The 2012 USEA Annual Convention at The Broodmore Hotel in Colorado Springs, Colorado
Day 1
I got on the road 33 minutes after leaving my bed…when it was still dark.  I didn’t even have to be in the cold, or shine a flashlight, or pinch my finger in the hitch, or avoid a shipping boot to the head.  My jetta didn’t need to be warmed up- we’re out of town!  One gas station, two meals, four phone calls, 18 audible minutes, and 43 applications of chapstick later: La Quinta, Colorado Springs, clean, polite, and already paid for.  Let the weekend begin!
Day 2
I still don’t have to be in the cold- 67 whopping degrees in my hotel room and I don’t have to pay for it (well, not really).  I enjoy this until I get antsy and then, of course, I want to get out…and about.  Lectures don’t start until the afternoon so for me, it’s Colorado Springs’ ‘7 Falls at Christmas’.  Apparently, 7 Falls is an awe inspiring, mind-numbing, brain implosion of natural wonder (or so the brochure implied).  It’s only a few minutes from the hotel and requires a limited aerobic commitment.  So I commit.  $9 at the gate.  A winding road of Kmart christmas decor and dated signage warning of bears who eat junk food leads me to 183 stairs that are…CLOSED.  Nice.  There’s water on the stairs, apparently.  I can get a raincheck on my ticket and come back later, although the man half-way up the stairs is squeegee-ing each stair one at a time and I’m fairly sure he’ll be there until The New Year.  I wish I could have seen the falls; I like brain implosions;)
Instead, The Broadmoor Hotel implodes my brain; a cross between The Biltmore and the Swiss Alps.  Ducks on the pond, tall spires like the tall mountains, door guys who open the door fifteen minutes before you get to the door.  Oh, and $4/minute parking.  But as I found my way around the hotel I overheard, “I mean, he’s not the best mover ever, but he’s got a really good brain.” Brilliant, I’ve arrived. I registered for my volunteering, got my packet, and paid my big bucks.
That afternoon we discussed the 2014 Event calendar (who knew how much thought goes into that stuff?), and I attended the ‘USEF Active Athlete Forum.‘  Previously called “High Performance” athletes, the Active Athlete program lends itself to this country’s top Eventers; those who are interested in representing the US within an international field and who will compete at the highest level of our sport.  I was a fly on the wall.  While incoming US Olympic coach, David O’Conner, was outlining the training and competition schedule and highlighting his strategy for the cultivation of successful Event horses and riders, I got to smile; how nice to be part of a big, huuuge, vision that will give our sport, our country, and our athletes the acknowledgement they deserve:)  Where do I sign up??
Day 3:
My favorite part of the annual convention is ‘Horsemanship University.’  Top riders and top grooms sit in front of a full room and pass the mic around while we shoot questions at them.  Ready, set, go… How to start young horses jumping; talk about leg care; how to organize your working students; barn etiquette; and the list went on.  I wasn’t bashful; I raised my hand, oh, a million times.  But here are some of the (totally random) gems:
Will Coleman: “The worst thing you can do is put too much pressure on yourself.  This sport is a process.”
Buck Davidson: “If you get 80% at an event, it’s a good event.  So…prepare at home so that 80% means that you’re successful”
All the top grooms voted unanimously for the following leg care tips: “Ice, Ice, Ice.  After cross-country, all horses get 10 minutes to themselves, in their stall, before they’re cared for.  Then it’s studs off before boots off and then 20 mins ice, 20 mins off, and repeat twice.”  Everyone agreed that all horses ought to be educated about ice boots before forced to undergo ice therapy under the pressure of the show grounds.  The other decision was that ‘Sore No More’ is the liniment of choice; effective without being overpowering.
When asked about teaching a young horse to jump:
Phillip: “Be simple, go painstakingly slow.  Make sure the horse is in front of the leg.”  He continued to expand this idea to our sport in general: “ For all three phases, work on the horse in front of the leg.  Accidents are often because the horse is not committed to going.”
Buck: “Start over jumps that don’t fall down.  Small jumps, obviously.  But if you teach them to jump over fences that don’t fall, then you won’t have to re-teach them” (which is both confusing/dangerous for the horse and more work than you need!)
The grooms answered a question regarding barn etiquette and they all agreed that the most powerful tool is to lead by example.  Rake, tuck in your shirt, don’t leave one single detail unattended.  Boarders, students, owners will all fall in line- they want to be part of a program that is tried, proven, and successful.
I left the session with Phillip’s idea, “The quickest way to get to the top is to take your time.”  Nice.
2:30-4:00: ‘Young Event Horse Program: What you Need to Know’
4:00-5:00: ‘The Care and Coaching of our Future Olympians’
Day 3 came to a close.
Day 4:
Day 4 was a day for all USEA members and participants of the sport of Eventing.  Day 4  was the main USEA Open Forum, followed by a Round Top Table Discussion addressing the community of the US Eventing Association, as well as the direction the organization would continue to take.  We talked about volunteering.  Yes, we support, appreciate, and need volunteers.  We talked about US Eventing TV and what it has done (and continues to do) in order to reach out to Eventers in all areas.  We talked about extending the USEA toward collegiate riding programs.  We discussed keeping a connection with the local Eventing Associations.  Essentially…we addressed everything short of world poverty,  but we came close to fixing that also;)
However, even though we dug through all the important stuff on Day 4, the highlight of the whole convention was the Hall of Fame Dinner and Dance.  This was the cherry on top, the gold at the end of the rainbow, the moment we’d all been waiting for.  All the big names were there, so I’ll drop some of them: Karen and David O’Conner; Mary King and her husband, David; Jimmy Wofford; Will Coleman; Phyllis Dawson; Sinead Halpin; Allison Springer; Phillip Dutton; Brian and Lisa Sabo; The Broussard Family; Roger Haller; Gina Miles; Tamara Smith and on…
I’ve never cried and laughed in such equal parts at any one occasion.  I cried, sniffed, and streamed mascara.  I threw my head back, giggled, and clapped.  The speeches and photographs and anecdotes was a startling reminder of the blood, sweat, and tears this sport demands, and that every athlete, both two-legged and four-legged, has paid his/her dues.  These athletes have dreamed, struggled, and achieved.  They’ve given in, given over, given back, and never given up. I’m proud to be part of the group whose presence, whose standing ovation, served as a pledge to hold these individuals in our memory and our esteem.  Love and admiration to Amy Tryon, Lana Wright, The Grey Goose, and Giltedge.
But regardless of on which end of the mic you spent your evening, regardless of whether or not your name was worthy of being dropped, there was nothing separating any of us by the end of the night.  We all hit the dance floor.  No matter where you live nor how high you jump, all Eventers know how to party:)