The 64th Annual Del Mar National Dressage Show was held this past weekend, April 23-26, at the beautiful Del Mar Fair Grounds in Del Mar, California. Exhibitors from all over the West Coast have looked forward to an exciting new feature at this year’s show, the new roof over the main Del Mar Arena. The $15 million covered arena was all the talk at the venue. Many riders chose to make a special trip to the show to get the opportunity to ride in the new arena.
One such rider was Jan Ebeling from Moorpark, CA. Ebeling had had an unfortunate and heartbreaking ride in the Thomas & Mack Center at the 2009 Las Vegas World Cup the weekend before where he rode Rafalca, an 11-year-old Oldenburg mare. “I wanted to get Rafalca into another covered arena after her experience in Las Vegas. I knew that I would not have the opportunity to get her into another covered for quite a while and this was the perfect chance.”
Ebeling also commented on his misfortune at the World Cup. “It was the most bizarre thing. Rafalca was very good and relaxed in the warm up; in fact, I thought she was too relaxed. She felt wonderful as I trotted the first 29 meters into the arena, and then she spooked and something and it caught me totally off guard. I was not prepared for it at all.”
Leslie Morse Dominates the CDI Grand Prix and Grand Prix Freestyle
Leslie Morse is another FEI rider who made a comeback at this year’s Del Mar after a disappointing World Cup experience with Kingston. Kingston had been eliminated due to unsoundness in the Grand Prix. This weekend Morse rode her second horse, Tip Top 962. Morse and the lovely Swedish warmblood stallion by Master, led the Grand Prix pack both days. The pair won the Grand Prix with a score of 68.809 percent and the Grand Prix Freestyle on Saturday night with a score of 70.450 percent. Closely behind Morse in the Grand Prix was Adrienne Lyle riding Peggy Thomas’s Wizard, receiving a score of 67.064 percent.
Lyle, assistant trainer to Debbie McDonald, is in a fortunate position at River Grove Farm and is taking over the ride of several of the top horses that McDonald had previously ridden. One such horse is Felix, a Hanoverian gelding by Fabriano. Lyle and Felix won the Grand Prix Special on Sunday with a score of 68.250 percent. McDonald commented on Lyle’s early success stating, “This is only Adrienne’s third Grand Prix CDI, and I think she is doing really well.”
Amanda Harlan wins all Three Phases of Young Rider CDI
Amanda Harlan riding her own Liberte won the Young Rider Team, Individual and Freestyle classes at Del Mar. Harlan who is a 2006 NAYJRC Silver Medalist, won the team test with a score of 67.632 percent, the individual test with a score of 66.842 percent and the freestyle with 71.500 percent. “I was really happy with how the Del Mar National show went. I really felt that Liberte and I were working as a team, and he just felt better than ever.” Harlan is looking forward to riding Liberte, a 16-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding by Flemmingh, at the last young rider qualifier. “I am really excited for the upcoming Flintridge show. I will be working hard until then to progress and fine tune all the little things.”
Del Mar Says “Goodbye” to Brentina and “Hello” to Ravel
Traditionally, the grandstands are packed with dressage and horse enthusiasts during Saturday’s freestyle night and this year was no exception despite the lower number of entries in the open and CDI divisions of the show. Two equine stars of the dressage world, Brentina and Ravel, were honored at the Saturday Freestyle Night.
Young Rider’s from Region 7 passed out tissue to spectators as they arrived and took their seats explaining that the tissues were for the Brentina Ceremony. During the break between the Intermeidate-1 and Grand Prix Freestyles, Brentina, led in by her groom Ruben and her rider Debbie, said an emotional “Thank You” and “Goodbye” to the Del Mar National Show. Brentina, Debbie and Ruben met Bob McDonald and Peggy and Perry Thomas along with Show Manager Regina Antonioli at the red carpet which had been rolled out in her honor. Antonioli read a touching and humorous poem that McDonald had written on behalf of Brentina thanking her fans as well as Del Mar National Horse Show for wonderful memories and opportunities.
Del Mar Dressage Week was the show where Brentina and McDonald performed their first freestyle to the music of “Hello Dolly” and Del Mar is where she qualified for the Pan American Games, the World Equestrian Games, the World Cup and the Olympics. Brentina has been a big part of the excitement at the Del Mar National, especially for its Saturday Evening Freestyle performances for the last ten years. Many of her loyal fans possibly could not go to the Olympics or the Pan Am Games, but they could see the great horse and her capable partner Debbie McDonald in person at Del Mar. After the reading of Brentina’s upbeat poem which recognized that she was entering a new chapter in her life, Debbie and Ruben led the lovely passaging mare out of the arena as the crowd waved their favorite mare goodbye.
Ravel and Steffen Peters Continue the Celebration
After the crowd said goodbye to Brentina, they welcomed the United States’ new dressage stars, San Diego’s Steffen Peters and Ravel. The pair also was honored for its victory at the 2009 Las Vegas World Cup just the weekend before. Peters rode in on Akiko Yamazaki’s 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding that was sheeted with his bright green Rolex World Cup cooler, and the crowd jumped to its feet for a standing ovation. Winning the World Cup was literally a dream come true for Peters. He shared with the crowd, “The win had not really sunk in even after the awards ceremony. The night after the Freestyle, I actually dreamt we had won the Rolex World Cup. When I woke up the next morning, I was not sure whether the events of the previous night were a dream or a reality. But, when I saw the Rolex watch on my arm, I realized it was true, we had won.” Peters graciously thanked his fans for the support and the kind words of congratulations sent his way. He rode a lively but obedient Ravel in a one handed victory lap tipping his hat to the fans.
Guenter Seidel and U II also make history at the Del Mar National’s Dressage Week
Sunday brought another historic moment, as an American rider, Guenter Seidel earned the highest ever achieved score in the CDI Intermediate-1 division of the Del Mar National horse. Seidel rode UII, an 8-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding by Jazz and owned by Dick and Jan Brown, to the exciting film track of “The Magnificent Seven.” The pair received a score of 78.9 percent. Seidel, who had won Friday’s Prix St. George division with a score of 70.965 percent, was extremely happy with the freestyle because the horse had been somewhat spooky in the Intermeidate-1 division the day before. “I felt like the trot work was a little hectic but I needed him to be more aware of me than of the flowers, so I really rode the horse assertively.”Seidel’s ride was the perfect ending to a wonderful dressage week at the Del Mar National.
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Photos Courtesy of Christina Beal