BURBANK, CA - Riders who dream of a chance to stand on the Olympic medal podium began their quests at the Mid-Winter Dressage Fair CDI-W/Y/J in Burbank, CA, February 23 - 26, 2012. As the first official West Coast qualifying competition for the 2012 Olympic Games Dressage Team Selection Trials, horses and riders vied for valuable qualifying scores in front of FEI judges Linda Zang (5* USA), Jean-Michele Roudier (5* FRA), Cara Whitham (5* CAN), Eddy de Wolff (4* NED), Jayne Ayers (4* USA), and Brenda Minor (4* CAN). In addition, this competition served as an early-season qualifier for the Collecting Gaits Farm/USEF Festival of Champions (Pony Rider, Junior, Young Rider, Brentina Cup, and Intermediaire I divisions); NAJYRC; Markel/USEF Young Horse Dressage Program; and the USEF Developing Horse division (sponsored by Dutta & PSI).
One of the country's most exciting new horse and rider combinations is Steffen Peters and "Legolas". Despite this being the pair's FEI competition debut, Peters and Four Winds Farm's ten-year-old Westfalen gelding (Laomedon x Furstin) did not disappoint, claiming wins in both the Grand Prix (71.000%) and the following day's Olympic Grand Prix Special (74.289%). "He's such a kind horse and he did everything I asked, so I couldn't ask for more," said Peters. "With every test he gets better and better." Ground Jury members were also impressed by what they saw from the possible future superstar. "Steffen's new horse is hugely talented," noted Cara Whitham (5* CAN). "He's still got a little bit of work to do, but he has a fantastic piaffe and passage, and I'm sure he will have a great future with this one."
Winning the Grand Prix Freestyle with a score of 73.600% and placing a close second in the Grand Prix Test (70.426%) was Jan Ebeling and Rafalca, a 14-year-old Oldenburg (Argentinius x Ratine) owned by Amy Ebeling. This veteran pair displayed why they are ready for a possible return trip to next month's Reem Acra FEI World Cup Finals as Ebeling showed off the elegant mare's best movements in a technically demanding freestyle, earning high praise from the judges. "There are others in contention to go to the World Cup for the U.S., but if we get an invitation, we'll go," said Ebeling. "If it works out, it would be great to go back, and Rafalca's ready."
In the small tour, Guenter Seidel debuted another new mount in Lara Schleining's "Feodora", riding the 12-year-old bay mare to win the Prix St. Georges with a score of 69.237%. David Blake rode the impressive 11-year-old Oldenburg stallion "Royal Prinz" (Royal Diamond x Mystica, owned by Willard and Teresa Simmons) to victory with 69.132% in the Intermediaire I Test, while Brandi Roenick topped senior competitors to claim the Intermediaire Freestyle win with "Nobel", a 17-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Rohdiamant x Hestella) owned by Tracy Roenick of Scottsdale, AZ on a score of 70.417%.
In addition to her Intermediaire Freestyle victory, Brandi Roenick completed a sweep of the CDI Young Rider division with her own longtime partner, the 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare "Pretty Lady" (Iglesias x Ivonne), winning the Team Test with a score of 66.974%, the Individual Test with 68.640%, and the Freestyle with a score of 71.500%. "Since the National Championships last fall, we've come together as a team even more," noted Roenick. "We clicked so well this weekend and she tried her heart out for me like she always does."
Competitors attending the Mid-Winter Dressage Fair experienced a new look to the Los Angeles Equestrian Center, as hi-tech and horse-friendly Olympic Mix footing had been installed in the outside large oval ring, including the warm-up area. Horses will be able to show off the best of their abilities in this soft, stable, non-slip footing, which is the same high-tech formula used at such prestigious events as the World Cup Finals and the Olympic Games. "I loved the new footing," said CDI competitor David Blake. "It felt great, and think it's great they used the same footing in the warm-up. The regularity of the paces is very much influenced by the footing, so I think an excellent surface like this can make a big difference in a horse's performance."
An exciting new feature at the Mid-Winter Dressage Fair was the offering of five "team challenges", pairing riders from across divisions in pursuit of prize money. The $750 CDI Challenge was won by Steffen Peters with "Legolas" partnered with David Blake and "Royal Prinz". In the $500 Freestyle Challenge, the winning combination was of Grand Prix competitor Yvonne Losos de Muniz on "Liebling II" with Jan Ebeling who rode "Rosenzauber 8" in the Intermediaire I division. In the open show, Leslie Webb (riding "Harmony's Armani") and Marie Earl (on "Gislenus") won the Pro-Am Upper Level Challenge for Third and Fourth Levels; Cherie Vetsch (with "Bass B.") and LJ Banks (riding "Sonnenkonigin") claimed the Pro-Am Lower Level Challenge for First and Second Levels; and the All Amateur Training Level Challenge went to Nancy Michalski riding "Unanimous" partnered with Bonnie Robb with "Jades Aleuf".
Markel/Cornerstone High Point Winners were named in four divisions. In the FEI ranks, Steffen Peters and "Legolas" were presented with the winning dress sheet, while in the Open division Leslie Webb rode "Harmony's Armani" to victory. For Adult Amateurs, Cherie Vetsch rode "Bass B." to claim the title, and Monica Houweling with "Rifradrin" won the Junior/Young Rider division.
Complete results for the Mid-Winter Dressage Fair CDI-W/Y/J are available on the Cornerstone Event Management website. As a new feature, Cornerstone posted videos of select CDI rides (including Grand Prix, Special, and Freestyle) on the Cornerstone YouTube channel and Facebook, a service which was met with rave reviews from fans. These videos are available here.
The next Cornerstone competition will be the Festival of the Horse CDI 3*/Y/J, to be held March 29 - 31, 2012 in its new home at “The Oaks” in beautiful San Juan Capistrano, site of the 2004 and 2008 U.S. Dressage Selection Trials for the Olympic Games. Entries close Friday, March 9.