Gold Coast Dressage Association Looks Back and Ahead with Inspiration

Friday, January 4, 2019
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In dressage, a smooth transition is everything. Which is why Noreen O’Sullivan, President and Show Manager of the Gold Coast Dressage Association, has such high marks for members old and new as one GCDA show season draws to a close and another begins.

Marco Bernal
Marco Bernal and Guru owned by Daniela Madrazo showing their talent. (Photo: Joanna Jodko Photography)

The GCDA Fall Fling, November 10-11 at the Global Dressage Festival Stadium, Wellington, FL kicked off the 2019 show season and, O’Sullivan said, drew “great feedback” and equally great performances by riders like Marco Bernal and his 16.2 black stallion, Guru. Bernal (the former celebrity face of Café de Colombia) and Guru tied (66.471%) for first in Saturday’s FEI Prix St Georges against Jan Brons and Warsteiner, then rode to first (68.235% on Guru) and second-place (67.941% on Justify AS) in Sunday’s FEI Prix St Georges. Another Wellington rider, Heather Blitz, won the TheraPlate Peak Performance of the Year Award, with a Fall Fling win (71.522%) on Semper Fidelis in the FEI Grand Prix, and back-to-back wins on Praestemarkens Quatero in two FEI Intermediate II tests (71.471% and 71.324%).

A week later, at the GCDA Year End Banquet at The Wanderers Club in Wellington, the year-end highlights reflected the luster of Gold Coast members old and new, including Jean Nix and her horse Grundyman, who had their Prix St. Georges Century Ride (when a horse and rider’s combined ages total 100) at April’s Finale I & II.

“The banquet had lots of faces old and new. It’s always nice to see new riders and horses,” O’Sullivan said. Like Melissa Wanstreet, inaugural recipient of the Prudential Challenge Award sponsored by the GCDA President, who “overcame obstacles and discouragement to build a beautiful partnership with a less-than-perfect dressage horse and serve as an example of perseverance through the levels.”

O’Sullivan and Secretary Amy Swerdlin then headed to Utah to represent GCDA at the Adequan® USDF Annual Convention, November 28-December 1, in Salt Lake City. “We need a voice in how dressage is progressing with the times. It is very important to be there to represent Gold Coast and learn about the issues that should be part of that conversation.” Two such topics were requiring riders to complete Safe Sport Certification in order to compete, and requiring a minimum score of 63% to qualify for a freestyle test at that level.

As GCDA President, O’Sullivan is looking back and ahead, and likes what she sees: “The resounding theme is that we are raising standards across the levels, and the scores reflect that. They’re up over the last ten years and rightfully so! Judges see better horses, better training and better riding.”

On Saturday, January 20, 2019 GCDA will celebrate its Coral Anniversary at The Wanderers Club with an aquatic-themed party and look back at 35 years as a nonprofit organization serving the dressage community. “This celebration will honor the past and present heroes of dressage in our community and look forward to our bright future heroes. At the same time as our anniversary we will launch our Gold Coast Dressage Education Scholarship Program for Amateurs and Professionals. We want to help members work toward their riding, teaching or training goals. Bring your sea horse,” O’Sullivan said with a smile, and don’t miss a golden opportunity”. Rounding out an amazing weekend with the Gold Coast Dressage Association, the Gold Coast Opener CDI 2* will be held January 17-20 at The Global Dressage Stadium at PBIEC, 13500 South Shore Blvd, Wellington, FL 33414.

Also on February 11-12, GCDA will host one of the most sought-after horsemen in the world, FEI 5*/Judge General, Stephen Clarke, as featured speaker for the 2019 GCDA Symposium.

GCDA President Noreen O’Sullivan (center), Secretary Amy Swerdlin (left) and Show Secretary Ann Hart (right) representing the GCDA at the 2018 USDF Annual Convention.