Gwen Ka'awaloa: 2017 Shannon Foundation Fund for Judges' Licensing Recipient

When you plan your judging journey from ‘r’ to ‘R’, you soon find out the time and financial commitments that must be made to be successful. Thanks to The Dressage Foundation's grant from the Shannon Foundation Fund for Judges' Licensing, I was able to complete my journey in testing for my ‘R’ upgrade.

The program is time-intensive, requiring dedication and commitment from both candidates and those in the program who provide the training. It also requires a financial commitment for travel, lodging and materials. As a competitor, trainer, ‘r’ judge and working in the emergency health care field, it’s important to carve out both time and finances to meet goals, and the ‘R’ was my goal.

The training program includes classroom sessions and observing demo riders and actual tests at shows. The person who runs the program, Michele Ng, organized mine and worked hard to provide for the students, including scribes when necessary.

 Training and classroom isn’t enough to make a judge. Us candidates also learned from experienced judges through apprentice time and sit time. Fortunately, group apprenticing is available. Group apprenticing is when a judge is hired by a group of candidates and spends quite a bit of time explaining and reviewing. This can be difficult in terms of time and money. Expenses include flights, hotels and rental cars. Scribes can be hired but some of us prefer to take a friend along for consistency. Of course this adds to the cost of each session.

The final exam and testing is a test of commitment, knowledge, skill and finances as well, especially at the end of a year of apprenticing. I took a good friend, client and ‘L’ graduate Michelle Anderson, to my final as a scribe, and as someone to ground me through the process, which can be stressful. Michelle served as my training scribe and through two apprentice sessions. I had saved for this entire journey but of course I was on a tight budget.

I have never applied for a personal grant from The Dressage Foundation and was quite excited to see that one had become available for judges like me. So I sat down and spent several hours drafting my application based on the TDF template provided. I have a science background, so writing term papers is easy, but this type of application is difficult for me. It’s not easy to put into words that properly express my reasons for seeking this grant. So I put together a rough draft then went to my friend Michelle for literary help. With some discussion and reformatting, an application was completed and submitted. A detailed financial sheet of my anticipated final exam costs was also included.

Since I was well into my group apprenticing in early May, I must admit I had nearly forgotten about the application. To my surprise, I received the email announcing my award. A huge weight was lifted as the award would easily cover the expenses for my final testing. I am very grateful that TDF's Shannon Foundation Fund selection committee thought I was a worthy recipient for this new grant.

In September, I completed the final exam along with my fellow candidates. Katy Barglow also received a TDF grant and we were happy to complete the journey together. As I wait for the next few months to find out how I did in the test, and if I am awarded the judging upgrade for Dressage from ‘r’ to ‘R’, I know that I gave all my time to studying the USEF Rulebook and working on my skills in Sit Time and Apprenticeship. The financial help took away one part of this puzzle and allowed me to concentrate on learning to be a competent judge at a higher level.

I am truly thankful to the donors for this grant. Your recognition of the financial burden that candidate judges must take to become competent thru travel to other Regions is much appreciated. The time I spent on my application was worth every minute.

Aloha, Gwen Ka'awaloa