Wearing her champion’s sash, Elma Garcia struggled to control her emotions as she prepared for awards ceremonies at the 49th Annual California Dressage Society (CDS) Annual Championship Show and United States Dressage Federation (USDF) Region 7 Championships in Burbank. “This one’s for Parry,” she said.
Garcia was referring to the late owner and staunch dressage supporter Parry Thomas, who not only owned the legendary U.S. Team mount Brentina but also Garcia's current partner, Wenesa. "Parry originally bought Wenesa out of the Verden Hanoverian auction for Debbie [McDonald] to ride, and he loved the mare. But when she retired from international competition after the 2008 Olympics, Adrienne [Lyle] encouraged me to try her," explained Garcia. "I got on, took two steps and knew immediately that she was the horse for me. Debbie was a little skeptical at first and said that she would be a technical ride for an amateur, but after a week of working with Debbie we got her blessing, and it's made it so much better for me because this horse has taught me so much. [Parry's wife] Peggy always said that Brentina had the same white 'birdcatcher' spots on her body and that they were for good luck - and I guess she was right. I love the Thomas family and have so much respect for them, so I told my husband that I was riding today for Parry."
Riding with that mission in mind, Garcia and her now 14-year-old mare topped the $1,000 California Dressage Society Horse of the Year title for the Adult Amateur Intermediaire I division with 68.026% to take the T.D.I. Systems Perpetual Trophy home to Thermal. "I'm so proud of her, it's been quite a journey for us," Garcia continued. "We're taking our time and are trying to bring her along classically, and it's been an exciting process. This year we've been really working on her canter, so as that has improved the changes have come along even better and were really big and beautiful today. Next we'd like to do more international competitions - we tried the Adult Amateur division in a CDI for the first time this spring, and I'd like to do more of that with her in the future."
Over the course of an intense third day of competition which has overtaken the grounds of the expansive Los Angeles Equestrian Center with a record-setting 370 horses in the show, additional CDS Horse of the Year titles were awarded at First, Second and Fourth Levels, as well as the $1,000 Open Intermediaire I division where the 11-year-old Hanoverian gelding Harley Davidson cruised straight down victory lane with owner/rider Shayna Simon of San Diego (70.526%). After winning last year's CDS Six-Year-Old Open Futurity, the elegant Dutch gelding Encore successfully made the jump up to Fourth Level as he carried owner/rider Amy Miller of Fullerton (Pomona Chapter) to win the Pal Kemery Perpetual Trophy and $1,000 CDS Open Fourth Level Horse of the Year title on the strength of an overall score of 69.694%. Olympian Hilda Gurney of Moorpark (Los Angeles Chapter) is also no stranger to the winner's circle at the CDS Championship Show, and this time she earned the Bengt Lungquist Memorial Trophy and $1,000 CDS Open Second Level Horse of the Year class with her black Oldenburg mare Iris (72.471%). And at First Level, Amelia Newcomb of Simi Valley (Los Angeles Chapter) cruised to victory in the Open division, earning a combined two-test average of 75.554% and the McLeod Perpetual Trophy with her five-year-old Dutch gelding Gatsby. "He's so athletic and such a great mind," said Newcomb. "I've had a couple horses I've brought up to Grand Prix but have never had one as talented as he is. We do have high hopes for him for the future, but he's young and you have to find the right balance of challenging him but not pushing too hard. He really is a once in a lifetime horse."
The royally-bred KWPN stallion Gaspard De La Nuit DG (Ravel x Ceolieta by Sir Donnerhall, owned and bred in the U.S. by DG Bar Ranch) is looking more and more like his famous sire in the show ring. In this year's CDS/Interactive Mortgage Five-Year-Old Open Futurity, the black stunner swept both First Level tests for an overall score of 74.038% in the talented hands of rider Ashlyn DeGroot of Hanford, Cal. (Fresno Chapter). "Even though he's a stallion, he's so rideable and he never says 'no'. He has such a great, workmanlike attitude at the shows, and is handling the demands of both competition and breeding so well," said DeGroot. "I think a big highlight is his suppleness and how easily everything comes to him. He has a lot of presence in the ring and he's very fluid and steady. I'm so thankful to be able to ride such a nice horse." In the Adult Amateur division of the Five-Year-Old Futurity, Danish Warmblood gelding Gedevasegaards Diesel (by Tailormade Temptation x Gedevasegaards Desire) earned a winning score of 69.426% for owner/rider Dantia Benson of Somis, Cal. (Los Angeles Chapter).
David Wightman of Murrieta, Cal. (Temecula Valley Chapter) certainly knows his young horses. In 2003 and 2005, Wightman represented the United States at the FEI/WBFSH World Breeding Championships for Young Horses in Dressage in Verden, Germany. So when he and his wife Kathleen Raine found Silberpfeil, they knew they had a potential new star and the six-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Silberschmied x Barcelona by Boss, bred in Germany) did not disappoint. In August, Wightman returned to the World Championship stage with Silberpfeil as one of two U.S. Team members who traveled to the Netherlands to compete, and now back home on the West Coast the pair claimed the Paquita Parker Perpetual Trophy for the CDS/Interactive Mortgage Six-Year-Old OpenFuturity with an overall score of 71.611%. For Adult Amateurs, Ruth Shirkey from San Jose (East Bay Chapter) rode her Hanoverian mare Wyleigh Princess (Weltmeyer x Heiress B by His Highness, bred by Cheryl and Eric Johnson) to win both tests of their division for a winning average of 70.003%.
USDF Region 7 Championship titles were once again hotly contested classes on Saturday. In the First Level Adult Amateur division, Amanda Apesos of Woodside, Cal. (San Francisco Penninsula Chapter) and her five-year-old Rheinlander gelding Ben had to beat 27 other competitors for the win with a score of 72.132%. At Open Third Level, last year's Second Level champion Dream Catcher (eight-year-old Dutch gelding owned by Wendy Roberts) continued his successful progression under the expert guidance of Brian Hafner of Penngrove, Cal. (Sonoma Chapter), earning 70.192% to add another title to his resume. As the final competitor down centerline for the USDF Region 7 Third Level Adult Amateur Championship class, Kristine Hegglin of Danville, Cal. (East Bay Chapter) saved the best for last as she rode her Holsteiner gelding Holstein's Harlequin to claim the title with 68.397%. Her small but impressive mount (who holds a USEF pony card at just 14.1 hands) also claimed his division's Second Level title last year and has now found himself right at home moving up a level. "I remember two years ago here at the Championships in Burbank, I'd only had him for about six weeks after he arrived from Europe," said Hegglin. "We were still working it all out and he was freshly gelded so his character was a little challenging. But now we know each other so well, he has a wonderful attitude and we've come a long way. After winning at Second Level last year, I never thought we had a shot to do so well again this year but it all came together at the right time. Now his reward will be to go for a trail ride, which is his favorite thing in the world to do."
At the FEI levels, Khara Johnson of Los Angeles rode her Westfalen gelding Fürst Dance to win the Region 7 Adult Amateur Prix St. Georges title with 68.158%, while in the Open division Dirk Glitz of Danville, Cal. (East Bay Chapter) rode Kimberly Noon-Fishel's seven-year-old Dutch gelding Elian Royale to victory with 74.013%. "He's very young and this is just his first year doing this level, but he's very talented," said Glitz of his mount, which he's brought along from a four-year-old. "He likes being in the outside arenas, so when he's comfortable like that I can just let him go and he's loose and impressive and it just goes nicely. We've taken our time but I take what he offers and things come easy for him. He likes to work and every day he wants to do something. It only works well when they have fun doing it." In the USDF Region 7 Grand Prix Championship for Adult Amateurs, Adrienne Bessey of Thousand Oaks, Cal. (Ventura Chapter) partnered with her Oldenburg gelding Wintersnow for the easy win with 66.500%. "I'm so happy with today's ride. Yesterday I felt like I couldn't get his attention, but today he was much more focused and with me," Bessey explained. "He's got so much talent, and the piaffe and passage are so strong at home that our biggest challenge is recreating that in the ring. There's lots more there, and if he ever does in the show ring what he does at home, it will be even more incredible!"
USDF Region 7 Championships and CDS Horse of the Year titles were also presented in the Junior/Young Rider ranks. At Training Level, Evan Pollack of Laguna Hills (San Juan Capistrano Chapter) rode Amber Smigel's Hanoverian gelding Dow Jones to the win with 70.000%, while in the Second Level Junior/Young Rider division Isabella Macchioni of Livermore (East Bay Chapter) and her Hanoverian gelding Danatelo topped the field with 65.793%. "I'm really happy with how we did. He's such a great horse and I'm really lucky. We've been together for a little over two years now - he's trained up to Prix St. Georges so he knows more than I do, but he's teaching me and has taken me from Training Level to Second, just working our way up," said Macchioni. "This is my fourth year coming to the CDS Championship Show, and it's fun to be a part of this environment and around riders of this caliber. It inspires me to become an even better rider and competitor."
The USDF Fourth Level Junior/Young Rider Championship was claimed by Laurel Kerner of Ramona, Cal. (San Diego Chapter) who rode her Dutch gelding Saturnes to victory with 64.889%, and Christian Simonson of Ventura rode the 12-year-old Hanoverian gelding Herzkonig to the Junior Team Championship win with 69.500%. CDS Horse of the Year Junior/Young Rider awards for First and Prix St. Georges levels were presented to Janae Shaw of Fresno with her Oldenburg gelding Emminence and Sarah Harrington of Merced, Cal. (Fresno Chapter) aboard the American Warmblood stallion Gladiator AF with winning scores of 66.546% and 64.803%, respectively. In the CDS Dressage Seat Equitation Challenge (13 & under), Mia Memari of Placerville, Cal. (Foothills Chapter) rode the Oldenburg gelding Heisenberg to a winning score of 77.000%, while in the 14-21 division Isabella Macchioni and Danatelo proved to be the best of the impressive group of eight riders to earn their second win of the day with 78.000%.
Finally, additional CDS Championships were awarded in the Fourth Level, Intermediaire I and Grand Prix Freestyle divisions as part of afternoon and evening entertainment. A hearty score of 73.433% and CDS Fourth Level Freestyle Horse of the Year honors went to the 10-year-old Westfalen gelding Rudi Regali, owned and ridden by Nancy Szakacs of Hollister, Cal. (Gavilan Chapter). The Lilian Van Dahn Memorial Perpetual Trophy for the $1,000 CDS Intermediaire Freestyle division was presented to Lindsey Brewin of San Ramon, Cal. (Santa Barbara Chapter) and her Dutch gelding Vaillant with a score of 75.500%. Capping off evening festivities, Kristine Howe's fairy tale weekend continued as she claimed her second championship title of the weekend, this time in the $1,000 CDS Horse of the Year Grand Prix Freestyle to have her name engraved on the Lt. Col Hans Moeller Trophy with her own Hanoverian gelding Loanshark thanks to a winning score of 70.563%.
Championship competition concludes on Sunday with final divisions of Regional and CDS Championships. For complete Day Three 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.