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What do I get when I join the Utah Dressage Society?

Written by Jan Lawrence

A few months ago I wrote an article that described all the different equestrian organizations and the role each one plays in the oversight and development of the sport of dressage. To recap briefly the FEI is the international governing body, the USEF is our national governing body, USDF is our national dressage club and UDS (Utah Dressage Society) is our local dressage club.

I hope today to help you understand the differences between the USDF (United States Dressage Federation/the national dressage club) and the UDS (Utah Dressage Society/the local club). Why is it important to know the difference? Well, these memberships overlap each other quite a bit and you might be able to meet all of your educational and competitive goals by belonging to the local club without the added expense of joining the national one, or vice versa.

One question that I get asked by clients and others getting ready to enter shows is what organizations do I need to join? It’s a great question and one that takes a bit of exploration to answer because it depends on your goals as a horse owner and dressage rider. Often riders who are new to showing can’t articulate their goals. Those ideas are not fully formed yet and concepts are still too new to be fully understood.

Let us begin by talking about the types of memberships in both organizations because they are similar and yet different.

For USDF there are mainly two types of memberships. The main one is a Participating Membership, which shows up in their publications as PM. If you join the national club as a Participating Member you get access to everything. All of the programs offered by USDF, and there are many, all of the opportunities to earn awards, compete in the Regional and possibly National Championships, and so on. The cost of this membership for 2023 is $90 for adults and $72 for Youth, and the membership year runs from Dec 1 - Nov 30 every year. So if you paid for a Participating Membership on Nov 1st it would still end on Nov 30. Important to know if you are joining late in the show season or year.

PM = USDF Participating Membership

They also offer a 5 year Participating Membership ($360 for 2023-2028) and a Lifetime Membership ($1800 for 2023). Those of course cost more, but depending on your age, finances and your commitment to the sport, one of the longer term ones might make sense.

The second type of USDF membership is a Group Member, which shows up in their publications as GM. The Utah Dressage Society offers a membership which includes Group Member status and access to many important programs offered by USDF. The main benefit of membership with a group organization is the ability to earn your USDF medals (Bronze, Silver, and Gold), but you can access many educational programs offered by USDF too with a GM. The cost of this membership for the Utah Dressage Society for 2023 is $55. The chart below details which memberships are required for which programs. This information is also available on the USDF website at all times and should be checked for changes in the future.

GM = Utah Dressage Group Membership

In general most regular dressage show needs are covered by the GM and most higher performance goals needs require a PM. If you are headed in any career path in dressage, like becoming a trainer, judge or technical delegate, you will need a PM to access the training programs needed. If you are skilled enough to try to go to the Regional Championships, you will have to qualify first and when you ride Qualifying in recognized competitions you do have to have a Participating Membership.

IMPORTANT: The Utah Dressage Group Membership gets you USDF benefits, but a Participating Membership in USDF does NOT give you Utah Dressage benefits.

Both organizations offer a non-competing education based membership for a lower fee, so it is VERY important when you sign up with either of them that you choose the right kind of membership for what you want to do.

Let’s talk a bit more about becoming a member of the Utah Dressage Society and a Group Member of USDF. Again, it depends on your goals.

Here are some of the opportunities created by a Utah Dressage Group Membership:

1. You avoid paying the non-member fee for USDF at recognized shows.

2. Access to local dressage events such as clinics, schooling shows, educational events, and member activities like the year end awards banquet.

3. The opportunity to compete for the year end awards here in your community. There are many different ways to achieve horse and rider awards inside of the club. It is important to know what needs to be done in order to earn those awards, but membership in the club is the first step towards these achievements.

4. The opportunity to apply for scholarships given twice yearly by the Utah Dressage Society. There are various types to be given and they have specific purposes, but financial aid is available.

5. Access to the local dressage community. Utah has been nurturing the sport of dressage for quite a long time and has a lot of resources available for riders to tap into. There are riders at all levels of the sport, some with barns and trainers, and others who are successfully “doing their own thing”. The one thing we all share is a love of dressage horses and our enjoyment seeing them perform and develop. Often we can’t share our experiences with anyone except other riders and you need to know who those people are and how to connect with them. Membership in the Utah Dressage Society will help you find the tribe of horse lovers you crave to be around.

6. Access to most of the educational materials on the USDF website. This is a little used resource that too many people overlook. If you want to learn about musical freestyle the information is there. If you want to learn how to ride a better dressage test, get ready to trailer your horse on long trips, teach a horse to do a leg yield, and so on, the information is there. Videos, articles, and suggested reading is abundant and it is all FREE. If you are so inclined, you can work towards a USDF University achievement by reading and learning on their website. Once you have a Group Membership you will also receive the USDF Connection magazine several times a year. This magazine has articles written by judges and trainers well known throughout the dressage world. It is like a mini clinic every time you get one.

Utah Dressage Society membership mirrors USDF membership and runs from December 1 through Nov 30 each year. Most members join at either the Annual Membership meeting which is Nov 4th this year, or the annual awards banquet, which this year will be held Saturday, February 25th. Riders who don’t attend the banquet usually join before their first show of the year in order to be sure their scores will count towards the club’s year end awards.

Can you join both groups? Of course, and many of us have memberships in both the local club and the national one. Some of us are also members in sister organizations like the Rocky Mountain Dressage Society in Colorado or the California Dressage Society. You can join as many as your pocketbook will allow.

My personal favorite UDS activity is the year end awards banquet. It is the one time we get to see how people look without a ball cap covering their helmet hair. It’s also a blast to celebrate the achievements of our friends and colleagues without animals to look after. The Utah Dressage Society is a community of horse lovers, riders and passionate students of the sport at all levels. Some of us ride and compete. Some of us just enjoy the journey and the opportunity to learn with our two and four legged friends. Please join us and make our community bigger and better!

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