She’s a 75- year-old Olympian who still rides close to 20 horses a day. She is a legend of American dressage and a beloved icon of the sport on the West Coast. And on the first day of the Great American Insurance Group/United States Dressage Federation (USDF) Region 7 and California Dressage Society (CDS) Championship Show, being held September 27-30 in Burbank, Hilda Gurney once again found the winner’s circle – and her joy.
Making her victory in the Great American/USDF Region 7 Fourth Level Freestyle Championship with 73.633% even sweeter is that she bred, raised, trains, and owns her mount, Lotta Silver. Gurney has carefully developed the eight-year-old Trakehner gelding with an eye to the future, helping him rise through the lower levels and CDS Young Horse Futurity ranks to now be on the cusp of an FEI career .
“This is my joy, bringing them along like this,” Gurney explained. “For me, competing is just proving that I’m okay with where we are in our progress. Every morning I get up and ride somewhere between 15 and 20 horses, riding at least six hours a day. I love it and it’s my passion. I even do less judging now because I’m so into this horse and my other mount here, Iris – she’s awesome and is moving up to the Intermediaire 2. With Silver, I’m showing Fourth Level and Prix St. Georges at this show, plus he already has a very good piaffe and passage. Once we get our one-tempi’s finished he’ll move on up too – he’s going to be a heck of a Grand Prix horse. I also have his full-brother who is three, and I’m really excited about him as well. I’m just having a ball and I hope to keep on doing it.”
In California, it just wouldn’t be a Championship Show without Hilda. She competed in the very first event more than 50 years ago in a farm field, and has hardly missed an edition since.
“I was one of the founding members of CDS, and I have a lot of loyalty to California,” she noted. “It means so much to me to come to the Championship Show year after year and support our programs here, and honor the people who have taken over what I helped start and keep it going – I appreciate so much what they do.”
After winning Fourth Level Freestyle honors with Lotta Silver on the first day of competition, it was time for her Oldenburg mare Iris to shine, this time in the $1,000 CDS Intermediaire I Freestyle with 73.750% to earn the Lilian Van Dahn Memorial Perpetual Trophy for their “The Greatest Showman” movie-themed performance.
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.