West Coast Riders Unveil Olympic Hopefuls at Cornerstone Events L.A. Winter Dressage 2008

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Burbank, California – Several of the West Coast’s top dressage riders tested out new mounts at Cornerstone Events’ L.A. Winter Dressage, held Feb. 2-3 at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center. Leading the way in Grand Prix competition was Debbie Mc Donald and the 11-year-old Hanoverian Felix.

The pair won Saturday’s Grand Prix Open with a score of 68.75 percent, edging out second-place finisher Steffen Peters with one of his new Grand Prix partners, the 10-year-old Prince. They earned a score of 67.292 percent. Coming in third was Leslie Morse on Tip Top with a score of 66.25 percent.

For many of the high performance riders, the L.A. Winter Dressage served as a warm-up for the upcoming Olympic Qualifying competitions on the West Coast, the first of which will be the Mid Winter Dressage Fair scheduled for Feb. 29 – March 2.

The importance of the upcoming competitions was made clear by the fact that U.S. Dressage Team coach Klaus Balkenhol recently visited the area to work with several of the Olympic hopefuls.

California has an increased number of CDI competitions this year to accommodate the new U.S. Equestrian Federation criterion that all Olympic Qualifiers be CDIs. Other qualifying competitions this season include the March Dressage Affaire in Del Mar, the Festival of the Horse in Burbank and in April, the Golden State Dressage and Del Mar National.

Although McDonald and Peters were certainly the riders to watch this weekend, among the horses, it was international star Floriano that interested many. The 18-year-old Westphalian gelding had been the mount of Steffen Peters until he resigned as rider in October of 2007.

The ride was then taken over by Stephen Browning II, son of Floriano’s owners Laurelyn and Stephen Browning.

Browning and Floriano were the first to go in Saturday’s Grand Prix Open competition. Browning,  who recently recovered from back surgery, rode his first Grand Prix tests this weekend scoring a 58.60 percent on Saturday and a 60.60 percent on Sunday. Floriano now lives at the Browning’s private farm and according to Laurelyn Browning, “he has a renewal in life. He goes on trail rides, does hill work, and enjoys being at home. We’re a team. I help Stephen on the ground, and I rode Flori until the doctor released Stephen to ride three weeks ago. We plan to go to the trials and participate in all the CDIs.”

Browning, delighted with his rides, felt any mistakes in the tests were his.  “As with any new partnership, it takes time. This show actually went a lot better than I thought it would.” When asked what Floriano, by the famous Florestan, is like to ride, Browning said, “He always tries to please. He knows the patterns and requirements. He has an amazing canter, and a lot of suspension in the trot. He’s just a really fun horse to ride. He is powerful like a stallion, and gives the rider a feeling like he can open up into a medium whenever you want it.” Browning commented that “he did not feel pressure taking over Floriano after his successful career with Peters. “I am just having so much fun; I am thrilled!”