The night before the inaugural California Dreaming Productions series kicked off with a CDI-W/Y/J/U25 and open show in Burbank, co-organizer David Wilson woke up in a panic, worrying about all the things that could go wrong. But his concerns dissolved when he got to the showgrounds and a smiling Guenter Seidel told him, “The atmosphere here is unbelievable!” Seidel wasn’t the only one who was happy. On Saturday afternoon, Steffen Peters relaxed in a chair outside the stall of his rising star, Rosamunde, while Akiko Yamazaki’s 7-year-old Rhinelander mare methodically licked every inch of his head. Fellow competitors walked by and laughed. One yelled, “Get a room,” while Jan Ebeling asked in German whether this was a new hair growth tonic.
That feeling of camaraderie and good humor was in evidence throughout the weekend. “That was one of our goals,” says Wilson, who mounted the series with his wife, Alisa, and veteran show manager Glenda McElroy with a vision for raising the bar for dressage in California. “We wanted riders to come away saying, ‘That was a great experience,’” says Alisa.
With an infusion of energy and resources from a slate of sponsors including
Hof Kasselmann and Performance Sales International, Four Winds Farm and Akiko Yamazaki, and Kastel Denmark, riders could see immediately that this wasn’t business as usual.
There was new footing courtesy of Dave Martin and Footings Unlimited West and live streaming of the CDI classes, with on-target commentary by retired 5-star judge Axel Steiner (whose wife, Terri Miller, served as show photographer). And Brian O’Connor kept things moving briskly from the announcer’s booth.
Breakfast was served in the VIP tent each morning, and there was a no-host bar in the afternoon, plus a brunch on Saturday for the sponsors and box holders. Riders also congregated in the Hof Kasselmann lounge beside the show office.
And though the show is a World Equestrian Games qualifier, several up-and-comers made their mark—like Kristina Harrison’s KWPN gelding Finley, who earned high scores in the 4-year-old classes, and Ann Romney’s 6-year-old Oldenburg gelding Santo Domingo, with whom Jan Ebeling swept the Third Level classes. While Marisa Festerling’s 6-year-old American-bred Hanoverian gelding Prime Time SF showed promise, Elizabeth Ball proved she has a trio of horses to watch: the 7-year-old Dutch gelding Caravaggio, the 11-year-old Westfalen mare Liaison and the 9-year-old Dutch gelding Avanti.
The live streaming proved to be a big hit. “We knew it was a good addition, but we had no idea how popular it would be,” says McElroy. David Wilson agrees. “It was kind of like making history. We had live streaming from shows on both coasts. That’s good for dressage.”
“Our goal is to continue to build and promote the sport, and we’re so satisfied that people came out for the show,” says Alisa Wilson. “The West Coast really represented.”
Local trainer Lehua Custer, who competed in both the CDI and open classes and whose student, 17-year-old Bryce Quinto, competed at her first CDI, was delighted with the show. “They’ve really raised the standard for dressage on the West Coast. I’ve gotten calls from so many people all over the country, including my mom in Hawaii—it was like everyone was at the show. I’m so excited to see what’s next.”