In 2008, CDS created a unique program called Regional Adult Amateur Competitions (or “RAAC”) with a mission to provide an opportunity for adult amateur riders to qualify and compete against others of similar skills and experience, and a goal that the regional nature of these shows would provide CDS members with a developmental path for gaining competitive experience, promote excellence and increase awareness of and support for CDS’ Chapter organizations.
Now in its eighth year, the Equine Insurance/CDS RAAC series has blossomed along with the confidence of its adult amateur competitors. For the 2015 season, 510 riders submitted nominations to participate in the program, with nearly 150 who ultimately completed the qualifying process and participated in one of three competitions held in easily-accessible venues in the Northern, Central, and Southern regions of California. Horses and riders compete for fabulous prizes at all levels from Basic to Intermediaire I in “Elite” as well as “Novice” divisions, which provide an inviting introduction for exhibitors to become familiar with the experience and atmosphere of a licensed dressage show. High percentage ribbons are also offered, as well as special “Roses Awards” to celebrate adult amateurs age 50 and over.
One of this season’s successful competitors was Madora Daniel of Minden, Nev., who rode her Hanoverian gelding Ronaldo to victory in the Training Level Elite Division at the Northern Region RAAC, held June 20-21 in conjunction with the Dressage Derby show series in Vacaville, Cal. The pair's winning score of 71.591% also earned the High Percentage Award as well as the Roses Award for Training/First Level in the Elite division. "I competed in the first RAAC eight years ago, and the event has evolved and improved over the years. It’s really nice for the adult amateur riders to be recognized in their own competition, and CDS has done a really good job of making this a fun and special event for us," said Daniel. "The host Chapter did a fantastic job, the participant gifts were wonderful, and the RAAC reception on Saturday night was very nicely done. I appreciate how this program recognizes our accomplishments and give us our own place to shine."
Former CDS President Melissa Creswick helped establish the RAAC program, and this year judged the Southern Region edition during Cool August Nights in Burbank on August 21–23. Like Daniel, she was pleased with the program’s progress. “I’m thrilled to see the maturity of this program coming to fruition,” said Creswick. “I couldn’t be prouder of our novice riders who come here to gain experience, and I especially appreciate and respect the Roses riders who are out here doing a fantastic job and having a great time. Adult amateurs are the bulk of our CDS membership, and they deserve to have a competition series like this that highlights them.”
Eric Grimm of Orange, Calif. and his gray Oldenburg gelding Remise earned a top score of 63.846% from Creswick to lead the victory lap for the Third Level Elite division in Burbank. “It’s nice to be the ‘main attraction’ and not be relegated to the back arena like it seems sometimes happens at the big shows,” laughed Grimm, who works full-time as director of operations for a hotel company when not in the saddle. “We’re out there slugging away every day with careers and then trying to enjoy our horses too, so we do our best to juggle all of that and it’s nice to come to a show and have a day just for us where adult amateurs are the focus. I feel like the CDS Adult Amateur Clinic series this spring helped take our performance to the next level, and then this show is a culmination of the work we do all year to improve.”
Novice division competitor Caryn Carpenter-Cadez of Temecula, Calif. partnered with her Lusitano gelding Adonis to earn reserve honors at Second Level in the Southern Region. She also appreciated how the RAAC program supports her efforts to juggle dressage with a career and family. “Having two elementary-age kids and a business to run, it is difficult for me to get out to more than my local shows,” she explained. “But at the same time, I wanted to compete in larger classes and against riders outside of my immediate area, and the RAAC has an atmosphere that you don’t get in standard classes. So this is the one show per year that I make a point to fit into my schedule. But what I enjoy most is the camaraderie between the riders - during the awards ceremony we were all chatting about our experience and complimenting each other on jobs well done. Then we get to top it off with a victory lap, which is really special.”
Thanks to an automatic qualification process, RAAC division winners have the chance to go on to compete at next month’s CDS Annual Championship Show at the Murieta Equestrian Center from September 17 – 20. The CDS Championship Show will once again also host the Great American/USDF Region 7 Championships, which qualifies riders for the US Dressage Finals in November. Among those taking advantage of this opportunity is Georganne Benesch of Livermore, Calif. who was part of the enthusiastic group of competitors attending the Central Region RAAC held July 4–5 in Hollister. Aboard her eye-catching Friesian Sport Horse Lion King, Benesch was thrilled to win the Training Level Elite Division with an impressive score of 72.273% while also earning second in the First Level Elite class.
"This is my first show season with Lion King, and the RAAC was the perfect opportunity to bring him to a 'big' show without too much pressure," Benesch explained. "Because it's regional, we're competing, shopping and partying with people we may already know from our area, so it creates a real community atmosphere. It made for a wonderful experience." After taking home her blue ribbon and beautiful prizes, Benesch now looks forward to her next goal. "I'll definitely be going to the CDS Championships," she said. "RAAC was a great confidence builder, and now I hope to be riding Lion King in one or two honor rounds there in September!"