November 2018 - All the Stars Aligned
Written by by Nan Meek
Thursday, 01 November 2018 05:39


Annual Championship is a hit in every way.

by Nan Meek • photos: Terri Miller Photography

Stars as young as the CDS Young Horse Futurity winners and as seasoned as longtime upper level competitors vied for championship sashes, perpetual trophies and bragging rights. Stellar performances from amateurs, juniors, young riders and open riders impressed an international panel of judges. Superstar volunteers, show staff, CDS and USDF members and directors worked their magic to keep classes and award presentations running smoothly.

The result: Dressage competition at its best – that was the Great American Insurance Group/United States Dressage Federation (USDF) Region 7 and California Dressage Society (CDS) Championship Shows at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center in Burbank, September 27-30.

nov2018 nan1Kristina Harrison and I Felix.

CDS President Kevin Reinig remarked, “This year’s show had a particularly good feeling. Everyone was very positive throughout the show – competitors were there to win, for sure, but they were also gracious and supported each other. There were a lot of smiling faces.”

nov2018 nan2Sandy Savage and Ilario.

Thanks to some changes at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center where the show is held, all horses were stabled in permanent stalls. No portables; which exhibitors appreciated. Also the schedule was a bit more relaxed due to some changes to the CDS classes.

In the CDS Young Horse Futurity, each age division was run as a separate class instead of being broken into open and adult amateur divisions. Awards and prize money went to the top placings in each division, but the amateurs also received awards and prize money based on their scores and standings in the open class. In one case, an adult amateur who came in as reserve champion actually took home more prize money than the champion.

Show Manager Glenda McElroy explained, “Every show has its own personality and at this one, all the stars aligned. That’s not just luck; it takes planning, staff and a lot of volunteers.” She explained that with this show, the new CDS rules came into play: In the open division, there is only one class per championship title for Training through Fourth Level Open, compared to two classes per championship title as in previous years. That gives the trainers more time for their clients. With more time comes more relaxed horse, riders and trainers … even more relaxed volunteers.

USDF Region 7 Director and former CDS Director Carol Tice served as volunteer coordinator. “Volunteers signed up ahead of time but we also had people who just showed up and said, ‘I’m here – put me to work.’ Plus, some riders came by and said, ‘We have some time, can you use us?’ Of course I said ‘Yes’!”

Grand Champions

CDS recognizes the importance of the freestyle competition by awarding Grand Champion titles to the horse and rider with the highest combined percentage in a CDS Horse of the Year Test and Freestyle in four divisions. By celebrating the artistry of freestyles combined with the technical precision of the classic tests, the Grand Champion titles are envisioned as a way to bring new fans to dressage.

CDS First/Second Level Grand Champion was Sara Bartholomew and her KWPN mare Gelbria. The duo won both the CDS Second Level Freestyle Open and the Great American/USDF Second Level Freestyle Regional Championship.

nov2018 nan3Christian Hartung and Desario.

CDS Third/Fourth Level Grand Champion was Christian Hartung and Christiane Noelting’s Oldenburg gelding Desario, who earned top scores in the CDS Fourth Level Open division as well as in the CDS Fourth Level Freestyle.

CDS Intermediaire/Grand Champion was Heidi Gaian with Johann Hinnemann’s Daumling, whose combined scores from both Freestyle and Open division classes placed them ahead of all other competitors at “eye-one”. As this year’s clinician for the CDS Junior/Young Rider Clinic Series, Heidi demonstrated that she practices what she teaches.

CDS Grand Prix Grand Champion went to Sherry Van’t Reit with her Oldenburg gelding Sir Deauville, who won the Great American/USDF Grand Prix Freestyle Regional Championship and combined their Open division class scores to bring home the Grand Championship at Grand Prix.

Young Horse Futurity

This year, a CDS rule change meant that all riders in the CDS Young Horse Futurity competed together in each futurity age group of four-, five-, and six-year-olds, with additional awards and prize money for amateur placings based on their scores in the open futurity competition.

CDS Six-Year-Old Futurity winner was the seemingly unstoppable Craig Stanley of Madera and his homebred KWPN gelding Habanero CWS, who just weeks before had won the Markel/USEF Young Horse Six-Year-Old division at the Markel/USEF Young & Developing Horse Dressage National Championships. Craig is looking ahead to a stellar career for Habanero and is considering his strategy for next year. “I’ll see how much strength he develops over the winter; that will determine what level he competes next year.”

In the top Adult Amateur spot for the CDS Six-Year-Old Futurity, Jennifer Wetterau and her own KWPN gelding Hartog took top honors, and in addition, captured both the CDS Second Level Adult Amateur Horse of the Year and the CDS Third Level Adult Amateur Horse of the Year titles.

nov2018 nan4Suzanne Smith and Spencer.

Winning the CDS Five-Year-Old Futurity Warm Up class set the stage for Sandy Savage and Maureen Lamb’s Dutch gelding Ilario, who rode to ultimate victory in the CDS Five-Year-Old Futurity. They didn’t stop there, however – this duo also won the CDS First Level Horse of the Year Open and CDS Second Level Horse of the Year Open. Describing “Fancy Pants” as Ilario is known around the barn, Sandy remarked, “He’s a pleaser – he will do whatever he’s asked and he will try his heart out for you.”

The top Adult Amateur in the CDS Five-Year-Old Futurity, Gundi Younger with her own KWPN gelding Time DG, also finished fourth overall in the division.

In the CDS Four-Year-Old Futurity, Alyssa Doverspike captured the title on the German-bred Westfalen gelding Figaro, owned by Kathleen Raine and Marti Foster. The top-placed amateur was Catharine Reynolds with her Oldenburg mare Hotness, bred in the US by Hilda Gurney.

Inspiration and Motivation

Speaking of Hilda … she is a force of nature. At age 75, Hilda can out-last riders a third her age. Maybe it’s the 15 to 20 horses a day she rides; maybe it’s her passion for dressage. Whatever the cause, Hilda brought her A-game, as she does every time, and captured multiple titles with the two home-breds she brought to this year’s show.

With her eight-year-old Trakehner gelding Lotta Silver, Hilda brought home the Great American/USDF Region 7 Fourth Level Freestyle Championship. With her Oldenburg mare Iris, she captured the CDS Intermediaire I Freestyle.

Kristina Harrison had what she called “the show of my lifetime”. Riding Jocelyn Towne’s KWPN gelding I Felix, Kristina captured the Great American/USDF Region 7 Training Level Open Championship, as well as both the CDS First Level Open Horse of the Year title AND the Great American/USDF Region 7 First Level Open title. With six horses at the show ranging from Training Level to Grand Prix, Kristina and her horses created a rainbow of ribbons to complement all their championship sashes.

For all the adult amateurs who dream of one day donning their own tailcoat, Suzanne Smith and her Dutch gelding Spencer may just provide that spark of inspiration – this pair topped the Great American/USDF Region 7 Prix St. Georges Adult Amateur Championship.

There’s A Whole Lot More …

It would take an entire issue of this magazine to cover all the winners – all the stars – at the Great American Insurance Group/United States Dressage Federation (USDF) Region 7 and California Dressage Society (CDS) Championship Shows.

Fortunately, CDS has all the bases covered for anyone who wants to find out more. Just visit their website – – and you’ll find press releases about the show winners, along with links to all the class scores and placings, as well as a link to the CDS Facebook page which also contains lots of information about the show, its competitors and lots more.

My hat’s off to everyone involved – for all the work done ahead of time, behind the scenes and on the spot to make this show the very special experience that competitors will remember with stars in their eyes.

BREAKING NEWS: Dressage Tests now Available for Download, Effective December 1

New dressage tests, effective beginning December 1, are now available for download at Co-branded as “2019 USEF/United States Dressage Federation (USDF) Dressage Tests,” they include Introductory through Fourth Level, Freestyle, Pas de Deux, Quadrille, Developing Horse/Young Horse Tests, and Sport Horse Tests. These tests will be used from December 1 of this year through November 30, 2022. Unaffected by these changes are FEI Tests (Prix St. Georges, Intermediate, Grand Prix, and Para-Equestrian) which can be downloaded from


A lifelong horse owner, Nan Meek lives on the scenic San Mateo County coast where dressage courts and riding trails overlook the Pacific Ocean. She competed in dressage to the Prix St. Georges level with her late beloved Lipizzan Andy (Maestoso II Athena II-1), and now practices the discipline of dressage with her handsome Spanish warmblood Helio Jerez 2000 and dotes on the newest family member Mischa (Neapolitano Angelica II-1). Yes, dressage is embedded in her DNA.