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USEF Kicks-Off 2008 Annual Meeting with Board of Directors Meeting & Keynote Address

Louisville, KY—USEF President David O’Connor presented his keynote speech at the meeting of the board of directors on Thursday, January 10.  He spoke to the success enjoyed by the Federation over the past four years highlighted by the formation of the USHJA and the USEF Youth Council, increased financial stability, and the empowerment of the Federation’s professional staff.  He further recognized the success of our international teams, the strengthening of the hearing process, and the continued efficacy of the Drugs & Medication Program under new staff leadership – all efforts which have enhanced focus on the welfare of the horse, both inside and outside of the competition arena.

O’Connor then turned his focus to the future and noted that despite the many accomplishments the Federation has achieved, there is much yet to do, and went on to announce his intention to stand for election in 2008 for another four-year term.  He put forth a challenging agenda for the Federation in the next quadrennial by posing the question - what does the future look like? “We must plant seeds now in order to have the landscape that we want in the future,” he stated. “This requires decisions about what it is we want to grow.” 

“It is the role of leadership to reenergize its current members and to cultivate future generations of leaders who will shape and direct Equestrian,” stressed O’Connor.  The Federation is taking steps with this year’s inaugural USEF Youth Council convention occurring concurrently with the USEF Annual Meeting, and as O’Connor stated, “I believe that this investment in our youth is going to pay off.”

O’Connor invited the Federation to become involved in fund-raising to support developing riders in all breeds and disciplines in achieving all their goals, and stated “I know in my career that if the then-USET had not supported me…my life would have been very different.”

O’Connor challenged the board of directors to take a hard look at how collective equestrian sport is being represented, and he questioned whether the board is configured properly to grow the sport over the next decade.  “I know we are comfortable, but are we effective?” he asked. “Board size, involvement and job descriptions should all be on the table, and I hope that there can be frank and constructive conversation about how we decide who sits at this table.”  He further asked the board to look beyond the competition ring to create additional levels of membership devoted to all horse enthusiasts.

He mandated improved sponsorship and development performance by the marketing department, and a reversal of the stagnant fund-raising which high performance has endured in recent years.  O’Connor cites marketing, fund-raising, USOC involvement, and membership participation as fundamental components of a complex challenge.  “If we do not take advantage of the legacy of the 2010 World Equestrian Games, we have not done our jobs.”

Additionally, the Federation needs to focus on leading the sport to the
Kentucky Horse Park and establishing it as the epicenter of equestrian sport; an effort which could encourage increased interest and funding from outside sources.  According to O’Connor, the end result could be a U.S. research and training center that “would someday rival Warendorf or Samur.”  He encouraged continued exploration of the consolidation of our resources and intellect from satellite offices.

The evolution of therapeutic treatment of performance horses has led to the need to re-evaluate the Drugs and Medication Program and specifically the objective to decrease currently allowed NSAID levels, which according to O’Connor, “should lead us to the next evolution of the medication rule.”

“This landscape for the future holds great promise. But they are only promises,” said O’Connor. “The fulfillment of those promises is up to us. If we are to have a lush and diverse landscape for the future then we need to start that planning now.”

Following the Keynote Address, the board of directors went to work for the afternoon session. Among the matters for discussion was the Nominating Committee’s work in putting forward new nominations and appointments for 2008.

Two board seats were filled—one vacated by the resignation of Treasurer Kathy Meyer to move to the Federation’s marketing department as Senior Vice President of Marketing & Communications—and the second to fill the At-Large Board member position created by the shift in duties.  After board review and consideration, Keith Bartz was elected as Meyer’s successor as Treasurer and Judy Werner was nominated and elected to fill the At-Large board position. 

Elections for the four positions leading the Federation’s Working Groups resulted in the following: Vice President, National Working Group – Bill Hughes; Vice President,
FEI Affiliates – Dr. Mike Tomlinson; Vice President, High-Performance – Armand Leone, Jr.; and Vice President, Administration – Judy Werner.

Three nominations were also made to the Executive Committee which included Janine Malone, Bill Moroney and Tucker Johnson.


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