California is well-known as home to some of the best dressage horses and riders in the country, and many of those were on display as the first championship titles of the weekend were awarded today at the California Dressage Society (CDS) Annual Championship Show at the Murieta Equestrian Center in Rancho Murieta, CA, September 19 - 22, 2013. As one of the largest and most lucrative championship programs in the nation, close to 300 horses and riders are competing for a wealth of trophies, prize money and bragging rights in Open, Adult Amateur, and Junior/Young Rider divisions for levels ranging from Training to Grand Prix, in addition to the wildly popular CDS Young Horse Futurity. All will vie for top honors from an impressive international roster of judges including FEI officials Gary Rockwell (5* USA), Linda Zang (5* USA), Cara Whitham (5* CAN), Joan Macartney (4* CAN), Jayne Ayers (4* USA), Brenda Minor (4* CAN), and Sandra Hotz (3* USA), in addition to Sandy Osborn ("S" Colorado), N. Brent Hicks ("S" California), Louise Koch ("S" California), Peggy Klump ("S" California), and Ulf Wadeborn ("R" Sport Horse Breeding, California).
Also highlighted over the weekend will be the Great American Insurance Group/USDF Region 7 Dressage Championships, as well as the Great American Insurance Group/USDF Breeders Championships West Coast Series Final. Adding to the excitement of this year's Region 7 Championship classes, riders who have declared for the inaugural US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan® will be seeking crucial qualifying scores in order to be eligible for an invitation to this national head-to-head competition for open and adult amateur exhibitors, which will be held November 7 - 10, 2013 in Lexington, Kentucky.
The first round of Great American/USDF Regional Championship sashes were presented in five Freestyle divisions. Melissa Mulchahey of Livermore, CA got her weekend off to a winning start by claiming the Region 7 First Level Freestyle Championship with her own Westfalen pony "Outrageous" on a score of 76.667%, the highest freestyle score of the day. Alison Knickerbocker of Walnut Grove, CA also turned heads with her buckskin Lusitano gelding "Acafrao Comando SN" as they trotted to victory in the Second Level Freestyle (70.250%). In the Third Level Freestyle class, Barbara Filkins' long drive north from Fillmore, CA was made worthwhile with her win aboard "Leana", her gray Oldenburg mare, on a score of 69.250%. Hilari Fleming (Reno, NV) rode her Oldenburg "Rubicon SF" to victory in the Fourth Level Freestyle (68.833%) while Nadine Pestana of Livermore, CA took a victory lap of her own on her daughter Jamie's NAYRC Gold and Silver Medal-winning mount "Winzalot" to top a highly competitive field in the Intermediaire I Freestyle with 72.063%.
Adult Amateur riders also had the opportunity to show off their skills in the HorseShow.com/CDS Dressage Seat Equitation Challenge, where Kate Mullen of Livermore, CA made her equitation debut a winning one as she topped the class aboard the elegant mare "Elnieta" on a score of 90.000% "I've never competed in an equitation class, and she's just a four-year-old," said Mullen. "But I thought it was so much fun, and it was a great experience for her. I think more people should do it! It's a great way to get your horse to relax in the ring and focus on yourself for a change."
Competition also got underway in the first round of the CDS Futurity, where 58 talented four, five, and six-year-olds are competing for top honors and more than $12,000 in prize money. All entries competed in the first of two tests which will be compiled to determine overall champions in each age division. In the Amateur ranks, Kate Mullen once again rode Kelly Casey's Dutch Warmblood mare "Elnieta" (by Dayano) to a score of 73.571% in Training Level Test 2 and claim the first test of the four-year-old futurity, while Ivetta Harte of Dublin, CA and her Oldenburg gelding "Days Go By" (by Danone) earned 72.672% at First Level Test 1 to take the lead in the five-year-old division. Meanwhile, Melissa Mulchahey also looked ready to claim another title as she and the six-year-old Westfalen pony gelding "Outrageous" (by Out-Break) rode Second Level Test 1 to a top score of 68.000%.
In the Open Futurity, the talent was high and so were the scores as the judges were impressed by what they saw. "The quality of the horses that we're seeing here in addition to how well ridden they are is phenomenal," said judge Cara Whitham. "The afternoon just flew by as we saw one fantastic ride after another." One of those impressive tests was performed by Karen Ball from Coto de Caza, CA riding Theresa and Alan Reese's Oldenburg gelding "Sir Spiderman" (by Sir Donnerhall I) to a dominant score of 79.464% in the four-year-old division. DG Bar Ranch's Dutch Warmblood mare "DG Dancing Queen" (by Jazz) and Ashlyn DeGroot of Hanford, CA showed how they earned a Reserve National Championship title earlier in the summer as they took the lead in the five-year-old field with a score of 78.190%. Six-year-olds finished out a busy first day of competition as "Sinn Fein" (Belgian Warmblood gelding by Sanderman, owned by Hendrik Van Maldagen) was ridden by Volker Brommann of Auburn, CA to a winning score of 73.929%.
Complete daily results, schedules, and additional competition information about the California Dressage Society Championship Show is available on the CDS website, www.california-dressage.org.