Dressage Association of Southern California Spring Benefit CDI and Dressage Show Results

by Kim F. Miller / TheWestEquestrian.com

Kim F. Miller with The West Equestrian provided daily reports of the DASC Spring Benefit CDI and Dressage Show. Enjoy her in-depth reports reprinted here.


Friday, May 5th

The atmosphere was a little looser than at Anna Buffini and Frh Davinia La Douce’s last outing — the FEI World Cup Finals in Omaha, where they finished 7th. Yet Anna still had a mission to accomplish on the opening day of the Dressage Association of Southern California’s Spring Benefit CDI, held at Galway Downs Equestrian in Temecula.

“We were trying a few new things to get ready for the rest of the year,” said Anna after earning a 72.609% to top the CDI3* Grand Prix, sponsored by Beverly Gepfer and Kirk R Martens Foundation. “I think her piaffes were the best they’ve ever been since I’ve had her. We are working on a little bit of a different frame, more relaxation and to make sure we are getting all the points we can.

“Often at the bigger shows, you have to be a bit conservative to have a clean test,” Anna continued. “Here, I wanted to be able to ride her more uphill, to push to make her movements a little bigger. Instead of trying to keep it safe for a 7, we want to make it bigger and go for a 7.5 or an 8.”

Anna Buffini & Frh Davinia La Douce.
Photo: Terri Miller Photography – TerriMiller.com

There’s a flip side to that with the high-spirited Hanoverian mare by Don Frederico. “When we tried to go a little more uphill in the two-tempis, she missed one of them, so it goes both ways!”

Overall, pushing for more paid off. “To get that high of a score — even with the mistake — is very encouraging.” It was the pair’s second highest score, and Anna guessed they could have topped it without the bobble.

The native Californian is a longtime supporter of California dressage — long before she hit the international stage at the 2022 World Cup in Leipzig, Germany. “I love having these CDIs on the West Coast. We need them and I’m going to continue supporting them as much as I can.”

Competing on both coasts enabled Anna to fulfill another mission — “I know it’s a bit of a dicey subject, but some people seem to think that scoring is easier out here than it is in Florida. I’m really happy I can show on both coasts and show that scores are actually the same. This year, I’ve competed twice in California and once in Florida and my scores in Florida were actually a little higher. I’m not saying one coast is higher than another — I’m saying that both coasts are scored equally. I want to take that bias and opinion away from the sport and demonstrate that judging-wise, it’s an equal playing field on both coasts.”

Ellanor Boehring & Sir Junior. Photo: TheWestEquestrian.com

Not one to rest on her laurels — ever — Anna plans to keep upping her and “Diva’s” game. The goal is to stay on the radar for Pan Am Games and/or Nations Cup team selection.

Amy Miller and Encore, a 14-year-old KWPN by Jazz, earned a 67.739% for second, followed by Daniela Groenke and Bardolino on a 63.565%. Bardolino is a 12-year-old Oldenburg by Bordeaux.

Sneak Peek of Stardom

Erin Nichols and Elian Royale were the only contenders in the CDIU25 Intermediaire II, but they put on quite a show. A pair for just eight months, 19-year-old Erin and the KWPN by Glocks Johnson NOP earned a 69.441%, putting the world on notice before joining the U-25 European Tour next month with Team USA.

“He’s very hot,” said Erin, who juggles prepping Elian and her longtime partner Handsome Rob for Europe while finishing her freshman year at Chapman University. “He’s a little firecracker and has lots of go and so much power. I’m always like ‘Easy buddy… We don’t need any more than this.’”

The DASC Spring Benefit class, sponsored by Sean Caddell & Associates Real Estate, is the perfect prep for Europe, Erin said. “He only had one CDI under his belt before we got him and we wanted him to get a little more experience with the bigger arena, atmosphere and all the judges.”

Erin Nichols & Elian Royale. Photo: TheWestEquestrian.com

Erin’s trainer David Wightman found Elian while on the European tour last year. “He’s a hot, tricky horse and they’d had some trouble finding a match for him,” Erin recounted. It was love at first ride for Erin, though. “We clicked automatically. His owner, his trainer Dirk Glitz and David were like, ‘Wow!’”

Erin makes the most of his hot temperament by “being his Zen, telling him it’s okay.”

The judging panel for the CDI3* Grand Prix and the CDIU25 Intermediaire II was comprised of Maria Schwennesen, Sarah Geikie, Stephen Clarke, Brenda Minor and Jane Weatherwax.

Close Friends Finish Close Atop CDI FEI Young Rider Team Test

Continuing the showcase of talented young riders in steep ascent mode, Ellanor Boehning and Sir Junior earned a 68.432% to lead the CDI FEI Young Rider Team Test. Sir Junior is a 12-year-old Hanoverian by Sir Stauffenbuerg.

“Today’s test felt fantastic,” said Ellanor of their performance in the class sponsored by It’s A Good Life podcast. “We’ve been working with Steffen Peters to help clean up areas of the test, especially the canter pirouettes and to make everything go smoother overall. I think that showed today and I’m really happy with it.”

They were just a tick ahead of Josephine Hinnemann and Copa Cabana MRF. Riders and horses are close friends, having represented USDF Region 7 together twice.

“We always work better together,” said Josephine. “The horses love each other. Junior always calls out to Copa,” Elanor concurred.

Josephine described her test as “one of our best of the year and it’s our best score.” Their 68.186% was the result of restraint. “I wasn’t trying to push for grand,” said Josephine. “I was trying to go for a clean test today and that helped us get the focus we needed to put us higher in the rankings.”

Steffen Peters & El Torro B. Photo: Terri Miller Photography – TerriMiller.com

Josephine rides primarily with her mother Natalie Hamilton-Hinnemann, and weekly with David Wightman and Kathleen Raine. They’ve all been a big help in this year’s quest to qualify for the North American Youth Championships and the Festival of Champions.

Grace Dugan and Farruco LXXXIX, an 18-year-old PRE sired by Lego, finished 3rd, earning a 62.451% from judges Jane Weatherwax and Stephen Clarke.

New Ride, Same Standing for Steffen Peters

With Suppenkasper resting after their 4th place finish at the FEI Longines Dressage World Cup Finals and his Small Tour star Be Happy recently sold, Steffen turned up with a new ride in the CDI1* FEI Prix St. Georges today.

In a class sponsored by Louise Leatherdale, he and El Torro B earned a 74.804% to top the class, even with a spook early in the test. “He is a very sensitive, hot horse,” says Steffen. “I went in with a lot of horse to start with and the first few minutes and the last five minutes he’s very hot.”

Throughout, however, the 14-year-old Dutch Warmblood by Painted Black showed off extravagant gaits and pizazz aplenty. “He is a wonderful horse. Really nice in the contact, he already does his one-tempis, his passage is beautiful, and his zig-zag half-passes are very nice.” Keeping the energy in check is the challenge as they prepare for a hopeful Grand Prix entry in the fall CDIs. “In the piaffe, he wants to trot so big, the point is now to make it a bit smaller and in place.”

Steffen’s protegé Dawn White-O’Connor had ridden El Torro until recently. He’s grateful to longtime owners Mary and Jim Keenan for adding him to his string. “I feel honored to ride a horse like him. After all the horses I’ve ridden, he and Mopsie give me a very similar feeling. So, I’m blessed.”

(Steffen hopes to keep Mopsie stateside through the summer, but a call to represent the States at the Aachen CDIO has already been placed by USET Dressage technical advisor Debbie McDonald. “I’ve always looked at it this way — if the team and Debbie really need us, we’ll be there. But my preference is to stay home this summer.)

Elizabeth Ball and Vivalia, a 9-year-old German Sport Horse by Van Vivaldi, finished 2nd on a 71.471% and Lindsay Seidel-Wassenaar and Gaga, a 12-year-old KWPN by Contango, were third on a 68.578%.

Brenda Minor, Sarah Geikie and Stephen Clarke judged the CDI1* FEI Prix St. Georges.

Spring Benefit Honors A Beloved Benefactor

The DASC Spring Benefit Show is staged in tribute to Mark Carter, a long-time supporter, competitor and friend of the West Coast dressage community. Mark died in a helicopter crash on March 24, leaving a large hole in the hearts of all who knew him and in the community he passionately supported.

At the opening day exhibitors’ party, Steffen Peters and David Wightman spoke about their close friend. Steffen recalled giving Mark lessons that required twice the normal 45-minute session. “Some of it was training, but we always talked a lot, about so many things,” Steffen shared. “I learned so much from Mark — about life in general, about business. What an incredibly funny, kind and good-hearted man he was.”

David Wightman recounted Mark approaching him and his wife Kathleen Raine many years ago at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center. “He wanted to get into the equestrian market with his E-Z UP Tents,” David said. “He gave us an E-Z UP tent, but it had to have an emblem on it that was almost as big as the tent.” It was the start of a long friendship that included Mark helping Kathleen and David complete their farm, Adventure Farm, on property next to Mark’s.

“He was a person who always had a smile on his face and who made the world a better place,” David concluded. “We are going to miss him forever.”


Saturday, May 6th

Steffen Peters and El Torro B reinforced themselves as the pair to watch as they aced the CDI1* FEI Intermediaire I.

This new duo was great yesterday when they won the CDI1* Prix St. Georges and they were simply spectacular today. They locked up the Small Tour victory with a 76.618% in this class sponsored by Louise Leatherdale.

Josephine Hinnemann & Copa Cabana MRF. Photo: TheWestEquestrian.com

“He’s a real pleasure to ride,” said Steffen of the 14-year-old KWPN by Painted Black and owned by James and Mary Keenan. Mary was on hand for both victories and shared the back story of having recognized El Torro’s potential as a 4-year-old in Holland.

“He is such an extremely honest horse,” Steffen enthused. “Like Mopsie (Suppenkasper), he wants to do a little more, so I am constantly telling him, ‘This is enough. We don’t need quite this much.’”

Exhibiting mastery of all this level’s challenges, Steffen acknowledged the focus is now on Grand Prix in the fall. El Torro’s lightness in the bridle layers elegance and effortlessness on his extravagant gaits. “Sometimes I have only the weight of the reins in my hands,” Steffen noted. “I like to point this out quite a lot. So many people teach having the horse go more into the hand, but if the horse is truly engaged and straight, there is nothing wrong with light contact.

“And, he likes it,” Steffen added. “This is not a horse I’d want to go more into the bridle.”

Amelia Newcomb & Natasha. Photo: Terri Miller Photography – TerriMiller.com

Elizabeth Ball and Cadence, LLC’s Vivalia finished second with a 70.343%. Elizabeth has had the 9-year-old German Sport Horse mare by Van Vivaldi for four years and this was their first CDI. “It’s only her second time doing I1, and I was really pleased with her.”

Galway Downs is located on a popular community event site, where Saturdays are filled with youth soccer action on part of the property. The cheers floating over to the equestrian space amped up an already impressive Grand Prix Arena vibe.

“She became a little frightened and distracted,” Elizabeth said. Vivalia doesn’t normally wear an ear bonnet, but they added one today to help her relax amid the extra noise. That helped and, despite a few two-tempi bobbles that Elizabeth wrote off to inexperience, it was a super finish for the pair who were also runners-up Friday in the Prix St. Georges.

Elizabeth closed out her Spring Benefit show with gratitude for the organizers, Equestrian Concepts, the “wonderful” venue and for the solid season of CDIs that now exist on the West Coast. “It’s really great having all these great shows out here.”

In fact, the competitions helped her prepare for another high note in the Spring Benefit’s national division. She and Escarigo entered their first Grand Prix Friday and won it on a 70.217% for the 14-year-old KWPN by Maestro.

Steffen Peters & El Torro B. Photo: Terri Miller Photography – TerriMiller.com

Jo Moran and Reine Noire GWF, a 10-year-old Oldenburg mare by Rotspon, were third in the CDI Intermediaire I with a 67.353%.

Jane Weatherwax, Maria Schwennesen and Sarah Geikie judged this class.

Newcomb Tops the CDI3* FEI Grand Prix Freestyle

Natasha, an 18-year-old Oldenburg mare by Negro, loves the Freestyle and she brought out her typically elegant approach today with trainer Amelia Newcomb to win on a 70.395%. Direct transitions from two-tempis to one-tempis, the passage and flying changes were Amelia’s favorite parts of their test.

Amelia has been riding Karen Drown’s mare for three or four years, the last two at Grand Prix. A lovely original piano score created for Natasha suited the mare’s light step.

Amy Miller and Encore, a 14-year-old KWPN by Jazz, were 2nd on a 68.97%, followed closely by Laura De Cesari and Rossi, an 11-year-old Swedish Warmblood by Blue Hors Romanov, on a 68.605%.

Balliwick House sponsored the class and it was judged by Maria Schwennesen, Jane Weatherwax, Sarah Geikie, Stephen Clarke and Brenda Minor.

Nichols Notches It Up in the U25 Grand Prix

Nineteen-year-old Erin Nichols and Elian Royale impressed again today, this time earning a 69.441% in the CDI U25 FEI 16-25 Grand Prix from judges Jane Weatherwax, Maria Schwennesen and Brenda Minor.

As their final prep before joining the European Tour next month, Erin said she was experimenting with different gears within the test. “We are trying for more power without getting too much, and we are trying for more expression in the trot work and to ease things up in the piaffe.” The KWPN by Glocks Johnson NOP is hot with plenty of go that Erin elegantly contained. “Coming down the final center line, I gave him a few scratches on the neck and said, ‘It’s OK, we’re almost done buddy.’”

“We had one little communication error, but I’m super happy with him,” Erin said. “I could not have asked for more from him and I’m proud to have such an amazing horse to learn from.” In their 8-month partnership, “I’ve learned so much from him, whether we are schooling or competing I’m always learning something I can do to help us improve.”

She gives her coach David Wightman credit for helping her transition from Young Riders to Grand Prix. “Compared to Young Riders, the Grand Prix is really technical. You have to have a lot of focus, to be in tune with what you’re doing, what you’re asking your horse and what he’s doing.”

Sean Caddell and Associates Real Estate sponsored this class.

Erin Nichols and Steffen Peters. Photo: Terri Miller Photography – TerriMiller.com

Hinnemann Atop CDIY FEI YR Individual

Playing it safe paid off again for Josephine Hinnemann and Copa Cabana MRF, who emerged atop the CDIY FEI Young Rider Individual Test today with a 66.627%. “He was really perfect today, but I went off course!” “Jojo” shared. “You just have to forget about it.”

Yesterday, the pair finished 2nd in the Team Test by also focusing on precision over pushing for extra. These solid outings set the stage to push the envelope in Sunday’s Freestyle, JoJo explained. “It gives me confidence that I’ll have that control tomorrow, so I can ask for that extra.”

Team Test winners Ellanor Boehring and Sir Junior, a 12-year-old Hanoverian by Sir Stauffenbuerg, were a close second today on a 66.373%. Grace Duggan and Farruco LXXXIX, an 18-year-old PRE sired by Lego, were third on a 61.912%.

Stu and Laura Mollrich sponsored this class, which was officiated by Jane Weatherwax, Maria Schwennesen and Sarah Geikie.

In the CDIY FEI Junior Individual Test, Katherine Nayak had a nice comeback after mistakenly carrying her whip in yesterday’s Team Test. She and MW Fabulos, an 11-year-old Oldenburg by Furstenball, scored a 68.529% from the same judging panel.

Katherine is already qualified for the North America Youth Championships this summer, and their weekend bodes well for that, with Sunday’s Freestyle still to come.


Sunday, May 7th

Anna Buffini and Frh Davinia La Douce came to Temecula to find out what edges of excellence can be pushed after their top 10 finish in the FEI World Cup Finals in Omaha. In the Grand Prix Special today, their winning 70.872% established some new highs in their trot work — “probably the best we’ve ever done” — and some new training tasks to maximize their canter work.

“We are really experimenting here and some things paid off and some things didn’t,” said Anna. “I love it because now I know how much to push and I have things to take home and train and know what to ask for in the next text.” Scoring over 70 today, following their 72.609% in Friday’s CDI3* Grand Prix, gave Anna what she thinks may be her first Grand Prix win in her California home turf.

Pressing for extra uphill and scope on the flying changes led to errors involving costly co-efficient movements. “I’m actually really happy to get such a good score, even with those mistakes.”

Throughout the weekend, Anna enjoyed her status as an “overnight sensation 20 years in the making” — as she described it with her bright, trademark smile. As happened at the World Cup Finals in Omaha, she was approached by fans through the weekend at the Galway Downs Equestrian Center.

Anna Buffini & Frh Davinia La Douce. photo: Terri Miller Photography – TerriMiller.com

“I think that having a positive impact on people is just as important as getting a CDI win,” she shared. “I’ve been working at this since I was 11 and I’m so glad that the message I’m putting out there about hard work and being a genuinely kind, caring person is inspiring so many.”

Summer plans are up in the air, with hopes to be tagged for a Nations Cup or Pan American Games team. Meantime, they’ll keep fine-tuning their performance from their San Diego base and working with coach Guenter Seidel.

Amelia Newcomb and Harvard, an 11-year-old KWPN by Charmeur, were 2nd on a 66.404%, followed by Daniela Groenke and Bardolina, a 12-year-old Oldenburg by Bordeaux, on a 64.979%.

The Grand Prix Special was sponsored by Bailiwick House and judged by Stephen Clarke, Sarah Geikie, Maria Schwennesen, Jane Weatherwax and Brenda Minor.

Next Gen Stars

Josephine Hinnemann and Ellanor Boehning might be rivals if they weren’t such good friends. Ellanor and Sir Junior, 12-year-old Hanoverian by Sir Stauffenbuerg, won the CDI FEI Young Rider Team Test on Friday, and “JoJo” and Copa Cabana MRF, a 14-year-old Hanoverian by Contucci, won Saturday’s Individual Test and today’s Freestyle. In every case, they were close in their scores and united in projecting a strong core of talented young riders developing on the West Coast.

David Blake & G.Q. Photo: TheWestEquestrian.com

JoJo had prioritized precision in her first two tests, and today’s determination to push for bigger movements resulted in their winning 71.933% from Jane Weatherwax and Brenda Minor, in a class sponsored by the It’s A Good Life Podcast. Ellanor was close behind on a 71.467%, even with some glitches that she described as learning experiences.

Both up and comers have the advantage of top coaching from California’s rich reserve of professionals. JoJo works with her mom, Natalie Hinnemann-Hamilton, her grandfather Johan Hinnemann and David Wightman and Kathleen Raine.

Ellanor has been working with Steffen Peters for the last few months, an experience the multi-Olympian seems to appreciate as much as Ellanor does. “I think for any rider at the Olympic level, it needs to be an obligation to help bring along the next generation,” Steffen commented. “When I see a beautiful test ridden by a young rider, it means as much to me as if Mopsie (Suppenkasper) and I won a class.

“If I can bring along this riding style in which dressage is not forceful — in which it’s more like dancing and less like weightlifting — I want to do it. And, Ellanor is certainly fun to work with.”

In the CDI FEI Junior Freestyle, Kathleen Nayak and MW Fabulos concluded a strong weekend with a 69.842% from the same two-judge panel. Fabulos is an 11-year-old Oldenburg by Furstenball.

David Blake & Lion Heart. Photo: TheWestEquestrian.com

Markel Insurance Young Horse Finals

When the Young Riders closed out the CDI, the spotlight moved to the 5, 6 and 7-year-old Young Horse Finals, presented by Markel Insurance. USEF/US Dressage Young Horse coach Christine Traurig and DG Bar Ranch’s Willy Arts were among the luminaries gathered to ride, coach or just eyeball spectacular horses likely to fill the CDI pipeline in coming years.

David Blake and Rebecca Rigdon’s strong track record for young horse development added more accolades. David rode G.Q. and Lion Heart to the Markel Insurance 6-Year-Old and 7-Year-Old Championship, respectively, while Rebecca was 2nd in the 6-Year-Olds with MSJ for VIPS and 3rd in the 7-Year-Olds with Lionell VE.

G.Q.’s 83.800% from judges Anne Cizaldo and Sarah Geikie continued a steady ascent for the Danish Warmblood by Grand Galaxy Win. “Working through the training scale has been very smooth with him,” said David, even though they’ve only been together since G.Q. was imported last November. “He has a really willing attitude. He tries and tries, he has an amazing attitude and he has the looks, too!” The judges appreciated all three of his gaits, noting the great articulation in each and scope to spare.

David plans to continue showing C.Q. through his 6-year-old year, then he’ll become the ride of his owner Helen Stacy. “Helen wanted to learn how to train a horse, so that’s what we’re going to do.”

Rebecca Rigdon was right behind her husband David in the Markel Insurance 6-Year-Old Final. She and MSJ for VIPS, an Oldenburg by Foundation, scored an 83.200%. Young horse master Willy Arts of DG Bar Ranch rode the Rock Forever mare Makanabria DG to a 3rd-ranking 81.000%.

Josephine Hinnemann and Ellanor Boehning.
Photo: Terri Miller Photography – TerriMiller.com

7-Year-Old Star

David Blake’s winning partner in the FEI 7-Year-Old Finals, Lion Heart, is a half-brother to G.Q., through their sire Grand Galaxy Win. They share similar personalities and mannerisms in the barn, but under saddle seem dramatically unrelated, David shared.

“Lion Heart is much more sensitive, delicate horse, so I have to be much more sensitive and delicate in my riding. He’s one of those horses that was coming along, then all of a sudden, he just got it — he was an FEI horse.”

He credits coaching from Christine Traurig with helping achieve the level of sensitivity required from the saddle, especially in their pirouette work. “At a recent young horse clinic Laura Roberts put on for us, Christine told me to make sure he’s bending from behind, not just collecting and turn. So, that’s what I’m hearing in the ring during the pirouettes — Christine’s voice saying ‘haunch, haunch…’”

Their 81.000% from Anne Cizaldo topped a strong field in the FEI 7-Year-Old finals. Tokyo Team silver medalist Sabine Schut-Kery and Gorgeous Latino were the Markel Insurance 6-Year-Old Finals at the Spring Benefit last year and won Saturday’s Preliminary class for the 7-Year-Old Finals. They were a close 2nd on a 79.80% for the Dutch Warmblood stallion sired by Glocks Toto Jr. Rebecca Rigdon and Lionell VE were not far off for 3rd on a 79.400% for the Dutch Warmblood by Negro.

In the Markel 5-Year-Old Final, For Edition, ridden by Alyssa Doverspike-Burkett, emerged the winner on an 80.600% from Anne Cizaldo and Sarah Geikie. The Westphalian youngers is by For Gold.

Stephen Birchall and Nero were 2nd on a 75.600%, and Jackie Ahl-Eckhaus and News Man MVS were third on a 74.200%. Nero is a KWPN chestnut gelding by Desperado, and News Man MVS is a bay Dutch Warmblood, also by Desperado.

In the USEF 4-Year-Old Young Horse class, Oxford B took top honors with a 79.00% from Sarah Geikie. The KWPN is sired by Romanov and owned and ridden by amateur Anne Buchanan. Alyssa Doverspike Burkett and Furst Adventure were 2nd on a 74.800% and Blair Niemcziek and Optima where third on a 74.200%. Furst Adventure is a Hanoverian by Fuerstenball, and Optima is a KWPN by Furst Toto.

Development Opportunities

David Blake and Rebecca Rigdon have been happy DASC Spring Benefit participants since the show debuted in 2021. “This facility is really nice and getting better and better and we are grateful to have so many shows in our area,” David noted. Not so long ago, the West Coast competition calendar was so spotty that it was often impossible to target national and international ambitions without substantial travel.

“Rebecca and I made a commitment to attend every show in California,” David said. “We want to support them so we can keep them and, every time our horses show, they get better. It’s wonderful having enough shows so that we can wait one out if a young horse needs that, or compete in all of them and have a drop score to use.”

Top Caliber Everything

“I’m so proud to be able to offer an event of this quality for our West Coast riders,” reflected Regina Antonioli of Equestrian Concepts and the organizer of the DASC Spring Benefit. “The caliber of horses and riders is so outstanding.”

The Dressage Association of Southern California is a non-profit entity. The Spring Benefit raises funds to support the region’s riders with travel grants for national and international competitions and for an emergency fund. Travel grant applicants must be members of DASC and the Emergency Funds are available to all.

Recent grant recipients include USDF Region 7 Young Riders team and Ride On Therapeutic Horsemanship, a Center of Excellence in the US Para Dressage program.

For more information on DASC’s grants, contact Regina at eqconcepts@earthlink.net or stay tuned to www.equestrianconcepts.com.

Full results for the DASC Spring Benefit CDI and National show can be found on www.foxvillage.com.