The NEDA Board of Directors recently completed a planning meeting that the Board expects to hold annually to discuss long term priorities and short term strategies for achieving the organization’s mission to promote the art and sport of dressage. Since membership dues are the primary source of revenue that keeps us afloat, we rededicated ourselves to focusing on insuring that we are delivering quality and value to our members and planning programs, activities and communications that are responsive to member needs and promote the growth of the New England network of dressage enthusiasts that forms a community of interest for members.
We spent a fair amount of time discussing our education program. A principal feature consists of a major symposium held in the fall with a trainer and clinician recognized internationally for his/her achievements and training methods. We reiterated our commitment to holding a major symposium each year in the belief that all riders, no matter what level of training or type of horse they are working with, and no matter whether they compete or not, stand to benefit from watching real experts work with horses and riders working their way through the levels of training. A symposium differs from a clinic in that the riders and horses are there, not for individual advancement, as with a clinic slot, but rather to serve to illuminate training challenges and breakthroughs that every horse and rider can learn from, geared for audience learning, not the personal benefit of the horse/rider team in the arena (although the individual horse and rider no doubt derive ancillary benefit from the experience).
In addition, we launched several years ago, an education outreach program, through which trainers, barns and programs throughout New England could take advantage of our robust communications network to publicize their upcoming clinics and symposia throughout New England, in exchange for offering a discount to participants who are NEDA members. With the growth and popularity of traveling clinicians, this is a major NEDA membership benefit and offers access to quality educational opportunities much closer to home than NEDA would be able to offer on its own. But we concluded at our recent meeting that we have failed to adequately communicate this benefit to our members, so it is held as a well-kept secret known only to those who scour our website. We plan to change that in the coming months so that by the time spring comes, these opportunities will be well known and publicized, and easy to identify on our website.
In terms of fulfilling our commitment to meeting member needs and priorities, we understand that the Tip, the Salute and the Omnibus Prize List (OPL) are key benefits valued by members. These will continue to be priorities for NEDA. While the Salute and OPL will remain in print form, we moved to an electronic Tip in the middle of last year, mainly in an effort to keep dues low by controlling costs ($28,000. versus $3500.). The jury
is still out on that move, and we are gathering information about how members are adapting to this change.
The other major member benefit cited by members in surveys we have done is eligibility for NEDA’s year end awards program, a hugely popular program that attracts hundreds of applicants from throughout New England. We have undertaken a review of the program with some really exciting possibilities that could make the application process much easier (possibly automatic!) for members. Stay tuned! With declining attendance at the year end awards dinner in the fall, we have experimented over the last few years with different formats for presenting and delivering the awards, mainly because the burden on individuals of having to package and mail hundreds and hundreds of prizes, ribbons and certificates was proving overwhelming. We needed to find a format that would make it possible and attractive for most winners to pick up their awards in person. We have settled on holding the awards dinner in conjunction with the NEDA spring show in Marshfield, where we’ve put on a rollicking good time and dispersed over 80% of the awards in the past. Sport horse and breed winners, however, do not find that venue to be convenient, so we are exploring having some kind of ceremony or event during Equine Affaire in the fall to distribute breed awards. Stay tuned about that as well.
The mission of the New England Dressage Association is to promote and support the Art and Sport of Dressage to the equestrian community for the purpose of fostering individual and collective growth by providing leadership, education, exhibitions, publications, competitions and to enhance greater public awareness, understanding, and appreciation for the discipline of Dressage.