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VADA State Year-End Awards Overview
and Requirements


Virginia Dressage Association
Year-End Awards Program
Competition Year: 1 December - 30 November
Rider must be current 2024 VADA Chapter Member.

The Virginia Dressage Association recognizes rider and horse achievements (schooling and licensed), In-Hand/Dressage Sport Horse Breeding (DSHB), volunteers for their hard work throughout the year at a Chapter and State level, "Trainer of the Year", "The High Score Adult Amateur Award" and "Breed in Virginia" which goes to the rider, not breeder or owner. Other VADA Awards include the "Chapter Volunteer of the Year Award", "Chapter President's Award", and "Chapter Newsletter Editor's Award".

Applicants complete the online form (link below) and attach all supporting documents to Application and supporting documents must be submitted electronically to Joanne Collins, VADA Year-End Awards.  The deadline for Year-End Awards submission is 1 December 2024.  Riders will receive notification of the receipt of the award package.  A preliminary listing of rider award standings will be posted around mid December for review on the VADA website page "Year-End Award Recipients and Selection".  The final rider award recipient results will be posted no later than 19 December 2024.

For VADA Year-End Awards:

  • A rider does not have to do multiple days of volunteer time to submit for awards with multiple horses

  • Volunteer time CAN be completed by either rider or another member.

General Requirements
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Schooling Shows
Licensed  Shows
Sport Horse Breeding Class
Special Awards
Applicant Packet Submission

Shel Gafford Memorial Award
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Shel Gafford Memorial Award for "EXCELLENCE IN SPORTSMANSHIP" 

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Travel back 40 years...

In 1983 Shelton Gafford and Why Jump enjoyed a victory gallop at the American Continental Young Riders’ Championship in South Hamilton, Mass., after winning individual gold and team silver in dressage for Region 1. Cappy Jackson Photo

Reprinted from the Chronicle of the Horse

For anyone not fortunate enough to have known Shel, he was not only a gifted horseman and successful competitor but also a truly good sport and dedicated advocate to VADA. Shel was a seasoned competitor, having won the Gold and Silver Individual Medals in his last two years as a Young Rider at the NAYRC. He always rode to win, but never at the expense of his horse or another rider. Rather than “psyching” his fellow competitors, Shel was more likely to offer a helping hand or wish them luck. Furthermore, Shel was a tireless supporter of VADA. He served as President during some of our Association’s most difficult and trying times. It is largely due to his diplomacy and tenacity that VADA exists as it does today.

It is this spirit of unselfish good sportsmanship and generous volunteerism, which were so much a part of Shel’s nature, that VADA wishes to encourage and reward. If you are aware of a VADA member who is: 

  • Actively involved in any aspect of competition and/or VADA activities (e.g. rider, owner, trainer, coach, show mom/dad, spouse, offspring, VADA Board Member, VADA volunteer);

  • Who consistently exhibits the characteristics of good sportsmanship and unselfish support of VADA and,

  • Has not received the Shel Gafford award within the past 10 years.

Nominations should include the following:

  • Nominee's name and Chapter affiliation

  • Nominator's name 

  • Brief statement (200 words or less) explaining why nominee is deserving of this award.

The slate of nominations will be sent to the President of each Chapter. Chapters MUST report their selections to Laura Nelson at The recipient will be notified that he/she will receive an award at the VADA banquet. The recipient will receive a special award and a check for $250.00. 

1995 - Debbie Bowman and Bettina Longaker (CH)
1996 - Ann Edwards (SVDA)
1997 - Nancy Lowey (CH)
1998 - Catherine Sutton (CH)
1999 - Molly Layfield (Cent)
2000 - Marilyn Leonard (SVDA) 
2001 - Alison Head (Nova)
2002 - No Nominations
2003 - No Nominations
2004 - Barbara Ellis (FR)
2005 - Jessie Ginsburg (Nova) 
2006 - Peggy Minnich (FR)
2007 - Janice Mumford (SVDA)
2008 - Robin Dannels (Nova)
2009 - No Nominations
2010 - Sharon Ackley (FR) and Gardy Bloemers (CH)
2011 - Candy Allen (Nova)
2012 - Debbie Marriott (Nova)
2013 - Nicky Vogel (FR)
2014 - Alison Douglas (Cent)
2015 - Barbara Wiefelstede (Cent)
2916 - Robyn Nunnally (SVDA)
2017 - Sherri Booye (CH) and Beth Rippel (SVDA)
2018 - Michelle King (NOVA)
2019 - Bettina Longaker (CH)
2020 - Melyni Worth (CH)
2021 - Nancy Doody (CH)
2022 - Laura Nelson (SWVADA)
2023 - Heather Escobar
2024 - 
Award Recipients
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