Among the many smiling faces seen during awards ceremonies for 29 championship divisions on the final day of the 49th Annual California Dressage Society (CDS) Annual Championship Show and United States Dressage Federation (USDF) Region 7 Championships held September 29-October 2 in Burbank was Ruth Shirkey of San Jose, Cal. With her U.S.-bred Hanoverian mare Wyleigh Princess, Shirkey was capping off a tremendous weekend by taking home the Two-Tone Malone Trophy for the $1,000 CDS Horse of the Year in the Second Level Adult Amateur division with an overall score of 68.256%. But the special partnership she now has with her horse almost never happened at all save for one crucial decision.
“My favorite story is that I purchased Wyleigh Princess in utero, and I was really hoping for a black colt,” Shirkey remembered. “When she was born, her breeder called and said, ‘The good news is that the foal is black. The bad news is that it’s a filly.’ She said that if I didn’t want her, to just let them know because they actually really wanted to keep her. So I thought about it for a day and decided I still wanted her, primarily because I really, really wanted a foal by Weltmeyer. So of course in hindsight it was one of the best decisions I ever made.”
Wyleigh Princess’ breeder Cheryl Johnson traveled to this year’s CDS Championship Show from Michigan and was on hand to see Shirkey and her talented mount win Saturday’s CDS/Interactive Mortgage Six-Year-Old Adult Amateur Futurity as well as her latest Second Level title. “What an exciting weekend this has been, made all the more special because Cheryl could be here – she hasn’t seen Wyleigh Princess since she was two,” said Shirkey. “I learned something about my horse this weekend: she was very powerful to start off, but she worked off a little bit of that extra energy and then focused so nicely in the ring. She became softer and more tuned in to me but kept the power. So suddenly we had this ‘a-ha’ moment where we were communicating more effectively, and it’s that type of incredible feeling I’ve always been striving to have with her. What perfect timing for it to happen here at the Championships.”
The last round of coveted 2016 CDS Horse of the Year titles were awarded, where young horse stars also ruled the day at Training Level. An impressive combined score of 76.320% earned CDS Open Training Level Horse of the Year honors and the Peter and Bonnie Lert Perpetual Trophy for the reigning Markel/USEF National Young Horse Champion and freshly-crowned CDS/Interactive Mortgage Four-Year-Old Futurity winner Habanero CWS, a KWPN gelding owned and ridden by Craig Stanley of Madera, Cal. (Fresno Chapter). Adult Amateur Futurity Champions Jennifer Wetterau of Costa Mesa, Cal. (Los Angeles Chapter) and her KWPN gelding Hartog also wrapped up their successful weekend by winning both tests of their CDS Adult Amateur Training Level Horse of the Year division to claim the Melissa Creswick Perpetual Trophy with 73.501%.
The 11-hour drive home to Trinidad, Cal. will seem even more worthwhile after Jennifer Appel (North Coast Chapter) claimed the Full Cry Perpetual Trophy for Adult Amateur First Level aboard her six-year-old Dutch gelding Finale (70.078%), while a strong performance in the second of two Third Level tests gave the $1,000 CDS Horse of the Year Third Level Adult Amateur title and the Stanford Dressage Club Trophy to Frankie Thieriot Stutes of Occidental, Cal. (Sonoma Chapter) with her eight-year-old Oldenburg gelding Chatwin (67.885%). In the Open division, the Judith Elias Perpetual Trophy was earned by Leslie Webb of Bakersfield (Kern River Chapter) who rode Harmony Sporthorses’ seven-year-old Hanoverian gelding Harmony’s Upper Class to the win, sweeping both tests of the division for an overall combined score of 72.051%. After qualifying for the CDS Championship show through the popular Regional Adult Amateur Program (RAAC), Karen Nocket of Rolling Hills Estates, Cal. (Palos Verdes Chapter) and her nine-year-old off-the-track Thoroughbred gelding Ken’s Kitten earned CDS Horse of the Year divisional honors for Adult Amateurs at Fourth Level to win the Fox Run Perpetual Trophy with a combined average of 62.958%.
The Pelton Family Trophy for Open Intermediaire II was presented to Anke Herbert from Half Moon Bay (Las Vegas Chapter) who rode her 13-year-old Bavarian gelding Fandango R.S. first down centerline to earn a score of 67.368%, which would successfully remain atop the leaderboard for the duration of the class. In the Adult Amateur ranks, Jacqueline Real-Salas from Temecula (Temecula Valley Chapter) rode her 12-year-old Oldenburg gelding Rustringer to a winning score of 66.118%, while the Rubinstein Memorial Trophy for CDS Adult Amateur Grand Prix Horse of the Year was earned by Fleur Rouge with 65.300%. Even though the chestnut Hanoverian has been a show ring partner for owner/rider Christine Ekstrand of Santa Monica (Los Angeles Chapter) for several years, this was the mare’s first championship title. “We’ve certainly had our challenges, but we’ve persevered and that’s what makes this such a special moment,” said Ekstrand.
Wrapping up Sunday afternoon festivities in the Equidome was competition for CDS Horse of the Year Freestyle titles. At First Level, Diane Abraham of Los Gatos, Cal. (Santa Cruz Chapter) had already claimed the USDF Region 7 championship for this division on Thursday, and she cruised to another victory with her Oldenburg mare Dasha with a score of 74.367%, while Chemaine Hurtado of Moorpark (Ventura Chapter) rode Janice Handlers’ six-year-old Hanoverian gelding Rodarte to the win in the Second Level Freestyle with 68.417%. CDS Third Level Freestyle Horse of the Year honors were presented to former CDS President Peggy Klump of Upland, Cal. (Los Angeles Chapter) who earned top honors in a field of 10 with Petra Jorgensen’s Westfalen gelding Damon Lee with 73.650% for their rock and roll medley. “The judges commented on our timing and creative choreography,” said Klump. “We really went for it, including doing seven single flying changes where only two are required. You take the risk, and hopefully get the reward.”
Juniors and Young Riders once again shared the spotlight at this year’s CDS Championship Show, competing for both USDF Region 7 as well as CDS Horse of the Year titles across a multitude of divisions. In the USDF Region 7 Junior/Young Rider First Level Championship, Hope Chacon of Highland, Cal. (Inland Communities Chapter) and her Dutch mare DG Bantana proved to be the best in a competitive field with a winning score of 70.441%, while at Third Level Celsiana William of Trinidad, Cal. (North Coast Chapter) rode her German Riding Pony gelding Heart Throb SVS to victory with 66.218%. Hunter Chancellor, representing the Los Angeles Chapter, rode the 11-year-old Dutch gelding Amigo For Ever to claim the champion’s sash in the Young Rider Team Test Championship with 65.197%, while the Junior/Young Rider Prix St. Georges Championship went to Laurel Kerner of Ramona, Cal. (San Diego Chapter) with her Dutch gelding Saturnes (62.895%). Juniors also had a chance to show off their equitation skills in the USDF Dressage Seat Medal Semi-Finals, where Evan Pollack of Laguna Hills (San Juan Capistrano Chapter) and Amber Smigel’s Hanoverian gelding Dow Jones topped the 13 & under division with score of 74.000%, while Hope Chacon and DG Bantana continued their winning ways by claiming the 14-18 division honors with 79.000%.
Juniors and young riders also competed for top honors in several CDS Horse of the Year divisions where repeat winners were the name of the game, including at Training Level where Evan Pollack and Dow Jones earned their second win of the day, proving the best in a class of nine competitors with two-day score of 70.437%. In the CDS Junior/Young Rider Second Level Horse of the Year class, Isabella Macchioni of Livermore (East Bay Chapter) and her Hanoverian gelding Danatelo successfully followed up on yesterday’s Great American/USDF Region 7 win at this level by adding the CDS title to their resume with an overall score of 65.748%. Celsiana William with Heart Throb SVS and Laurel Kerner aboard Saturnes also claimed additional championship titles, this time for CDS Horse of the Year at Third and Fourth Levels with combined scores of 66.474% and 64.903%, respectively.
The final day of dressage competition at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center also included presentation of the last round of the USDF Regional Championship awards. Sarah Lockman of Foothill Ranch, Cal. (Los Angeles Chapter) may have been the busiest rider at the show with 11 horses competing across a wide range of levels, but her efforts paid off with three horses in the top five of the Region 7 Open First Level Championship, including taking the win with Tobi Coate’s five-year-old Oldenburg gelding Charming Boy (72.574%). In the Open Fourth Level Championship, the talented KWPN gelding Encore successfully followed up on his CDS Horse of the Year title claimed at this level on Saturday by earning 71.611% for the win with owner/rider Amy Miller of Fullerton (Pomona Chapter), while also at Fourth Level Susan Stevenson of Jamul, Cal. (San Diego Chapter) rode her 12-year-old Oldenburg gelding Ricochet to win the Adult Amateur division with 62.722%.
The Region 7 Open Intermediaire I title went to Olympian Jan Ebeling of Moorpark (Los Angeles Chapter), who has been nurturing the up-and-coming talent of Ann Romney’s 10-year-old Hanoverian Bakari for several years and has claimed titles at the CDS Championship Show at Fourth Level and Prix St. Georges since 2014. Now another honor was added to the gelding’s resume by topping a huge field with 71.136%. “He just keeps coming back every year getting better and better,” Ebeling said of his mount. “He was a little high this weekend and had lots of energy but we were able to get it channeled in the right direction. Now we’re thinking about possibly moving him up to the Developing Horse Grand Prix division, so we’ll see how he comes along over the next few months.” For Adult Amateurs, Christine Ekstrand returned to the winner’s circle, this time with her longtime partner Concetta (Hanoverian mare) after earning 70.263% for their solid Intermediaire I performance. Finally, after claiming CDS Grand Prix Horse of the Year honors on Friday, Charlotte Jorst of Reno, Nev. (San Diego Chapter) wrapped up her championship weekend on a winning note by topping a field of 10 in the USDF Region 7 Open Grand Prix division with a top score of 68.950% aboard her Danish gelding Kastel’s Akeem Foldager. Jorst noted that she and her mount will now consider trying to qualify for the 2017 Reem Acra/FEI World Cup Final in Omaha, as well as a trip to Kentucky next month to represent Region 7 at the U.S. Dressage Finals presented by Adequan®. “Why not?” said Jorst. “It would be great to go to the Finals, and I think Akeem would love it!”
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.