Plenty of things weren’t going Ann Romney’s way as she prepared for the Intermediate 2 Adult Amateur Championship class on the second day of competition at the 49th Annual California Dressage Society (CDS) Annual Championship Show and GAIG/United States Dressage Federation (USDF) Region 7 Championships in Burbank. She had drawn the very first ride time of the day to canter down centerline. She was riding a horse who strongly dislikes indoor arenas, and hadn’t had an opportunity to school in the Equidome prior to her test. And then there was the baby stroller.
“I certainly didn’t love being first in the ring, and then during the test there were plenty of distractions including a baby stroller which happened to be going back and forth on the walkway, so every time we came across the diagonal we made a mistake. But what can you do? You have to make the best of it,” she explained. And that’s exactly what Romney of Moorpark, Cal. (Los Angeles Chapter) did in guiding her Hanoverian gelding Donatello to victory with 62.171%. “He’s such a good boy and I just love him, but he’s also big and can be very strong in the canter,” Romney said of her mount. “I think the best part about today is the fact that despite everything he was still trusting me, coming back and listening to me. Those are the types of small achievements that people don’t necessarily see or realize how hard the road may have been with a horse, but they’re the most meaningful because you know. You just keep chipping away at it to make progress, and you have to love the journey because that’s what matters. It certainly wasn’t the best score we’ve gotten this year, but it was enough today and I’m so pleased.” Romney’s trainer and coach Jan Ebeling of Moorpark (Los Angeles Chapter) also had a winning ride aboard Amy Ebeling’s Hanoverian stallion Breitan in the Great American/USDF Intermediate 2 Open Championship (69.408%).
It took quite a bit of courage for Missy Gilliland of Glendale, Ariz. to take the ride on Diane DeBenedetto’s young Hanoverian gelding Windermere DDB. But her bravery, and newfound faith in her mount, all paid off with a victory in the GAIG/USDF Region 7 Open Training Level Championship on a score of 73.295%. “We’ve only had him for about a year after he had been turned out to pasture for two years because he’d thrown his rider. When we first got him you couldn’t walk him out of the crossties saddled without him being a bucking bronco,” Gilliland explained. “So obviously I’m so proud of how far he’s come. For our ride today, he was with me and just the right amount of ‘up’, so it felt great. He’s just now figuring out his job and he’s a horse that needs a lot of confidence, but once he knows what he’s supposed to do he’s with you every step of the way.” In the Adult Amateur division, Kasey Cannon of Moorpark (Los Angeles Chapter) rode her impressive five-year-old Hanoverian stallion Diesel to victory with a score of 70.114%. Even though the pair have only been together since May, they have also developed a special partnership which paid off in the ring, and it’s the type of relationship Cannon didn’t think she’d ever have again. “I had a really special horse in my life that I sold about ten years ago, and I said I’d never have another horse,” she explained. “But as the years went by I missed it, so I bought this guy and he has literally changed my whole world. He is amazing and has made me so happy.”
As the only combination to break the 70% mark, Christine DeMont of Riverbank, Cal. (Foothills Chapter) and the seven-year-old Hanoverian mare Be Connected claimed the Second Level Adult Amateur title with an overall score of 70.488%. DeMont noted she had declared for the U.S. Dressage Finals, and the win may have punched the pair’s ticket to Kentucky to tackle their next challenge. “We are strongly considering it – I’ve never been, but I think it would be really fun to go,” said DeMont. “She’s a super talented and elastic mare, and she worked really well today and stayed relaxed. We’ve been together about 18 months – I inherited the ride after her owner JoanMarie Evans had to have hand surgery, so I’m lucky in that I got the chance to enjoy her horse in the meantime. Second Level is tough because it’s that transition point where you combine forward impulsion and maintaining elasticity all while starting collection. It can be a challenge for the horses both physically and mentally, but she’s had no problem with it.” Another horse which made Second Level look easy was Wendy Sasser’s six-year-old Dutch gelding F.J. Ramzes, who was ridden to victory in the Open division championship by Lehua Custer of North Hollywood (Los Angeles Chapter) with an impressive score of 74.024%. But the pair barely averted disaster during their ride. “I went all out for this test. I went for every extension, pushed out the walk as much as I could,” said Custer. “And then at the end of the ride one of the tents next to the ring blew right over and frightened him terribly. We were so lucky it didn’t happen a few seconds sooner!”
It may have taken nearly 30 years, but on Friday Kristine Howe of Stratford, Cal. found her way back to glory as she burst onto the scene to win the GAIG/USDF Grand Prix Freestyle in decisive fashion, with a winning score of 71.813% aboard her own Hanoverian gelding Loanshark. The pair’s freestyle featured music by Prince, and Howe even added a purple handkerchief to the pocket of her shadbelly in honor of the legendary artist. “I rode for the silver medal-winning Region 7 team at NAYRC in 1987, but life and law school took me away from horses,” said Howe. “Five or six years ago I quit my job because I wanted to ride again, so I found Shark who was a Fourth Level horse at the time and with the help of Pam Nelson and Heidi Gaian I’ve brought him to Grand Prix. This is our first season at the level, and I’m just so proud!”
Thousands of dollars in prize money and awards were on the line as the first group of hotly-contested CDS Horse of the Year classes got underway. In the $1,000 Adult Amateur Prix St. Georges division, the top two placings were earned by Akiko Yamazaki of Los Altos Hills (San Francisco Peninsula Chapter). Yamazaki earned the winning score of 70.000% and the Global Imaging Perpetual Trophy aboard her nine-year-old Dutch gelding Chopin R, just edging out stablemate Donavan. “My favorite part of our test today was his flying changes – they were big and really straight, and I felt like I could really ride him,” Yamazaki explained. “I’ve had him a little over two years and he was Reserve Champion at this level last time, but had a little setback earlier this year so this is only his second show of the season. He really rose to the occasion!”
Almost 30 horses were entered for the hotly-contested $1,000 CDS Horse of the Year Open Prix St. Georges class, but in the end it was the single combination scoring over 70% that claimed the Bent Roswall Memorial Trophy. Sabine Schut-Kery of Thousand Oaks, Cal. (Los Angeles Chapter) was not to be denied victory as she rode Nicole Bhathal’s Oldenburg gelding Sir Cedrik H to a top score of 70.197%. “I really liked our trot work, and even though our canter work wasn’t so secure starting out, it got more solid as we went along,” said Schut-Kery. “He’s such a sweet horse who really listens to me and is so adjustable in the ring, which allows me to improve things during the test. As a rider I really appreciate that about him.”
There are a multitude of legendary names engraved on the Sherry de Leon Memorial Trophy for the CDS Open Grand Prix Horse of the Year title, and today Charlotte Jorst of Reno, Nev. (San Diego Chapter) earned the right to be added to the list of greats with a winning score of 68.200% aboard Kastel’s Akeem Foldager. After importing the Danish gelding in early 2015, Jorst spent the next year developing their new partnership, and her patience has paid off. “When I first got him, he didn’t want to go into any arena with white fence around it,” she laughed. “I’ve spent so much time doing other things with him and taking trail rides, all towards getting him to trust me. Now I never feel like there’s any hesitation at all, he just goes, even in a scary covered arena like the Equidome. We corrected some things from our warm-up ride yesterday, and today I felt like I could ride every stride and he was so confident. It’s wonderful to be here with all my friends and back in California with everyone I know so well.”
In the CDS/Interactive Mortgage Young Horse Futurity, talented youngsters battle for top scores in two tests over two days of competition to earn championship honors and a share of a $20,000 purse. In today’s conclusion of the Four-Year-Old Open Futurity, the CDS Futurity Perpetual Trophy was presented to the Habanero CWS (Idocus x Caliente DG by OO Seven), owned and ridden by Craig Stanley of Madera, Cal. (Fresno Chapter) and bred in the U.S. by Stanley and Brenda Linman. The talented KWPN gelding showed why he is the reigning Markel/USEF Four-Year-Old National Champion as he easily won both tests of the division for an overall winning score of 74.725%. It was an emotional win for Stanley, who has also successfully campaigned the youngster’s dam in the national young horse program and went on to become one of the current top-ranked Intermediaire I horses in the nation. “It’s just surreal. He’s born with natural talent and has such a great mind, just like his mother. Even though he’s a big horse he’s able to put it all together with natural balance, so coupled with his great attitude it just allows you to easily develop him. I don’t have to control him – I just guide him and enjoy the ride.”
In the Adult Amateur division, Jennifer Wetterau of Costa Mesa, Cal. (Los Angeles Chapter) rode her KWPN gelding Hartog (Apache x Bartoga by Scandic) to also confidently win both Training Level tests for a combined top score of 72.168% and take home the INXS Perpetual Trophy. “I love bringing a horse along because I think it creates a really special bond between horse and rider. He trusts me implicitly, and you can just build on that as the years go on,” said Wetterau, who works in medical sales when not in the saddle. “He’s a very special boy - from the moment I sat on him I knew he was the one I wanted and will keep. He’s got such a great brain in addition to talent, and I think for amateurs riding young horses it comes down to the mind of the horse you’re on. If they have a good mind than the rest of it just comes along.”
Championship competition continues Saturday, including the five- and six-year-old divisions of the CDS Young Horse Futurity and a multitude of Great American Insurance Group/USDF Regional Championships and CDS Horse of the Year classes. For complete Day Two results, click here. For more information about the California Dressage Society Championship Show, including news, schedules, ride times, and results, visit the CDS website and follow along with behind-the-scenes updates and photos on the CDS Facebook page.