"WANTED: More Top Dressage Horses for Team USA" shouts the cover of the July/August issue of USDF Connection, the membership magazine for the United States Dressage Federation. Inside, the article paints a daunting picture of the challenges in developing USA horse-and-rider combinations with the quality and experience to win against the perennially victorious Europeans.
Yet California dressage fans take justifiable pride in the state of dressage here in the "golden state," home to Olympian, World Cup, and World Equestrian Games stars such as Steffen Peters, Guenter Seidel, Jan Ebeling, and Debbie McDonald (an honorary Californian), among others, as well as one of the dressage world's truly generous sponsors,
At the recent Golden State Dressage Show held at Murieta Equestrian Center near Sacramento, a number of encouraging trends in dressage showed California dressage right on course.
Melissa Mulchahey, who was recently appointed
to the USDF/USEF Pony Task Force, and her
German Riding Pony gelding Outrageous won High
Score Freestyle and High Score Pony, Adult Amateur,
at the Golden State Dressage Classic.
The Young and The Talented
At the Golden State CDI3* YJ U-25 (dressage-speak for FEI rules and high performance competition, including juniors, young riders, and Brentina Cup riders age 16-25) the depth of talent in the younger generation was impressive. Junior riders, under age 18, posted high scores, from Celsiana William's 69.000% in Thursday's Training Level Test 3 on her Weser-Ems pony Heart Throb to Ashlyn DeGroot's 77.600% in Sunday's FEI Young Horse Final for
6-year-olds, riding DG Bar Ranch's KWPN gelding
California has a rich history of winning Junior and Young Rider dressage teams at the annual NAJYRC (North American Junior/Young Rider Championships), where last year USDF Region 7 Junior and Young Rider teams brought home team silver. In Brentina Cup competition for Grand Prix riders age 16 to 25, Californian Brian Hafner and his Oldenburg gelding Lombardo LHF were last year's champions.
Daisy Mae, Show Manager Connie Davenport,
and Willie at the Pooch Parade, always a popular
feature of the Golden State Dressage Classic.
Photo ©Sheri Scott Photography.
What does it take to succeed at the top? Genay Vaughn, new to Brentina Cup competition this year and previously a member of multiple-medal-winning junior and young rider teams, as well as last year's USEF Dressage Seat Equitation Champion for ages 14-18, described the focus needed to succeed.
"I always put my riding first," Genay answered. "Sometimes that means missing the basketball games or the senior ball or going out with friends. You have to look out for the best interests of your horse and stay on top of what he needs, also. Every year, there are higher quality horses and better riders, and to be competitive you have to stay focused."
Susan Treabess earned the Golden State CPEDI3*
show's highest qualifying para-dressage score for
the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ next August in Normandy, France, with
Katie and Scott Hill's PRE stallion Kamiakin.
Photo ©Lindsay Y McCall.
Something for Everyone
Ponies, what could be cuter? Dressage ponies are relatively new to the USA, but they are catching on here for all the reasons they are so popular in Europe. Pony rider, breeder, and member of the new USEF Pony Task Force, Melissa Mulchahey explained.
"The Europeans' success is rooted in their pony culture. Children begin riding and competing on well-trained ponies appropriate to their size and strength, and later around age 16 move on to horses. They are great for smaller adults, as well," she said. Melissa's competitive success with her own ponies underscores her words. Her 72.667% with Outrageous in their
First Level Freestyle at Golden State gave them
the Custom Saddlery High Score Pony Award,
Ericka Reinig scored an impressive 80.000% with
Cindy Bankie's 4-year-old Hannoverian mare
Doma Delinda in the Materiale class at the Golden State Dressage Classic, putting into practice her philosophy
of starting young horses' competition experience
with breed shows and in materiale competition.
Photo ©Cindy Bankie.
Baroque Breeds in Dressage
With every year that passes, the number of baroque horses seen in dressage competition seems to increase. Is it a fad or a trend? Two northern California trainers provided some educated insight.
Allison Mathy, whose Lyric Dressage sponsored the IALHA High Percentage Award for IALHA-registered full- and part-breds, owns and breeds Lusitanos, and counts a variety of baroque breeds among her and her training clients' horses. "They are talented, trainable, rideable, and have wonderful temperaments," she says.
Christine Rivlin, who trains clients with warmbloods as well as baroque breeds, won the IALHA High Percentage Award at Golden State on 71.200% with Ann Heller's PRE gelding Coronado ECV in Training Level, Test 3. "I've competed for years on warmbloods," said Chris, "but some of my adult amateur clients now have baroque breeds, and riding and training them has shown me why they love them. They are perfect for a lot of riders."
Brian Hafner and Julie Young's 14-year-old Oldenburg gelding California Chablis won Intermediaire I with 69.342% in the first ride of the first day of Golden State, setting the stage for his 67.340 in the Grand Prix with Lombardo LHF, his 2012 Brentina Cup Champion.
Photo ©Sheri Scott Photography.
Para-Dressage Achievements and Inspiration
Barbara Grassmyer first put para-dressage on the map in California, and retired with her longtime partner Mibis from international competition at the Golden State CPEDI3*. Susan Treabess rode Katie and Scott Hill's PRE stallion Kamiakin to the CPEDI3* high score of 71.333% in the FEI Para-Equestrian Freestyle Grade IV. They and para-dressage riders from as
close as Elk Grove and as far away as Canada
earned qualifying scores for the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ next August in
Para-dressage riders are classified according to the level of their physical disability or impairment into Grades Ia, Ib, II, III, and IV, the equivalent of USDF Levels Intro through Third Level. In this FEI competition, they rode individual and team tests, as well as freestyles. Eavesdropping on spectators, it was clear that these riders won respect and appreciation along with their qualifying scores. "Inspiring" was the description most often heard.
Lindsay McCall, USPEA (United States Para-Equestrian Assn.) public relations manager, explained that FEI Para-Dressage is a high-performance sport at the elite level. "Para-dressage is growing in popularity, and it is very inclusive. There are many riders out there who don't even know that they could compete in para-dressage," she said. "There are a wide range of conditions among para riders, and we encourage anyone who is interested to contact USPEA to find out more." Visit www.uspea.org to explore the possibilities.
Barbara Grassmyer and her Dutch mare Mibis
officially retired from international para-dressage competition at the Golden State CPEDI3*
but still earned qualifying scores for the
2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™.
They plan to continue showing in USDF competition.
Photo ©Lindsay Y McCall.
From Babies to Grand Prix
One of the pleasures of following a sport for years, even decades, is watching young horses and riders grow into stars. But the work it takes to get there is a challenge. Ericka Reinig, who with her husband Kevin, operates KEFA Performance Horses in Elk Grove, has first-hand experience with the "babies to Grand
"Overall, we're seeing better and better quality horses," she noted, "but there's still room for improvement. American breeders are producing more and better horses, but many riders and trainers are still going to Europe to shop. It will take a long time to change that."
Ericka is a strong believer is starting young horses' competition careers at breed shows, where they can learn about showing without the added pressure of being ridden, and moving on to Materiale and Young Horse classes. "I think that programs such as the CDS Futurity, and its Cal-Bred Division, encourage owners and trainers to begin their horse's competition careers early and appropriately. The Markel/USEF Young Horse Championships and the Young Horse World Breeding Championships provide great goals for breeders and trainers to shoot for."
Ericka herself provided ample evidence of that at the Golden State Dressage Show, scoring 80.000% with Cindy Bankie's Hannoverian mare Doma Delinda in the Materiale class. "It's a great way to start
Genay Vaughn and her Hanoverian stallion Donarweiss have qualified for this year's Brentina Cup. "My riding, and my horse, always comes first," said Genay of the hours, and focus, that achievement required.
Photo ©Melissa Mulchahey.
Golden Future for Dressage
Most exciting for the long term health of dressage in California, these trends point to the ongoing development of a diverse and sustainable base for the sport of dressage, where any success must be (pardon the pun) grounded. Not that there aren't improvements to make, and challenges to overcome, but the future of dressage has a golden glow
For information about dressage, visit the website of the California Dressage Society,
www.california-dressage.org and the website
of the United States Dressage Federation,
www.usdf.org. For information about
Golden State Dressage Shows, visit www.goldenstatedressage.com. To learn more about para-dressage, visit www.usprea.org.