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USDF Convention 2014


By Peggy Gaboury

The 2014 USDF convention was held in Cambridge, MA, in thecold, rainy Boston area, close to MIT and Harvard.  All of us who attended felt smarter just from hanging around in those places!  The convention was both informative and fun.  Members of New England Dressage Association really went all out to make sure that we had a good time, with a welcome party at Ned Devine’s Irish Pub in Boston and a dinner cruise on the bay.  Everything about the meeting was well-planned and well-done.

New Tests

The new tests have some significant changes in the sequencing of the movements, but far more changes in the wording of the directive remarks. I urge all riders to learn the tests from an official copy that has the entire test, because the directive remarks are significantly different and reflect a change of emphasis in the judging.

Here are few ideas of what to look for.  At Training Level, whereas the first directive comment in most boxes was “Quality of Gait”, it now reads “Regularity and Quality of Gait.” So, a brilliant trot with an unsteady tempo and rhythm might now have a lower mark than a clear and steady trot with good relaxed balance.   

When judging transitions, emphasis on promptness has been replaced by “willingness.”  The judge is looking for “willing and calm transitions” throughout.  In a box where both the gait and the transition are judged, the willing and calm transition comes first; regularity and quality of gait come second.  This gives the judges clearer directives about what has priority in determining a mark that includes both a transition and the continuation of the gait to the next mark.

In the Collective Marks, the third rider score for Harmony has been combined back into the Submission score.  The Submission score now reads “Willing cooperation, harmony, attention and confidence, acceptance of the bit and aids, straightness, lightness of forehand, and ease of movements.”

There was discussion of the fact that “submission,” in English, does not have the connotations it does in French.  In English, submission implies yielding to force.  In French, the language of the FEI, submission translates as “willing compliance;” rather than the implied coercion.  In your mind, when you read the word “submission,” think that your horse must join you with “willing compliance.”

Free Styles

The biggest change came in what is allowed and not allowed in non-required movements.  Formerly, what was not clearly forbidden was probably allowed.  That is not true anymore. Movements from tests a level up from the test you are riding are much more likely to be forbidden.  Get the new tests, read them thoroughly, and modify your choreography as needed.

Competition Rules 

The most important change in competition rules is a long, involved and difficult to understand rule on saddle pads.  The new rule is so complicated that my best recommendation is that you come down the center line for a test in an unmarked pad.  Personal monograms appear to be clearly forbidden. Pads won as high score awards, with the level and competition marked on them, are clearly forbidden.  Logos for your sponsor or your trainer’s stable may be ok, but the rules are so difficult that using them might create unnecessary anxiety for you.

Regional Championships 

Please read notices you receive from your region, i.e., Region 3. Some people were unaware of the changes in location and stabling available for the Regional Championships in 2014.  For 2015 – the championships will be at Conyers, GA and run by GDCTA. If you are going to Championships in a different Region from your own, please keep up with any changes that may be made.

Education Meetings

Progressive Nutrition® Horse Feeds presented material about the amino acids that are most necessary for a horse to develop the topline muscling desired in dressage.  The researchers separated the overall body condition scoring (BCS) from a specific topline condition scoring, and then researched horses that were in good body weight, but who had relatively poor muscle conditioning.  The presenter, an equine nutrition specialist from Equine Guelph at the University of Guleph in Ontario, emphasized the particular essential amino acids that must be present in the feed in sufficient levels to facilitate biological availability.  Since they tend to be fairly expensive components of the feed, many commercial feeds are not supplying them in sufficient quantity per pound to be effective in producing muscle.  If your horse is in good body weight, e.g., a body condition score  of 5.5 or better, but suffers from  fatigue or is just not putting topline muscle on, your feeds may be deficient in those particular proteins. 

He also suggested a small, high protein feeding soon after work, within 45 minutes of unsaddling.  Just as we might crave a protein bar after a good work out, so might your horse.  Feed given immediately after work is more likely to be utilized in the muscles that just worked, than feed given several hours later.

Hilary Clayton presented biomechanical research on a horse’s balance when working in circles.  She found that the horse who appears to be leaning on his inside shoulder cantering around the circle is keeping a perfectly straight force line from the landing of his hoof up through his knee and into his shoulder.  The horse that looks “dressage straight” going around the circle, not leaning in, is putting more torque on his knees to keep that straight appearance, and has to use a totally different muscle set from the ones he would use on his own.  Those muscles – abductors on the outside and adductors on the inside, plus the internal and external abdominal obliques – take time to develop.

Take home lesson – be careful about extended work on circles, and in Hilary’s own words: “Short cuts in training are only short cuts to lameness.”

Adult Amateur Clinics
Betsy Steiner and Kathy Connelly will be joint clinicians in the Regional Adult Amateur Clinics for 2015 and 2016.  They are fun to work together, and here are some of their comments:

“Give your horse time in the training; keep the work light and interesting for him, so he will discover himself a little bit more.”

“Infinite patience will produce infinite results.”

“When introducing a new movement, the horse needs to trust that what is about to happen is a positive thing.”

“Two times, you can catch him by surprise.  The third time, you need to train.”

The 2015 USDF convention will be at the Rio Las Vegas hotel in Las Vegas, NV, December 2-5.

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