The excitement was palpable as six rings of competition kicked off on the first day of the 50th Anniversary California Dressage Society (CDS) Championship Show, being held September 21-24 in Rancho Murieta. Even the weather gods seemed to be celebrating half a century of dressage on the West Coast as sunny skies and refreshingly mild temperatures welcomed horses and riders to the Murieta Equestrian Center to compete for a multitude of CDS Horse of the Year and United States Dressage Federation (USDF) championship honors, including the Great American Insurance Group/USDF Region 7 Championships as well as the Great American Insurance Group/USDF Breeders Championships West Coast Series Final.
One of those appreciating the festive atmosphere was Karen Cornelius, who traveled six hours from Nipomo, Cal. with her five-year-old Hanoverian stallion Fiderello. “I was so excited coming here for the anniversary show – I read all the e-blasts that came out this summer talking about the history of CDS, and it was fascinating!” Cornelius said. “It’s such a cool atmosphere to be here with legends like Hilda Gurney as well as riders who are attending for the very first time. There’s an air of positivity that just seems to spread from person to person at a special event like this, and makes all the hard work that it took to get here worthwhile.”
Cornelius’ journey with Fiderello to the CDS 50th Anniversary Championship Show has literally been years in the making: she purchased the colt when he was just four months old from breeder Bjoern Kommerell in southern California. “I knew that the only way I could afford a super horse was to buy one young, and he is my dream horse,” she explained. “This is hopefully just the start of a long journey and a promising future with him.”
The eye-catching pair appear to be well on their way as they were presented with the first championship title of the year in the Great American Insurance Group/USDF Region 7 First Level Freestyle Championship for their foot-perfect 80’s-themed performance, which thoroughly impressed the judges for the day’s highest freestyle score of 76.750%.
“I love freestyles, and when I listen to music in the car, I’m always thinking, ‘that would be a perfect freestyle song’,” Cornelius laughed. “So I have a list of 50 or 60 songs that I like, and from those I pick tunes that work well with the rhythm of his gaits. Then I purchase instrumental versions on iTunes, and since I’m on a budget I use music software to put it together myself. I watch lots of videos on YouTube of top riders, and I get motivation from that and study how they compose their freestyles.”
Also finding success were last year’s First Level Freestyle champions Diane Abraham of Los Gatos, Cal. and her Oldenburg mare Dasha, who returned to the winner’s circle for the second straight year, this time by successfully moving up to the Second Level Freestyle division and earning a top score of 68.500% for their efforts. Meanwhile at Third Level, Hilda Gurney topped a hard-fought freestyle class with 72.833% aboard Lotta Silver, a seven-year-old Trakehner gelding she bred, raised, rides and owns. Gurney has been a legendary figure in CDS’ 50-year history, having attended the inaugural Championship show in 1968 and almost every edition since, and was pleased that her anniversary weekend was off to a winning start. “I’m happy to be here and so pleased to be competing with two really nice horses,” she noted.
U.S. High Performance competitor Charlotte Jorst of Reno, Nev. has several top international mounts in her barn, but she has a soft spot for her up-and-coming Westphalen gelding Ray Dance, who cruised to victory in the Great American/USDF Intermediate I Freestyle with 74.938%. “Did you see how amazing he was? I am so proud of him today,” she exclaimed, and hinted she may now take her rising star to Kentucky to compete at the U.S. Dressage Finals in November.
For more information about the 50th Anniversary California Dressage Society Championship Show, including news, schedules, ride times, and results, visit the CDS website.