Our first inductee into the hall of fame is the late Fiona Baan, in recognition of her leadership in directing the USET Dressage Program for nearly 30 years. Known for her diplomacy and attention to detail, and the personal connection she made with every rider, Fiona helped guide the rise of the U.S. to international success. She served as Dressage Team Manager for the 1976 and 1992 Olympics, the 1986 and 1990 World Equestrian Games, the 1989, 1990, 1991, and the 1993 Olympic Festivals, and the 1985 and 1989 North American Dressage Championships. She was the organizer of the USET Festival of Champions in 1991 and 1992.
Fiona enjoyed one of her proudest moments at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona when the U.S. Dressage Team won the bronze medal after a 16-year drought in the sport. As team leader, she also led the USET to a bronze medal at the 1976 Olympics and a silver medal at the 1987 Pan American Games.
At the time of her passing, USET Chairman Emeritus, Bill Steinkraus, said: "What the team is today is in a way a memorial to her." According to six-time Olympian Robert Dover, "Fiona had to deal with all of us self-absorbed, supremely focused athletes, making each of us feel like we and our horses were the most important things in her life, and to a certain degree that was true. For all these years, the USET, and especially dressage, were not a job to Fiona, but most definitely her "raison d'etre." She is, and will always be, one of the greatest reasons for every bit of success I have ever achieved in my life."
A master of fitting 50 hours into a 24-hour day, Fiona took on the development of the young riders program with the same passion that she devoted to the USET Dressage Team. She arranged to bring world famous German dressage trainer, Conrad Schumacher, to the U.S. and turned him into a devotee for the development of U.S. Advanced Young Riders. She spent untold hours discussing and refining the dressage selection criteria so that they strived for the highest standards, while remaining fair to all young riders.
Fiona always knew who the Advanced Young Riders were. She knew them by name and by horse, and she knew their strengths and weaknesses. Always was the ever-present question: How can we help them develop, to be better to bring them along? Many of the advanced young riders were never even aware of this woman's tireless work towards making their dreams come true. Perhaps it was a result of her Scottish heritage, but Fiona was a link to a certain kind of past - her dignity, privacy, and high standards were a statement: "the pursuit of excellence." She often said and felt that this summed up the Advanced Young Riders Program. "The Pursuit of Excellence" is the legacy Fiona left to all advanced young riders and to everyone who ever knew or worked with her. To this end, the Fiona Baan "Pursuit of Excellence" Memorial Trophy was established in 1994, and has been presented to the young rider competing in the USDF/Platinum Performance North American Young Riders Championships who has received the highest combined average score in the FEI Young Rider Team, Individual and Freestyle tests. The trophy is on permanent display at the Roemer Foundation/ USDF Hall of Fame at the USDF National Educational Center at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington.
Fiona was also an accomplished AHSA and FEI "I" Judge, and served on the AHSA Dressage World Cup and Dressage Committees.
Fiona Baan had a remarkable career in the sport of dressage for almost three decades, leading the USET Dressage Program, and guiding and developing the Advanced Young Riders Program. I am honored to induct Fiona Baan into the Roemer Foundation/USDF Hall of Fame.
Samuel J. Barish