WDAA Annual Meeting in Castle Rock Colorado

Western Dressage Complete Annual meeting group

The second annual meeting of the Western Dressage Association™ of America was held in Castle Rock, Colorado on the weekend of November 4-6, 2011. It was attended by people from across the United States, from New York and New Hampshire to California, as well as Canada. Their dedication to the mission statement of WDAA was apparent from the start of the Friday night cocktail reception held in the Events Center of the Douglas County Fairgrounds and throughout the following two days of discussions. This informal gathering brought face to face the many individuals who have worked diligently to make Western Dressage the extraordinary movement it has become over the last year.

One of the most important benefits that will be enjoyed by WDAA members in coming months will be their participation in an exclusive WDAA online video instruction and judging partnership with www.horseshow.com. Guy Brown of www.horseshow.com gave a presentation on Friday evening detailing how this will work and how it will enable every horse owner, no matter where they live, to receive excellent informed instruction and evaluation according to USEF and WDAA standards. WDAA is excited about the potential for this partnership and its far reaching implications for the future of Western Dressage.


On Saturday morning, work began early with a welcome from Ellen DiBella, President of WDAA. After a synopsis of WDAA’s past year, and an introduction of its other Founding Board members, Neide Cooley, Bonnie Glasgow, and Barbara Molland, Ellen introduced the Advisory Board members who were present: Jack Brainard, Jec Ballou, Julie Goodnight, Lyn Ringrose Moe, Diane Olds Rossi, and Karen Homer-Brown. Ellen noted that Eitan and Debbie Beth-Halachmy had to change attendance plans just two days before the meeting due to Eitan’s health. In their absence, the other Advisory Board members provided valuable input for the establishment of rules for Western Dressage.

Ellen reminded everyone that the journey of Western Dressage will be different for everyone who chooses to learn. For some it will be a means to a more harmonious partnership with a trail horse, while for others it will be the road to competition and the show ring.

Following Ellen’s welcome, Vice President Barbara Molland gave a power point presentation on the Western Dressage Association™ of America and the value that Western Dressage and this organization will bring to the entire horse industry. This presentation will be recorded and distributed to every State Affiliate and Alliance member, and every potential sponsor in the country.

The primary goals of this meeting were the working out of rules for the discipline of Western Dressage as part of the WDAA affiliation with USEF, the providing of resources for the State Affiliates, the establishment of a Development Committee and a strategy for fundraising and sponsorship, and to create short and long term strategic goals and objectives. The many hours spent on these goals gave WDAA tremendous results and identified those who would lead the way in their successful completion.

In keeping with these goals, new Advisory Board member Karen Homer-Brown next brought her experience and analytical skills to the members by chairing a panel discussion of rules for Western Dressage. As the WDAA members listening added their concerns, panel members Cliff Swanson, Frances Carbonell, Lyn Ringrose Moe, and Karen Homer-Brown participated in a dynamic conversation about the important aspects of the rules. Karen did a tremendous job moving this discussion forward so that all input was noted and included for the afternoon rules making session.

At noon, lunch was provided by Circle Y Saddles while Josiah Brown with his Western Dressage Magazine gave a presentation on branding. Josiah stressed the importance of creating a marketing image that remains true to an organization’s mission statement and which creates a positive and immediately identifiable image in the public eye. WDAA looks forward to a continuing partnership with Josiah whose enthusiasm for Western Dressage is infectious.

In the afternoon, a breakout session divided the attendees into the Rules group and the Affiliates group. Karen Homer-Brown chaired the Rules session while Mary Gunn, President of the Western Dressage Association™ of Colorado, chaired the Affiliates group. In a tightly condensed time period, both groups made great strides in understanding and realizing their goals.

The Western Dressage Association™ of America has been impressed with the tremendous work accomplished by the organization’s first Affiliate, the Colorado State Affiliate. That work was appreciated by all the Affiliate representatives in attendance. From the Colorado group’s willingness to lend an advising hand to the Affiliates just starting out to its hospitality on Saturday night with a buffet dinner and cocktails, Colorado made the annual meeting a tremendous success. Mary Gunn, Nancy Miller, Cliff Swanson, Sharon Jayne, MariBeth O’Connor Skaggs, Chris Sletten, Cindi Ryan, Barb Hagen, and Janice Olson made everyone feel welcome and provided great incentive for the other Affiliate members to succeed. Thanks to all of you!


Sunday morning brought the group together again in Kirk Hall for an explanation by Karen Homer-Brown of a first draft of the rules for Western Dressage. The body of work this entailed is impressive, and WDAA thanks the many members who put their experience and heads together to hammer this all out. Finishing touches to the rules will be applied in the next few weeks as the Rules Committee works online toward a goal of completion before the end of the year.

Wrapping up Sunday morning was a presentation on the realities of today’s nonprofit world by John Cooley. As he did at our first meeting in Texas last year, John’s grasp of the concepts and his clear headed perspective on how WDAA must focus to accomplish its goals were right on target. Thank you, John!

Neide Cooley who has headed the Affiliate building effort for WDAA among so many other tasks, concluded the presentation by targeting where we must go and what and who will help us get there.

Despite the exhaustion of everyone after the intensity of the two day meeting, all in attendance realized and appreciated the huge scope of what had been accomplished by the end of Sunday morning.

And now to express our thanks… if there is a horseman in America who personifies the many gifts that horses provide to those who work with them for a lifetime, that person must be Jack Brainard. At ninety years of age, Jack traveled from his ranch in Texas and attended every session of the meeting at the same time that he informed and entertained everyone with wisdom and stories gleaned from his past adventures in the world of horses. Still smiling, still gracious, disarmingly quick-witted after all these years, he is an inspiration to all horsemen, and he is testament to the belief that horses keep us young. Jack’s presence energized all in attendance, and we thank him for being with us.

WDAA also wants to thank Deirdre Davenport, our intrepid web designer from New Hampshire. Deirdre flew to Colorado to help us even though family concerns at home were on her mind. Deirdre did a great job helping us with the technical and online aspects of the meeting. So much of WDAA’s work over the past year has revolved around the internet. We wouldn’t be where we are today without Deirdre’s help.


WDAA wishes to thank the many members who came from far and near to attend the meeting: Jec Ballou, Kelly Boyd, Jack Brainard, Annmarie Brockhouse, Alix Brown, Guy Brown, Josiah Brown, Frances Carbonell, John Cooley, Neide Cooley, Deirdre Davenport, Ellen Dibella, Deb Donley, Susan Fay, Bonnie Glasgow, Julie Goodnight, Mary Gunn, Barb Hagen, Karen Homer-Brown, Sharon Jayne, Diane Lesher, Jack Lieser, Sarah Lieser, Heather Lekan, Arlyn Londo, Karen Meyers, Nancy Miller, John Moe, Barbara Molland, Maribeth O’connor-Scaggs, Diane Olds Rossi, Janice Olson, Lyn Ringrose-Moe, Cindi Ryan, Chris Sletten, Cliff Swanson, Dean Voigt, Julie Vosberg, Elaine Ward, and Jeff Wilson.

We also wish to thank Neide Cooley for her tireless work in organizing this meeting in Colorado. Without her energy, clear thinking, and hospitality, it would never have happened. The burden of organization fell hard on Coloradans, Neide and Ellen DiBella.  Ellen, in her usual smiling, humorous, and graceful way, reminded us that we all do this for the right reasons; honoring the horse and enjoying each other as horsemen and horsewomen are truly what this is all about.

We should also thank Bonnie Glasgow, WDAA Secretary and Treasurer, who focused throughout the meeting and recorded notes on all the proceedings.

Both Karen Homer-Brown who chaired the Rules Committee and Mary Gunn who chaired the Affiliates group deserve so much praise for all they did for WDAA both before, during, and after the meeting.

Rules panel members, Cliff Swanson, Lyn Ringrose Moe, and Frances Carbonell deserve thanks for their astute understanding of the details of rule making. Those rules will go far toward keeping Western Dressage on a road that leads to a better day for all horses and their riders.


WDAA looks forward to working with all the Advisory Board members and State Affiliate members who took time away from their busy lives to advance the cause of Western Dressage.

Congratulations on a very successful meeting in Castle Rock!




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