April 2016 - The Gallop: Our Stars
Written by Kim F. Miller
Thursday, 31 March 2016 02:23
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West Coast dressage pipeline continues to pump out a steady supply of talented riders.

by Kim F. Miller

The West Coast pipeline for developing talented young dressage riders is working rather nicely. Riders from our area have dominated the North American Junior Young Rider Championship for much of the past decade and the majority of them have continued on in the sport.

As longtime newsletter editor for the California Dressage Society, Paula Langan has seen CDS programs launch many impressive career starts. “Almost 30 years ago Trip Harting and Mary Schrader created and produced a North and South Championship, which in turn created a pipeline to what is now the NAJYRC,” she explains.

“These Junior/Young Rider championships hosted over 100 young riders each year. If you look at all the medal teams from Young Riders, you will find that almost all of them came up through the CDS Junior Championship Program.” Most of those shining on the U25 circuit also came up through the CDS system, she adds. And some are successfully venturing onto the open Grand Prix scene with realistic international aspirations.

Whether they are racking up impressive scores or readying for the next step at home, West Coast up-and-comers are representing our region very well and indicating good things for the future, on the local, national and international levels.

Herewith, we get updates and observations from four of our region’s many young stars.

Catherine Chamberlain

Catherine Rose Chamberlain

It’s been a rollercoaster few months for this many-time NAJYRC medalist (for Region 7 and her native Region 5) whose final outing last summer resulted in individual silver and team gold. In December, her own horse Verdicci coliced and had to be put down. He was going to be her partner in Brentina Cup competition (Young Adult-U25), but more importantly, “he was my best friend.”

In February, Catherine rode Kim Pribble’s Avesto van Weltevreden in her first CDI and won the Intermediate I with a 69.4%.

And Catherine is stepping up her efforts to develop her own clientele with Bonne Chance Dressage. She’ll continue to be located at David Wightman and Kathleen Raine’s Adventure Farms in Chino Hills, where she has been a working student for several years since moving from Arizona. She credits the couple with contributing greatly to her successes and development as a horsewoman and will continue to work with them in her own riding.

Of the transition to the Open division, Catherine echoes the comments of others making similar moves. “I have two different feelings. First, there’s almost less pressure. In Young Riders, it was expected to do well. In the Open, it takes a while to get going against trainers who have been doing it for 20 more years, so there’s less pressure.

“It’s a big step,” she continues. “Mentally it’s a bit of a balancing act. You are competing against these people who you’ve looked up to for years and who you want to emulate as a rider, yet you have to build your confidence that you can ride against them. You have to ride like you know how to ride. For a few years, I’ve been working on competing the same way I ride at home, remembering that every ring is the same size and focusing on getting into that rhythm. I remember that I can’t control the results, only the quality of what I put into the ring.”

Becoming a professional trainer is something “I’ve dreamed of my whole life,” Catherine says. “The experience and opportunities I’ve had with David and Kathleen have taught me so much and I feel like I have something to contribute to a horse and a rider’s education.”

The horses Catherine will start with under her own training banner reflect her openness to various abilities. With Avesto van Weltevreden, she will continue their quest for a spot in the Festival of Champions this fall. At the other end of the spectrum, she’s developing a Thoroughbred rescue named Sunny, who did very well at Training and First Level shows earlier this year. “Dressage is great therapy and I love how it brings out the best in any horse.” As far as students, “I’ll take anyone who loves horses and has a passion for the sport.”

Building up her own business and moving to the Open division are easy transitions compared to adjusting to life without Verdicci, who Catherine owned and brought along since he was 3 and she was 12. “To be honest, I am still processing it,” she says. “He was an amazing competition horse, but the biggest loss in my mind is the friendship.” Her business, Bonne Chance Dressage, is named in his honor.

In that, and in her competitive goals and building up her business, Catherine is taking it one step at a time. “I’m open to any opportunities and I look forward to working hard and making my living in this sport.”

Ari Lopez

Ari Lopez

Having aged out of the U-25 division last year, Ari set the goal of riding in her first CDI Grand Prix during the Del Mar National this month. As with every level of competition so far, Ari and Corlander II (Armani) will cross this threshold together, subjecting themselves to the higher level of competition and judging standards they’ll find in the international division.

Ari imported Armani when he was 3 and intended him to be an eventer. That was her original discipline and she pursued it successfully under Heidi Riddle, who trains eventing and dressage. Turned out Armani didn’t like eventing so much, so she switched to jumpers, then eventually to dressage only.

In rising to Open Grand Prix level by 2012, “he’s already far surpassed what I expected of him.” Ari hopes that she and Armani can exceed a few more expectations before the 15-year-old peaks. Toward that end, their focus this year is gaining confidence on the Big Tour. If a European opportunity arises from that, great, but Ari also gets a thrill developing several high quality young horses coming along in Christiane Noetling’s Dressage Center in Vacaville, where she works.

She juggles riding with earning an accounting degree at Sacramento State. An honors student, Ari is set to graduate in 2017 and is currently debating whether to pursue horses or accounting as her profession.

Ari pinpoints the USDF Region 7 clinics as particularly helpful in her development. These included “pipeline” clinics with the likes of Jeremy Steinberg, Debbie McDonald and Robert Dover. Sending coaches throughout the country creates a great opportunity for all young riders selected to participate and especially for those like Ari who were not competing all over the country.  “They could see that I was a good rider and they knew that I had trained my horse myself,” she notes. “Being able to take lessons from them while at shows was a great opportunity because not everybody can afford to go work with them.”

Anna Buffini. Photo: Terri Miller

Anna Buffini

Transitioning to Open competition “is a little daunting for sure,” Anna acknowledges. But results this year indicate otherwise for this talented, San Diego-based rider. At her first Open Grand Prix, at the Mid-Winter Dressage Fair in February, she and her seasoned mount Sundayboy were first in the Grand Prix Special and second in the Grand Prix, with scores of 69.88 and 65.78 respectively. At the Los Angeles Dressage Winter show a month earlier, she and her younger horse, Wilton II, won the Under-25 Grand Prix and her “baby,” 9 year old Roosevelt, scored very well at Fourth Level.

With Sundayboy, Anna is aiming to qualify for the US. Festival of Champions, to be held Nov. 3-6 at Epona Farms in Thousand Oaks. With Wilton, she’s targeting the USEF Young Adult Brentina Cup, to be held during the portion of the Festival of Champions set for Illinois in August.

“I’m now competing against riders who have been riding longer than I’ve been alive,” says the 22-year-old. She trains with one of those veteran pros, Guenter Seidel, after being brought to this level by longtime trainer Sandy Burns Gardner with help from Guenter.

“It’s intimidating, but you just have to go back to your training and realize that I’ve worked hard,” she says. “I may not be as experienced as everybody else, but because of the training we’ve put in, we can hang with these guys.

“In a funny way it gives you more confidence,” she continues. “You have to have it because otherwise you are going to get swallowed up just by looking around and seeing who you are riding against.”

Anna’s early year successes have been icing on the cake to a season plan of “putting in solid tests” and letting the scores fall where they may. Debuting so strongly at Open Grand Prix is a result of careful development over the years, says Anna, who gives Sandy Burns Gardner much appreciation for that. From Anna’s first pony to her USEF National Young Riders Championship in 2014 and beyond, she’s followed a methodical path. “Sandy really set things up so that I would go from level to level.

“I was never swallowed up or in over my head,” she continues. “When I did finally do Open Grand Prix, I felt ready for it.”

Another big transition for Anna this year was deciding to sell Roosevelt, a horse she has owned since he was born. Bringing him along has been a big part of her education. “Learning the ins and outs with a young horse has helped me with my established horses because you have to go back to the basics,” she explains. Knowing how a flying change, for example, is put together and the mechanics of it gives her the tools to tweak or fix that movement in another horse. “At first it was very hard to say, officially, I’m selling this horse,” Anna says. “But I’m learning to step back emotionally.”

As for longer-term plans, Anna admits to having a touch of tunnel vision, but she will venture as far out as next year. Sundayboy is 17 and if he remains healthy and comfortable at Grand Prix, she hopes to continue there with him.

If a World Cup Finals run or European tour pans out, all the better. With Wilton, she hopes the U25 track might take her to Europe, too. “I would love to be compared to those riders and get that experience.”

Genay Vaughn & Donnarweiss GGF as a demonstration pair in the CDS Symposium. Photo: Kim F. Miller

Genay Vaughn

Opportunities to clinic with top riders may be the most impactful contribution of the many elements that have gone into to Genay’s success. Most recently, that included being a demonstration rider in the CDS’s Evaluating Sporthorse Form and Function Symposium with top judge Kristi Wysocki. Robert Dover, Debbie McDonald, Lendon Gray, David Wightman and George Williams are just a few of the many other clinicians who have influenced her.

“Every person you get a chance to ride with gives you something different to take away.”

She is grateful to the CDS Young Rider Program coordinators over the years. Growing up in a region with plentiful and hotly contested competition for spots on Region 7 teams for the North American Junior and Young  Championships has helped make everybody better.

Genay now has considerable Open Grand Prix mileage with Donarweiss GGF and she’s especially grateful for the return of CDI competition to the West Coast circuit. At her stage, “The CDIs really help us in the long run because it gives us a sense of how we’ll do against international riders.”

Immediate plans start with hopefully returning to Europe, where she toured last summer as part of the USEF Developing Dressage program. If that opportunity doesn’t emerge, she’ll target the Brentina Cup Championships.

She also looks forward to campaigning several of her family’s young horses and continuing with homebred Winchezter, an 8-year-old, who she’s brought along entirely on her own. Finding sponsorship for another young horse is another goal, too.

All the while, Genay is a senior at UC Davis with plans to graduate next fall. She know she wants to ride “forever” and compete at the highest level possible, but is still debating whether to make a career with horses or continue in the sport as an amateur.

Additional Region 7 NAJYRC-ers Making Their Mark in the Sport.

Jaime Pestana
Amanda Harlan
Kasey Perry
Maya Dalla Valle
Shelby Rocereto
Cassidy Gallman
Lindsey Brewin
Jaclyn Pepper
Ariel Thomas
Teresa Adams

The Gallop welcomes news, tips and photos. Contact Kim F. Miller at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or 949-644-2165.