs, but they're not doing the best job of making me aware of what those things might actually be. Since I need AA status - who wants to show Open?, I'll continue to fork over my $80 annually, but I don't have to like it.
Before I wrap this up, I found something in the Yearbook issue that totally and completely cracked me up. See for yourself.
Over the weekend I attended the California Dressage Society's (CDS) Annual Meeting. All members are welcome to attend Saturday's general session, but it's mostly chapter chairs that participate. When I found out that my chapter chair wasn't going, I asked if I could go as a representative. I got the go-ahead and headed to Anaheim as an official chapter representative.
I checked in alongside my friend, Jen, who is a chapter chair, and was made to feel welcome immediately. Even though CDS is the largest Group Member Organization (GMO) of the United States Dressage Association (USDF), the general meeting still had a small club vibe.
Kevin Reinig, the outgoing president, made numerous jokes during his report and even asked other members to step in to answer questions. The morning was long, and I could see how it might get boring to attend the meeting year after year, but I was fascinated. After the president's report, each committee chair shared their own bits of news, progress, or general state of things.
After a lunch break, which was excellent, we then reconvened for a roundtable discussion amongst regional chapter chairs. This part of the meeting was the most engaging as each chairperson shared their chapter's successes or obstacles. As a designated representative, I felt honored to share the wonderful things that my own chapter does. It was very gratifying to hear such positive feedback from the rest of the group.
What I enjoyed most about the day was the feeling of being so connected to the inner workings of the dressage world. Being a part of the CDS General Meeting felt like having a direct link to both USDF and US Equestrian. The people with whom I was rubbing elbows were the very same people that talk to USDF's people. And when CDS asks for something, USDF listens (usually).
Most of the time, we are content to school in our arenas, head to local shows, and collect our ribbons at the end of the day. We think of USDF and US Equestrian as these massive organizations that do whatever they want, whenever they want with no thought to our needs or desires. Being at this meeting helped me see that that is not entirely true. When we offer feedback to our GMOs, that feedback does make its way up the pipeline.
I can't say that I particularly want to serve my GMO in an official capacity, but filling in as a representative felt like giving back in at least some small way. I also offered to help another chapter in my region with a project they'd like to get started. The dressage community, at least here in California, seems to be pretty tightly knit with a genuine desire to work together. I like that, and I am proud to call myself a member.
The meeting was a lot like jury duty; I never actually want to get picked to serve, but once having done so, I'm left feeling like I've made the world a better place.
I have to ask a question. Now that US Equestrian's memberships are twelve-month rather than all of them expiring in December, why rush to renew it? Not that I am rushing - yet, but US Equestrian would certainly like me to hurry it up. The use of the exclamation points definitely feels like there's a need to hand over my money right now.
My membership expired this week, and US Equestrian has sent me several emails reminding me of the fact. I very much understand that is it in US Equestrian's best interest to get me to renew as quickly as possible, money in the bank and all that. Since I don't plan to show at a USDF-rated show until spring, why shouldn't I just wait a month or two and defer spending the $80 (plus another $25 if I spring for the insurance which I always do)? Christmas is expensive, you know?
Not to mention that I completed the Safesport training in early September, and when I say early, I mean the very first day of the month. If I renew now, I'll only have to take the refresher course that much sooner. Thanks, but no thanks.
What does everyone else do, renew now, or wait until just before your first show?