March 2020 Newsletter

March Newsletter

President's Letter

Dear Members,

It has been an exciting Winter! In December, Joyce Swanson and I shared information about the Western Dressage judges’ licensing process with American Quarter Horse judges at their seminar. In January at the USEF Convention, WDAA held its annual membership meeting and our own Ellen DiBella was awarded USEF’s Lifetime Achievement Award. In February, our judges’ seminar and board of directors meeting took place. Now, in March, we are finalizing rule change proposals to meet the new USEF deadlines.

On top of that, I am excited to announce we have two new WDAA Board members, Vivien Van Buren of Castlerock, CO and Joanne Coy of Otsego, MI!

You know Vivien Van Buren as the 2019 WDAA World Championship Show Coordinator. She has been volunteering for WDAA since last year. Vivian participated in our strategic planning process in 2018, co-wrote our new “Horse Show How To Manual”, and worked the registration table at the judges’ seminar.

Joanne Coy is a Large “R” Western Dressage judge and has been an instructor at WDAA Group Apprentice Judging and the Judges’ seminar. She was a judge at the 2019 WDAA World Championship Show.

Board member Thallia Blight is working on a 2020 WDAA Yearbook that will be shared at the end of this year. She would love to highlight our members, your journeys and your achievements. So, please send photos and stories to [email protected] with subject line “2020 Yearbook”. Please, send pictures and stories all year from events that occur this year. Photos and stories can be from affiliate meetings, shows, your back yard, or wherever your Western Dressage journey takes place.

This year, USEF Horse of the Year awards for Western Dressage have been expanded to include Open, Amateur, and Junior divisions. The way the points are calculated is similar to how many breed organizations calculate points, but different from how English Dressage points are usually calculated. Points are attributed BY CLASS and not by rider’s status. For example: If a Junior rider rides in a “Junior” class, points earned are added to his/her “Junior” class total. However, if a Junior rider rides in an “Open” class, points earned are added to his/her “Open” class total. Juniors and Amateurs may accumulate points in both “Junior” or “Amateur” and “Open” divisions.

At WDAA, we are working hard to make 2020 our best year yet. We will be sending out a few membership polls in the near future to ensure our service continues to represent your wishes.

Thank you for your membership, your enthusiasm, and sharing your journey with WDAA. As always, I couldn’t be prouder of WDAA’s members, staff, and volunteers. You are all outstanding and I love seeing you and your beautiful horses everywhere I go.

Cindy Butler, Your President
Western Dressage Association of America

USEF Annual meeting Jan 7-11th

Several WDAA representatives attended many informative meetings over a span of 5 days. Including sessions on making Safe Sport compliance more easily understood, Leveraging Data and Tech, Media Broadcast and Beyond, the USEF Affiliate meeting, USEF open meeting, etc. We are very proud that Western Dressage has earned a seat on the USEF Breeds and Disciplines council and will be very well represented by WDAA President Cindy Butler. Please keep an eye on the weekly USEF emails, they are packed with information. All WDAA members get a free fan membership (non competing) for a year, then it only costs $25 per year after that!

The most exciting news is that US Equestrian has launched the Guaranteed Insurance Benefits Program for members including paid Fan Members!!! Please visit this link for more information.

For an overview of the USEF Annual meeting please visit this link:

WDAA annual membership meeting held at the USEF annual meeting Jan 9th.

2020 WDAA Annual MeetingAn esteemed group of USEF annual meeting attendees joined us for the Western Dressage meeting and were treated to an enthralling presentation by Cindy Butler on WDAA accomplishments in 2019 and future plans. Everyone was thoroughly engaged and involved. They asked great questions, offered ideas and made compelling comments. One attendee stood up during the National Breeds and Disciplines Council meeting and stated that she was so impressed with WDAA and Western Dressage that she was going to wholeheartedly support Western Dressage as a discipline for her breed!

For the presentation please click here.

Ellen DiBella awarded USEF’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Ellen was highlighted as an award recipient by USEF in an announcement with her lovely quote "Thanks to horse friends and my wonderful horses. I'm going to go home and hug a horse and I ask you each one of you to do the same. You'll be so much happier if you hug a horse."

Ellen DiBella awarded USEF’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Ellen DiBella awarded USEF’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

(LEFT) Ellen DiBella and USEF President Murray Kessler.
(RIGHT) Ellen with the Perpetual Lifetime Achievement Trophy that lives at the USEF headquarters.

Photos taken by Adam Brennan -

WDAA/USEF Western Dressage Judges Seminar Report - Feb 6-8th

An enthusiastic group of 56 attendees learned from the best at this years seminar. Clinicians, Joyce Swanson- WDAA Judges Education Committee Chair, Debbie Reihl-Rodriguez, Cliff Swanson - WDAA Board member, Julie Haugen, Dolly Hannon, Joanne Coy - NEW WDAA Board Member and Cindy Butler - WDAA President gave 3 full days of very informative presentations. From S Dressage judges to auditors all had a great time. The future of Western Dressage is in great hands! 24 licensed WD judges renewed, 26 judge applicants started the process and 5 auditors attended.

WDAA/USEF Western Dressage Judges Seminar Clinicians WDAA/USEF Western Dressage Judges Seminar Attendees

WDAA/USEF Western Dressage Judges Seminar Clinicians (Left) and Attendees (Right).

WDAA BOD meeting report Feb 9th - 10th

WDAA BOD meetingAll 7 members of the WDAA board of directors met in person for two very productive days of discussion. Ellen DiBella was our gracious host for both days and provided wonderful meals all day and night so we could continue our hard work late into the evenings. Several topics were thoroughly discussed, including finding ways to help our State Affiliates succeed, these new ideas will be discussed during the next WDAA State Affiliate meeting and then reported back to members here in your WDAA newsletter. Other items discussed were how to engage people who love the WDAA tests but don't want to show and how to maximize the Learning Management System where the WDAA members Video Education Portal lives, we will be bringing new member benefits to the table soon! The entire board, Cindy Butler - President, Holly Clanahan Vice President, Thallia Blight - Secretary, Sharron Sarchet - Treasurer, Lynn Shinkle, Mike Corcoran and Cliff Swanson voted unanimously to invite Vivien Van Buren and Joanne Coy to join the board as the last business of the meeting. During the two days everyone was walked through all WDAA programs, member benefits and the website so don't hesitate to ask them your WDAA questions! If they don't know the answer, they will know where to send you, clear and concise communication with our members is so important to all of us!

Don't forget to complete your Safe Sport training with USEF!

WDAA is one of the most compliant USEF affiliates and we want to show the rest of the horse world that our members put the safety of children first!

The new guide "How to put on a WDAA Recognized Show" is on the website!!! 

Please visit this link to download and print a great educational guide that has everything you need to know!


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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