December 2019 Newsletter

December Newsletter

President's Letter

Dear Members,

You know how you feel when your horse dies? Not just any horse (yeah, I know, they are all special) but I mean your heart horse, the one that made you who you are, the one that made you more than you ever could have been otherwise? You know how it feels like you lost part of you? Because, you did...

Our beautiful, founding president, Ellen DiBella lost her heart horse this month. Holiday Compadre, the dancing stallion who started it all passed away at age 32. During his lifetime, Holiday Compadre planted a seed in Ellen’s heart and nurtured the seedling to inspire Ellen to help define Western Dressage and found WDAA.

As a tree branches out, Ellen shared her vision with all of us and we shared it with others who shared it with the World. Today, Western Dressage is still growing like a mighty Oak, branching out through our newest initiatives like Exceptional Equestrians, the Veterans’ Membership program and collaboration with AQHA.

Holiday Compadre is buried now under a new tree at Ellen’s farm. As it grows, the tree will remind us how far Western Dressage has come and that a little bit of Holiday Compadre lives on in all of us and even in those who never knew he existed, whenever Western Dressage is practiced or shared.

When part of your heart dies with a horse, you’re still many times better than you were before you had a horse. That’s just what horses do to us. They make us better people. How has your horse inspired you? Share your answer here:

Cindy Butler, Your President

Western Dressage Association of America

Plan to Attend!

For an excellent opportunity to meet face to face with many of our WDAA Board of Directors and Executive Director please plan to attend the Western Dressage meeting (WDAA) on January 9th 8:00-9:30 at the USEF Annual Meeting in West Palm Beach, FLA. We will report on all WDAA achievements over the last year, plus discuss rule changes and proposals and answer questions. This will be a wonderful relaxed time to really get to visit with everyone and make plans for the future of WDAA. Register here, one day registration is available.

Congratulations Ellen DiBella!

US Equestrian is pleased to announce the recipients of the Lifetime Achievement Award and the Junior Equestrian of the Year Award to be acknowledged at the 2020 US Equestrian Annual Meeting at the Hilton West Palm Beach in West Palm Beach, Fla. Ellen Di Bella is the winner of the 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award, while Julia Stone is the 2019 Junior Equestrian of the Year. Both Di Bella and Stone will be recognized at the Pegasus Awards presented by Adequan® on Friday, January 10, 2020, along with other prestigious award winners.

Image Caption: Ellen Di Bella, 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award (John Nation)

Ellen Di Bella (Parker, Colo.), the Western Dressage Association of America’s founding President and now its Director Emeritus, has been key to the rise of Western dressage in the U.S. She has devoted her life to inspiring others, creating opportunities for equestrians and their horses, and working for every horse to be valued and cherished. She also served on the US Equestrian board for a decade and currently is on five US Equestrian committees.

In addition to her work for the Western Dressage Association of America, Di Bella has been a stalwart supporter of Morgan horses, serving on the boards of both the American Morgan Horse Association and the American Morgan Horse Institute. She’s a lifelong competitor, too, and showed her Morgan horses in Western pleasure for 38 years before discovering Western dressage.

She has worked on show committees at all levels, including every year for the Western Dressage Association of America World Championship Show and seven years for the Morgan Grand National and World Championship Show, and she served on the board of the Colorado Horse Park. Apart from her work for horses and equestrians, she helped found the Rocky Mountain Cancer Center Foundation, which provides financial assistance to cancer patients and their families in meeting living expenses while fighting cancer.


Make sure you renew your WDAA membership on time. The renewal period ends on Jan 1st and after that your membership will lapse and you won't have access to any WDAA member benefits.

Also, WDAA is working on a Membership Anniversary acknowledgments. Members in good standing will be acknowledged in a very special way if they have been continuous members for 10 years. Don't miss out!

Learn more about Western Dressage!

Plan to attend a Judges Training like no other! (Open to Auditors also). The 2020 WDAA/USEF Western Dressage Judges Seminar is 3 full days of intensive training for new judge applicants and 2 1/2 days for licensed judges. All of that hard work is balanced with great camaraderie and networking, lively discussion, a little shopping, great meals included plus all the chocolate you can eat!!!

February 6 through February 8, 2020

Host Hotel: Hilton Garden Inn Denver Tech Center
7675 East Union Ave
Denver, CO 80237


 Registration can be found on the site here,

Retired Racehorse Project


Applications are now open for the 2020 Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover, presented by Thoroughbred Charities of America! Applications are accepted through January 15, 2020, with accepted trainers announced on February 15, 2020.


The Thoroughbred Makeover features competition in ten disciplines for recently-retired Thoroughbreds in their first year of retraining for a second career after racing. Disciplines include barrel racing, competitive trail, dressage (western or classical), eventing, field hunters, freestyle, polo, show hunter, show jumper, and ranch work. Horses and trainers will compete for more than $125,000 in total prize money at the Kentucky Horse Park on October 7-10, 2020.


In 2019, the Retired Racehorse Project added Western Dressage as a competition option within the dressage discipline, and Frank’s Gift, trained by Lauren Burke, finished second place out of over 100 entries!


The Makeover is open to professionals, amateurs, juniors (ages 12 and older) and teams. Team entry allows riding schools or lesson programs to share in the process of preparing and retraining an off-track Thoroughbred for a second career. Approved trainers may acquire eligible Thoroughbred through whatever source they choose; for full eligibility and competition rules please review the 2020 rulebook.


Learn more at


Looking for a Schooling Show or Clinic to brush up on your skills. Stop by the Events Calendar on the WDAA website where you will find lots of events happening all over the USA!


The Western Dressage Association® of America is proud to offer an ever-growing list of dedicated Western Dressage professionals. Use this directory to help further your Westen Dressage experience and education.


The WDAA Horse Lifetime Points and Awards Program (WHLPAP) tracks points achieved by a horse with their riding partner throughout their Western Dressage career.

WDAA Website | Member Portal | Event Calendar | Social Corral

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