Meet Your Board, Part 3
By Sandra Adair

This is the third installment in a series of articles whose purpose is to better acquaint you membership with the people on the HDS Board. If you have missed Part 1 or 2 and you’d like to learn more about Nancy Kempe, Martha Guyton, Ann Edwards, or Jeanette Snow, you may find the articles on my website, under News/Articles. This month you’ll have a chance to get to know your past President, Marilyn Kulifay on a more personal level.

Marilyn got hooked on horses when she was 8, when a little Shetland pony named Beauty captured her heart. She rode like we do as children, bareback, with wild abandon. High school and college studies put riding horses on the back burner for a time. After Diamond Shamrock transferred her from her hometown in Ohio to Houston in the late 70's, she attended law school at night and became a lawyer. In 1994, Marilyn got back to her passion, and took her very first lesson in English riding and jumping. She began basic dressage at Herman Park on a fresh off the track, 3-year-old Thoroughbred named Hero. Several months later she bought Hero, recalling that he was “quite spooky but very kind to me.” She began pursuing dressage in earnest and became a serious student of the sport, soaking up everything she could from area trainers and the various clinicians that came to Houston. She bought her current FEI partner, Bacchus, an 18-year-old Thoroughbred schoolmaster, on whom she won her Bronze Medal. Together they became HDS’s Third Level Amateur Champions, and then went on to achieve the same at Fourth Level. She also tried her hand at Breed Shows this year with her recently purchased Zippin Jack Flash, a 5-year-old Paint stallion and “a true gentleman,” who was named the Reserve Champion at the USDF Sport Horse 2005 Finals. Marilyn moved to Tex-Over this summer to train with Paul Kathen, and will be quite busy next year, showing Jack at Training Level, Bacchus at Prix St. Georges, and bringing her old friend Hero back to the show ring at Second Level, after his “Marilyn has no time to ride” vacation!

Marilyn joined HDS about 10 years ago and since then has served on the Board as Treasurer, Historian, President, and this year as Past President. Her goal from the beginning, and what she considers her greatest accomplishment, was to help the HDS Board build a financially solid and secure organization that has the resources to operate and be recognized on a national level. I asked her what her plans were now that her final term with the Board is over. As she became an “r” judge this year, she would like to judge more shows, she will continue to volunteer at the local, regional and national levels and to encourage others to do so, and last, but certainly not least, she plans to ride!!

Marilyn’s response to the Member Survey: “Almost 50 out of 500 HDS members took the time to respond to the membership survey. While I have not reviewed each individual survey, I have read the summary result.

I wish that more juniors and young riders had responded to the survey. They are the future of our sport, and I would very much like their input to be considered by the HDS Board. Although 15% of the HDS membership is juniors and young riders, they are the wellspring from which our future talent and growth in the sport will come. We must, as an organization, nourish our future and that of dressage.

In 2003, HDS started a tradition of funding juniors and young riders through the HDS to Region 9 GMO Challenge. HDS matches funds (up to a certain amount) that other GMO organizations contribute to the USDF Region 9 FEI Junior/Young Riders Program. We also directly fund a contribution to the USDF Region 9 FEI Junior/Young Riders for their riding demonstrations and presentations at the HDS Junior/Young Rider Championships. HDS pioneered that event so that our local juniors and young riders could have a championship in the Houston area.

To be able to initiate and develop programs such as these, HDS has to have money. When I first came on the Board, HDS had approximately $10,000 in the bank. It seemed as though every major project could bankrupt us.

We have come a long way from those days. While having over $100,000 in the bank may seem like a substantial amount, in fact, it is not. While bidding on nationally recognized USEF competitions, it came to our attention that one show under consideration had a budgetary requirement of $300,000, an amount far beyond our reach. We were able to bid on the USEF Young Horse Championships, a nationally prestigious event, because we were in a financially solid position that enabled us to receive serious consideration. HDS also considered establishing a dedicated dressage stadium and arenas so that HDS would have provided additional dedicated arenas for our shows. Although that project did not work out, without money in the bank, we could not even have considered the possibility.

Most of HDS’ income in the past couple of years has been from horse shows. Although HDS generally breaks even on the show itself, it makes money from advertising, vendors and sponsorships. HDS has also been able to negotiate favorable deals to decrease our expenses as an organization. This has kept our membership dues at a reasonable $40 per year, rather than the $50-$60 charged by other organizations. And none of this would be possible without the time and effort of the volunteers that support and staff our shows.
HDS has also had many educational clinics, seminars and lectures, with varying attendance. Some were very well attended, and some not. Some were free, some had minimal cost and some were more expensive. Cost did not appear to be a deciding factor in whether members would attend or audit a clinic, lecture or seminar. Some of the events that were free had fewer attendees than ones with higher fees.

Finally, the members of HDS should not have to live on a shoestring because their organization is not financially solid. The HDS Board of Directors has taken seriously their task of operating an organization that was solid and secure. An organization cannot have lofty goals and aspirations if it is living hand-to-mouth. In the past, we could not have considered the projects we have accomplished, because we did not have the money to do them and could not take the financial risk. Only by maintaining our financial strength and dedicated core of volunteers can HDS’ Board ensure the future success of HDS.” You may send your comments and suggestions to Marilyn at


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