CDS president Kevin Reinig and his wife and training partner Ericka Reinig, pictured wtih Devra, an 8-year-old Hanoverian mare by Domiro and out of D'Lilah (by Diamont). Owned by Carole Webb, the mare is wearing her 2013 Region 7 Mature Mare Championship ribbon. Photo: McCool
The dog days of summer are a lazy time for some, but California Dressage Society members are busy, busy, busy. This is the last month to qualify for the annual CDS Championship Show, Sept. 25-28 in Los Angeles. The Junior Rider Championships are set for Aug. 22-24 in Sacramento, with the Southern counterpart on Sept. 12-14 in Del Mar. And there's two stagings of the popular new Regional Adult Amateur Competitions, Aug. 9-10 in San Diego and Aug. 23-24 in Paso Robles.
With 3,400 members and 33 chapters, CDS is second only to the United States Dressage Federation as our country's biggest dressage association. Its mission is education about dressage and promotion of the sport, and by all accounts, CDS is doing a great job. California Riding Magazine editor Kim F. Miller checked in with CDS president Kevin Reinig to get his take on how things are going.
Kevin and his wife Ericka operate KEFA Performance Horses at the Starr Vaughn Equestrian Center in the Sacramento area's Elk Grove. Both spent several years working for U.S. sporthorse breeding pioneers Glenwood Farms and breeding-related services are the emphasis of their full-service training and sales barn today. Starting young horses under saddle, preparing them for breed shows and performance tests are their stock in trade. They also work with a clientele of amateur riders.
Kim: How did you come to be president of CDS?
Kevin: This is my fourth year on the board and my second as president. When they approached me about being president, I was a little surprised because I'm more involved in the breeding aspect of the sport. I don't ride anymore. But they said they definitely wanted me, I think in part because of my background in finance and budgeting.
I'm really enjoying it. It's a great board that's a mix of those who've been involved with CDS since the early days and first timers. Everyone is very enthusiastic and we represent a wide range of member interests. CDS is no different than any other organization: you get out of it what you put into it.
Kim: With several under-30 riders doing so well at the National Grand Prix Championships this past June, there's a lot of talk about juniors and young riders in dressage. Where do these demographics fit in CDS' priorities?
Kevin: We are always trying to draw in more juniors. We are expanding our programs for them and finding more ways to make it fun and interesting. We definitely feel that juniors are the future of the sport.
Kim: What programs reflect this?
Kevin: Our Junior clinics are now in their third year and have just been upgraded to a two-day format. These are modeled on our Adult clinics, which started in the 90s. Chapters select the participants and the clinic includes riding time, informal lectures and question and answer sessions. The riders can really interact with the clinician. Late last month, the clinician in the south was Liz Hendrix and in the north it will be David Wightman.
We're always looking to improve our Junior Championship shows. For the Northern Championships, we have several extra curricular activities. We brought in a deejay for a dance, had a trivia contest and a horse-related movie out on the lawn. During the dance, I noticed that a lot of kids were doing parts of their tests on foot in the arena, which I thought was fun!
There have been people working long before us to make these shows special and we are continuing that.
As we do with programs for adults and professionals, we always support and promote USDF and USEF programs targeted for juniors and young riders.
Kim: Do you have any personal priorities for the sport?
Kevin: I do try to help everybody remember that we are supposed to be enjoying this sport. Yes, it's competitive, but we all need to keep in mind that the majority of the sport is amateurs doing this for recreation. We want to maintain our competitive edge, while also putting fun back into it.
Kim: How is the sport doing in terms of numbers of participants? Kevin: As the economy has been showing signs of life, I think the amateur level has been picking up the last couple of years. The numbers coming out for our educational events, regular shows and the Championships have been picking up.
Our Regional Adult Amateur Competitions, "RAACs," are new and have become tremendously popular. We did our first one in Northern California, at Woodside in early July, and the turn-out was amazing.
RAAC classes are offered at Open shows, either a Chapter show or a commercially-run show, where you earn qualifying scores for a regional competition. The idea is to provide the feel of a championship show, but without so much pressure. The rules are different. Your trainer can school your horse, you can have your test read aloud and you can carry a whip, for example.
It's meant to be a springboard to go onto the Championship show and it's working out that way. We've had people who didn't feel ready to go to the Championships do well in the RAAC, then go on and win at the Championships. The RAAC has two divisions: one for those who have competed at the Championships and one for those who haven't.
Kim: To what extent does CDS get involved with the international competitions in Region 7?
Kevin: We support the CDIs in whatever way we can -- financially or with volunteers, etc. CDS' mission is education, not competition, but we view shows as part of that educational mission.
We are so lucky in California, where a good portion of our Olympic riders are based. For amateurs to have access to the shows where they are competing and qualifying for international competition is something I love about CDIs. In what other sport do you have access to that level of competitors? Where you are not just watching them, but may find yourself in the warm-up ring riding along side them? How often is your favorite basketball player going to be working out at your local gym? It helps that our riders, like Steffen Peters and others, are so gracious toward everybody.
Plus, people get excited when there is that high level of competition. It's great for the sport.
Kim: Is there a chance to cross-pollinate interest between the disciplines?
Kevin: We do get a lot of eventers at our dressage shows and I always welcome the chance to talk with them and pick up any ideas. There are also a few shows – three in San Juan Capistrano – where dressage and hunter/jumper events are held simultaneously. I've worked as a ring steward at some of those and I'm always interested in how many hunter/jumpers come over to watch the dressage and vice versa, especially for the Grands Prix.
I loved something I saw in Florida. It was a charity event featuring a class where dressage riders did a jumping course and jumpers rode a dressage test. It was exciting to watch and the riders and the crowd really got into it.
All of us on the board encourage and receive ideas about improving and promoting the sport on a regular basis. Like any volunteer organization, we do have limits in terms of resources and manpower, but we want to follow up on everything we can and we welcome help!
A Short History of CDS
The California Dressage Society was formed in 1967, five years before the United States Dressage Federation came into existence. Educational activities began in 1968 and included a study session comparing the thoughts of Wilhelm Museler, Alois Podhajsky, Waldamar Seunig and Henry Wynmalen on gaits. Another first-year think tank focused on young horse training methods in which participants were asked to read Podhajsky's Complete Training of Horse and Rider.
Under first CDS president Susan Davidge, January 1968 began with 18 paid CDS members. Interest in dressage exploded in the 1970s, and CDS' membership reached 1500 by the end of the decade. The USDF's arrival in 1972 and founding member Hilda Gurney and Keen's contribution to 1976 Olympic team bronze were among the milestones for the decade, as was the creation of the Championship show.
The 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles dominated that decade. Hilda and Keen were return contenders and CDS volunteers were key to the running of equestrian events under Pat Kinnaman's organization. The 1980s ended with approximately 2,000 CDS members, 140-plus recognized dressage competitions in the state and, in 1989, the debut of the Junior Championship Show.
The 1995 staging of the Dressage World Cup Finals in Los Angeles was part of another era of growth in the sport -- locally, nationally and internationally. Member Kathleen Raine and Avontuur were the U.S. representatives in the Finals, where they finished eighth in front of stands filled with enthused CDS members.
Kathleen was one of many CDS members to make their mark on the international dressage scene and that trend continues unabated with Olympians Steffen Peters, Guenter Seidel, Jan Ebeling, Sue Blinks, etc. making their base in the Golden State. Stellar performances of our area's riders at the North American Junior Young Rider Championships are another trend established in the 90s and going strong today, most recently with a repeat gold for Region 7's Young Riders team.