December 2016 - Dressage Life
Written by Michele Vaughn
Thursday, 01 December 2016 23:43

Crash Course: What’s Happening with CDIs in California?

by Michele Vaughn

That’s a question dressage riders have been asking as the news spread about the new CDIs that will be held in Las Vegas and Paso Robles this coming year. Other riders – even some dressage riders – simply ask: what’s a CDI? Here’s a little bit of a crash course in CDIs, with websites where you can find information about specific shows and the organizations that govern them.

Steffen Peters and Legolas 92, winners of the 2016 CDI-W Freestyle on Saturday night at the Del Mar National. Photo: McCool Photography

Christian Hartung riding Desario, who competed in the Del Mar National CDI-YH (Young Horse Division), went on to win the Markel/USEF Five-Year-Old National Championship. Photo: McCool Photography

First, CDI stands for Concours Dressage Internationale (French for “international dressage contest”). CDIs are governed by the Federation Equestre Internationale (French for “international equestrian federation”) also known as the FEI, whose headquarters are in Lausanne, the French-speaking part of Switzerland. With three websites –, and – all in English, there’s a lot to see and learn.

Second, not all CDIs are the same. Some include CDI-W (World Cup qualifier), CDIAm (amateur riders), CDICh (child riders), CDIJ (juniors), CDIP (ponies), CDIU25 (riders under 25), CDIY (young riders), CDIYH (young horses) and CPEDI (para dressage), among others. Then there are CDI* (one-star) up to CDI***** (five-star) designations … but I won’t go further. Most of you probably have read enough detail on this already, right?

So what is happening with CDIs in California? Are we losing CDIs, as some have asked? How does California stack up against Florida? What is new and what is changing?

In 2017, there will be eight CDIs in or near California, counting Las Vegas since it’s just next door in Nevada. We haven’t lost the number of CDIs, but there have been changes to existing shows.

Audience at the Del Mar National CDI. Photo: McCool Photography

Entry gates set the ambiance for Epona Farms International. Photo: Courtesy of Equestrian Concepts/Epona Farms.

2017 is not a qualifying year for the Olympics, so that has changed some of the divisions offered. Early 2017 is the end of the qualifying period for the FEI World Cup Dressage Finals, which will be held in Omaha, NB Mar.

29-Apr. 2, so you won’t see CDI-W included in the summer and autumn CDIs.

The addition of the CDIAm division – for amateur riders – has competition managers wondering how many amateur riders they’ll actually have. (You never know until the entries arrive.) From another perspective, amateur riders are excited – whether they’re ready to show at CDIs now or are dreaming about it for the future.

That’s one of the things about CDIs – they are expensive to put on, with more and different requirements than national (CDS/USDF/USEF-recognized) shows, and thus greater expense and risk for show management. For more information about national shows, see,, and

Florida vs. California

For those who want to know about Florida vs. California, here’s a fact that may surprise you: there are eight CDIs in California and Nevada, the same number as in Wellington, FL.

California’s eight CDIs are spread out between the northern (2), central (1) and southern (3) parts of the state, plus Nevada (1). Riders can pick and choose which they attend, and while there’s more driving to reach all the CDIs in the Golden State than there is just showing in Wellington, California benefits from the ripple effect: CDIs in more locations mean more people are exposed top horses and riders, which is good for the sport overall.

Some Californians are planning to compete in Florida, as well as in California, a logistical plan made possible by the dates of the shows. Florida’s CDIs are grouped in a season that stretches from Jan. 11 through Mar. 26, while California’s CDIs are spread throughout the year from Jan. 4 through Sept. 17.

Last but not least, why ride in a CDI? For top riders, that’s how to qualify for the Olympics, World Cup and Pan Am Games, among other competitions. If you’re not there yet but aspire to take your riding to the next level, competing in a CDI puts you squarely in front of a panel of five judges who view your ride from different angles – daunting, yes, but it shows what you’re capable of, and what you need to polish.

Even more, CDI competition helps raise the standard of riding. Veteran show manager Connie Davenport recalls, “After we started the CDI at Rancho Murieta years ago, it had a trickle-down effect that’s still going strong. The trainers rode in the CDI, then their students got interested, and they wanted to ride well enough to be in the CDI. It was good for everyone.”

CDI Schedule

California high-performance riders are fortunate to have long-established CDI competitions on the calendar, as well as newer CDIs that are every bit as welcome. In date order, they are:

  • January 4-7 is the new Las Vegas High Roller CDI-W/3*/1*/J/Y/P/C/U25/YH/AA will be held in Las Vegas at the South Point Casino, which has its own equestrian complex of arenas and barns. Managed by Joe Coleman and secretaried by Heather Petersen of Colorado-based Two White Feet, Inc., the show will also include a national (non-FEI) show. More information is available at
  • March 9-12, Festival of the Horse CDI-W, CDIJ, CDIU25, CDIY at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center in Burbank is managed by Glenda McElroy of Cornerstone Event Management, along with a CDS/USDF/USEF national show. This has been the traditional start of the California CDI season, and more information will be available closer to the show date at
  • March 23-26, Dressage Affaire CDI3*, CDIJ, CDIU25, CDIY at Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park in San Juan Capistrano is also managed by Glenda McElroy of Cornerstone Event Management, along with a CDS/USDF/USEF national show. More info will be available at
  • April 6-9, Golden State Dressage Festival CDI3*, CDIY, CDIJ, CDIU25, CDIAm, CDIYH at Murieta Equestrian Center in Rancho Murieta has been managed by Connie Davenport of Golden State Dressage for many years, and is a fixture of the Northern California show scene. Info will be available on
  • April 27-30, Del Mar National Dressage CDI-W, CDIY, CDIJ, CDIU25, CDIAm, CDIYH at Del Mar is managed by Regina Antonioli of Equestrian Concepts. A highlight of the southern California show scene, the Del Mar National features one week each of dressage, hunter/jumper and western competition. More information about the 2017 show will be available at and at
  • June 9-11 is the new Paso Robles Dressage Summer Classic CDI1*, CDIAm, CDIJ, CDIU25, CDIY, CDIYH at Paso Robles Horse Park in the midst of Paso Robles central coast wine country. Managed by Lisa Blaufuss of Crackerjack Productions LLC, it provides a great opportunity for amateurs, juniors, under-25s, young riders and young horses to get CDI experience on their home turf yet under the eyes of European judges. More information will be available at
  • June 15-18, Golden State Dressage Classic CDI2*, CDIY, CDIJ, CDIU25, CDIAm, CPEDI1*/2*/3* at Murieta Equestrian Center in Rancho Murieta is also managed by Connie Davenport of Golden State Dressage. The 1*/2*/3* para dressage divisions at this show gives para riders with different degrees of experience an ideal way to enter FEI competitions. More information will be available on
  • September 14-17, Epona Farms International CDI-W, CDIAm, CDIJ, CDIU25, CDIY, CDIYH at Epona Farms in Thousand Oaks returns after a two-year hiatus. Set among lush vineyards and rolling lawns, the ambiance and hospitality is as impressive as the competition. Managed by Regina Antonioli of Equestrian Concepts, more information will be available on

Dressage Life author Michele Vaughn is a dressage rider and trainer who earned USDF gold and silver rider medals. She has coached her daughter Genay from her first ride through Grand Prix competition, and now coaches other riders as well. At her Starr Vaughn Equestrian in Elk Grove, CA, she breeds and trains champion Hanoverian sport horses, manages dressage and hunter/jumper shows, and hosts clinics and breed inspections. For more information, visit and