It was a day of firsts as new faces earned CDI victories in front of an enthusiastic and sold-out VIP crowd on the second day of competition, Sun., March 23, at California Dreaming Productions' Capistrano Dressage International CDI-W/Y/J/U-25 (presented by Hof Kasselmann) at the Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park in San Juan Capistrano. (The final day of competition, Mon. March 24, was unfolding as California Riding Magazine went to press.)
While diners savored a luxurious brunch and looked on from ringside seating, a promising field of horses and riders contested the challenging Grand Prix Special test. As the final rider to enter the Olympic Arena, Michelle Reilly saved the best for last as she earned her very first CDI win aboard Sharon Roberts' 13-year-old gray Dutch Warmblood gelding Umeeko (Goodlord x Otilinda by Jacorde), earning 68.647% and the unanimous victory under all five judges. The panel was impressed with Reilly's poise and Umeeko's obvious charisma. "We saw a lovely frame and contact, and a horse which was in real harmony with his rider," noted Lorraine Macdonald (4* CAN). "This was exactly what I think of as a 'happy athlete'."
"I'm so thrilled, I was really excited to have such a clean test," said Reilly, who has brought Umeeko along since he was 7, including a nearly two-year break from the show ring while Reilly was pregnant with her now 11-month-old son. "He was really relaxed in the warm-up, but then I picked him up and he was ready to go. He tries so hard and has such heart, and we only hope to get stronger and better from here. It's been a long journey with him but it's proved to be worth the wait." Finishing second in the Grand Prix Special with 65.608% was Lientje Schueler riding the 15-year-old brown Oldenburg gelding Mike Tyson L (Michellino x Tango by Flamingo) for owner Pinky Roberts.
For the duration of the afternoon, competition was fierce among what live-stream video commentator Axel Steiner (5* USA, ret) described as "one of the best small tour fields in the country." Despite her young age of 7 and international debut at this level, Rosamunde rose to the challenge in the expert hands of Steffen Peters to earn her first CDI Intermediaire I victory on an impressive score of 74.518%. "I had a lot of horse underneath me today, and this is all very new for her," Peters said of Four Winds Farm's Rheinlander mare (Rock Forever x First Lady by Fidermark). "But everything's clicked a little more over the last few weeks, especially her two-tempis, so I felt she was ready. I didn't expect her to go through the test so cleanly but she felt very confident in the movements. She's so special and I can't help but be extremely excited about her future."
Peters was also delighted when his assistant trainer, Dawn White-O'Connor, improved off of a sixth-place finish in Saturday's Prix St. Georges to place second today with a score of 70.614% aboard the 9-year-old Dutch Warmblood Aristo (Olivi x Selina by Krack C). After Peters piloted Aristo to CDI small tour wins in Burbank last month, the decision was made to hand over the gelding's reins to White-O'Connor with the support of owner Carla Hayes. "It all happened very fast," said Peters. "I'm very proud of her, and would love to see them qualify for the Festival of Champions in June." Even though she was riding in her first CDI competition since competing in the FEI Junior division in 2006, White-O'Connor did not let the pressure of competition bother her, and clearly enjoyed the new partnership with Aristo. "I can't believe I did so well, because there were so many really good horses and riders in the class," she said. "But my horse felt great in the ring, and I felt like I had a little more energy to work with than yesterday."
Veteran FEI Junior and Young Rider competitor Mackinzie Pooley continued her success in the CDI Under-25 division aboard the 17-year-old Dutch gelding Partous (Juventus x Ladyway by Hemingway), earning the win in the Intermediate B test with 67.063%. Anna Buffini has proven to be unbeatable so far this year in the CDI Young Rider tests, earning a personal best score of 73.237% in the Individual Test with her impressive 15-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding Sundayboy (Kennedy x Eezelma by Zevenaar). Finishing second was Cassidy Gallman aboard Joan Cvengros' Hanoverian gelding Grand Makana (by Goodman) with 64.605%. Emily Park rebounded from a second-place finish in yesterday's Junior Team Test to earn 65.526% and a narrow victory today with Pretty Lady (Dutch mare Iglesias x Ivonne by Sit This One Out, owned by Tracy Roenick) over Hannah Beaulieu of Canada riding Nancy Olson's 14-year-old Rheinlander gelding Pharoah (Fidermark x Winzerin by Worldchamp) with 65.263%.
Show report provided by Yellow Horse Marketing for California Dreaming Productions. Complete results are available on the
California Dreaming Productions website,