A stuffed horse sitting on a table, looking out the window over the city of St. Louis.

St. Louis Celebration: 2023 USPC Convention Recap

By Liz Moyer, USPC Fundraising and Marketing Coordinator

St. Louis, Mo., was the setting for the 2023 USPC Convention, Sponsored by Stephens College and Supported by Via Nova Training. Hosted by the Midwest Region, the iconic St. Louis arch was the inspiration for the Gateway to the Future event theme.

Pony Club members, leaders, and volunteers, as well as equine enthusiasts, gathered from January 18–22 at the Marriott St. Louis Grand, with additional attendees logging in online through the virtual event platform.

Nearly 450 attendees enjoyed more than 40 educational workshops and seminars, plus meetings and awards presentations, and special Pony Club activities. The event offered a blend of in-person, livestream, and on-demand content, bringing additional value and flexibility to the Convention experience. Convention attendees, and those who purchased a virtual convention pass, will have access to view recorded content and on-demand workshops via the virtual event platform through August 1, 2023.

A woman demonstrating a hand movement to other individuals in line in front of her.
Wendy Murdoch presented one of the educational workshops. Photo by Elizabeth Moyer/United States Pony Clubs

“Convention brings the opportunity to connect with each other, learn from the best, and get inspired for the year ahead, as we celebrate Pony Club’s accomplishments and plan for the future,” said USPC Executive Director Teresa Woods, reflecting on the success of the event.

Leadership Takeaways

Representatives from 36 Pony Club regions worked together to learn about and expand Pony Club programs for current and future members. The convention kicked off with a full day of education for Pony Club’s leaders across all levels. Sessions covered a mix of broad and detailed topics through presentations, group panels, and smaller breakout sessions.

“I would highly recommend the leadership training just to learn more about Pony Club and to interact and network with others who are holding similar roles,” said Jolyn Rasmussen, District Commissioner (DC) of Boise Pony Club in the Intermountain Region, who has attended for several years. She added that in the past she has really found the professional development training useful, not only for Pony Club, but also in her professional and personal life.

Jay McCord, Professional Development Speaker, addressing the crowd during his sessions.
Jay McCord, Professional Development Speaker. Photo by Karol Wilson/The United States Pony Clubs

Kelsey Cartwright, Joint District Commissioner (JtDC) of the Racine County Pony Club in the Lake Shore Region, attended for the first time since she was a youth member, and she was happy to connect with people from her whole region. She commented that Pony Club has a great program. “Its dedicated passionate people are what make the program great,” she said. “Learning what my responsibilities are is always really important, and learning from people who have been doing it is the best way to learn. I think having our support from our peers and having other people you can rely on to ask questions is really beneficial.”

On Friday, Pony Club leaders and members enjoyed a day of professional development sessions with guest speaker Jay McChord, who works regularly with equine industry organizations on ways to communicate and collaborate more effectively in today’s multigenerational environment. McChord proved to be an engaging speaker and received rave reviews and requests for future training. The training was supported by Specialty Program Insurors and the Mattingley Leadership Training Fund.

Lorelei Coplen, USPC Vice President of Regional Administration, appreciated the value in bringing together leaders from different roles across the organization to focus on mindset and communication.

“Among the many benefits [is that] these combined seminars provide the organizational leaders a common language or an understanding baseline. As an example, I suspect the phrase ‘same storm; different boat’ may become shorthand inside regions as they parse their budgets and calendars for a program year,” she shared.

Future Leaders

Friday’s Convention activities also welcomed 21 delegates to the 2023 National Youth Congress (NYC) thanks to support from the Western & English Sales Association (WESA), as well as honoring three inductees into this year’s Academy of Achievement: Sandra Gebhart, DVM; Deb Kirsch, and William West “Wes” Thompson.

A group of adults standing in front of the camera, smiling. They were the Academy of Achievement Honorees for 2023.
Academy of Achievement Honorees: Wes Thompson; Sandra Gebhard, DMV: and Deb Kirsch. Photo by Sarah Evers Conrad/United States Pony Clubs

The USPC National Youth Congress is a program that recognizes outstanding national-level members (H-B through A) with an opportunity for networking, personal growth, leadership, and skill-building. At Convention, the young adult delegates met with the Academy of Achievement inductees and other accomplished Pony Club alumni and worked together on creating three proposals to present to the Board of Governors.

The National Youth Board (NYB) is another leadership program in USPC in which members act as liaisons between the youth membership of USPC and the Board of Governors. They bring forward ideas and proposals regarding important issues and conduct independent projects under the direction of the National Office. Members are 18-23 years of age and must apply for a two-year term. On Saturday, six new NYB members joined those in their second year to line out various SMART goals for the year, choose committee assignments and officers, and talk about projects that could make an impact on USPC.

Education for Equestrians

Educational workshops are always a highlight of the convention—whether in person or virtual. This year’s topics delivered important horse management and horse health information, including deworming, dental care, vaccinations, digestive health and emergency care, plus insights on equine behavior, rider fitness and sports psychology, career opportunities in the equine industry, as well as updates on safe trailering, helmet safety, and much more. Virtual workshops included saddle fit, grooming, and other topics of interest.

“As an associate professor in equine education, I was inspired by the enthusiasm and passion I saw in the young equestrians at the USPC Convention,” shared Sara Linde-Patel, associate professor and equine studies program chair at Stephens College, which was the title sponsor of the event. “We left the convention excited and inspired by the up-and-coming equestrians that we met.”

A young kid jumping over a pool noodle during Pony Paddock.
Pony Paddock always has creative activities for young kids. Photo by Elizabeth Moyer/United States Pony Clubs

In addition to workshops, the 2023 USPC Convention offered a variety of hands-on opportunities. One favorite for attendees was the Anatomy Lab, which was sponsored by Banixx Horse & Pet Care. The lab is headed by Pony Club graduate and equine veterinarian Brad Gordon, DVM, and vet tech and longtime Pony Club volunteer Cindy Healy, along with a team of experts. It offered hundreds of specimens and education on equine anatomy, including structures and systems from head to hoof.

Pony Club members also got advice to prepare for Horse Management at rallies and interacted with hands-on displays as they tested their knowledge in the Horse Management Room, sponsored by Indian Hills Thoroughbred Farm.

The youngest attendees enjoyed horse-related activities and educational fun in the Pony Paddock, sponsored by the Arabian Horse Youth Association, Breyer Model Horses, and Trafalgar Square Books. Longtime Pony Paddock National Coordinator Lisa Reader, who is well-known for her Hawaiian shirts, creative youth activities, and way of wrangling kids, is now passing on the baton for coordination of Pony Paddock to new Board member Sedate Kohler.

A Record for the Research Project Fair

The USPC Research Project Fair, presented by Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation with support from Kentucky Equine Research, was popular with members of all ages and levels, with a record 37 participants presenting 29 total projects, both in person and virtually. For complete results, click here.

A group of kids sitting in front of the camera, they all participated in the 2023 USPC Research Project Fair.
The largest Research Project Fair ever. Photo by Elizabeth Moyer/United States Pony Clubs

Awards and Achievements

Many Pony Club awards were presented at the Saturday morning Meeting of the Corporation. Six clubs were recognized for their member dedication and longevity with the United States Pony Clubs, and they received the Club Milestone Award, given to clubs reaching their 25th or 50th anniversary years.

“These long-standing clubs have shown an incredible commitment to Pony Club, providing an example and inspiration to all,” said Karol Wilson, USPC Director of Member Services and Regional Administration. “The dedication of their leadership is essential to USPC, and we are proud to recognize these important milestones.”

The following clubs were recognized with 25-Year Club Milestone Awards:

  • Live Oak Hounds Pony Club (Sunshine Region)
  • Tidewater Pony Club (Delmarva Region)
  • Two Rivers Pony Club (Northern Lakes Region)

The clubs below were honored with 50-Year Club Milestone Awards:

  • East Aurora-Lake Erie Pony Club (Western New York Region)
  • Piedmont Pony Club (South Region)
  • Tecolote Pony Club (Camino Real Region)

The following members were honored for achieving A-level certifications during 2022:

  • Audrey Buchanan (Mr. Stewart’s Cheshire Foxhounds Pony Club, Eastern Pennsylvania Region)
  • Margaret Buchanan (Mr. Stewart’s Cheshire Foxhounds Pony Club, Eastern Pennsylvania Region)
  • Eleanor Goldfarb (Middle Tennessee Pony Club, Midsouth Region)
  • Genevieve Munson (Northwest Arkansas Pony Club, Midwest Region)

“We are proud of our newest A recipients and the level of dedication and excellence this award represents,” said Connie Jehlik, USPC Instruction Services Director. “I know all of these members will continue to achieve great success in future pursuits.”

The Brookfield Land Conservation Award was presented to Tidewater Pony Club from the Delmarva Region, while the Flash Teamwork Award went to beloved Pony Club mount Princess Fiona, owned by Beth Walkowicz and nominated by Lori Gmerek, DC of East Aurora-Lake Erie Pony Club in the Western New York Region.

Saturday Night Banquet Celebration

Two women facing the camera, smiling.
Founders Award: Stacy Yike, who accepted for her sister Brenda Yike, and Debra Sue Waters. Photo by Sarah Evers Conrad/United States Pony Clubs

The Saturday Night Banquet was a highlight as attendees celebrated the recipients of the USPC Founders Award, honoring dedicated longtime volunteers Debra Sue Waters and Brenda Yike (accepted posthumously by her sister, Stacy Yike). Five-star eventer and A-level Pony Club alum Allison Springer presented the keynote address, sponsored by Brooke USA Foundation. Springer shared how she got her start in Pony Club and how her experiences in USPC laid the foundation for her future success as a rider, trainer, coach, and equine welfare ambassador.

The 2023 USPC Convention was possible thanks to the support of our sponsors, including Convention title sponsor Stephens College; supporting sponsor Via Nova Training; USPC corporate sponsors Kerrits, Shapley’s, The Horse, Triple Crown Nutrition, Wintec, and Zoetis; and event sponsors, including the American Association of Equine Practitioners, Arabian Horse Youth Association, Banixx Horse & Pet Care, Breyer Model Horses, Brooke USA Foundation, Dressage4Kids, Fair Hill Saddlery, Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation, Indian Hills Thoroughbred Farm, Kentucky Equine Research, the Mattingley Leadership Training Fund, Santa Cruz Animal Health, Specialty Program Insurors, Trafalgar Square Books, Unicorn Trails, University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine, and Western & English Sales Association.

See You Next Year

Proposals are now being accepted until July 1, 2023 for the 2024 USPC Convention from educational workshop speakers. If you are interested in being a speaker, click here.

The USPC Convention is an educational, energizing event that offers something for everyone. Best of all, it brings the Pony Club community together with a sense of renewed pride and dedication for the organization and its mission. We hope to see you next year.

A woman and a horse mascot, smiling at the camera.
Lisa Reader, National Coordinator for Pony Paddock. Photo by Sarah Evers Conrad/United States Pony Clubs

Save the Date for 2024

The 2024 USPC Convention will be held January 24–28 at the Peppermill Reno Resort in Reno, Nev. For details on the 2024 event, click here.

This article about the 2023 USPC Convention was originally published in the Spring/Summer issue of Discover USPC magazine. Read more content from that issue.

Page generated in 0.954 seconds. Stats plugin by www.blog.ca