November 2020 - On With The Show!
Written by by Nan Meek
Friday, 30 October 2020 01:27
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dressage news

CDS/USDF Region 7 Championships parlayed special circumstances into special highlights.

by Nan Meek

What makes a show special is as individual as each competition, and what makes a highlight special is just as unique.

For me, the 2020 Great American Insurance Group/ USDF Region 7 Dressage Championships and the 53rd California Dressage Society Championships, held concurrently at the Del Mar Horse Park was only special because I didn’t get to attend. I wasn’t competing, or grooming, or volunteering  – but I was there in spirit.


What made the show special for some of my friends and fellow CDS members are these highlights. Their accomplishments illustrate to me the reasons they are so successful: They know their horses inside and out, and love them for their strengths as well as their quirks. They work hard to achieve their goals, and they appreciate not only the prize at the end of the journey, but the long and often winding journey itself. And at the end of the day, they’re all as horse crazy as I am.


There are many more great stories than I can cover in just one column. To find out about other champions, competitors, and their stories, visit for links to CDS press releases and official show results.

Charlotte Jorst and Kastel Denmark’ KWPN stallion Kastel's Grand Galaxy, CDS Prix St. Georges Open Horse of the Year, and Great American/USDF Region 7 Open Champion at both Prix St. Georges and Intermediaire 1. Photo: Terri Miller Photography

Charlotte Jorst Brings a Trio of Champions

Galaxy, Botticelli, and Nintendo – oh my! That is a seriously fun stable of dressage horses, and Charlotte Jorst brought home seven championships with this trio. Having worked for Charlotte in the past, I’ve always been impressed by how she’s worked hard as well as smart to make the seriously big money it takes to buy, campaign, and now breed outstanding dressage horses. Who hasn’t worn, or at least seen, her Kastel Denmark sun shirts, among other athleisure apparel standouts, or Fossil watches before that? She’s also one of the most enthusiastic and encouraging competitors you’ll ever find.

“The championships were so fun, I’m so glad I did it,” Charlotte remarked. “I had such a good time. I really appreciate being able to even have the show this year. I think everyone was happy to be there – it’s been such a difficult year.”

With Kastel Denmark’s KWPN stallion Kastel’s Grand Galaxy, Charlotte won the $750 CDS Prix St. Georges Open Horse of the Year class on 73.456%; the Great American/USDF Region 7 Prix St. Georges Open Championship on 74.632%; and the Great American/USDF Region 7 Intermediaire I Open Championship on 71.809%.

“Galaxy has really only been doing stallion shows until now. I took him out for the first time at Temecula, where he had no idea what that little white barrier was! Then at the Starr Vaughn show he was way better,” she recalled. “So at the championships I was curious to see what he’d do. He came out three times in a row and did his job – I was so relieved and happy. He’d never really done this before. I’m very proud of him for rising to the occasion.”

With Kastel Denmark’s Dutch gelding Atterupgaards Botticelli, Charlotte brought home the Great American/USDF Region 7 Third Level Open Championship on 72.375 and the $750 CDS Third Level Open Horse of the Year on 73.938%.

“Botticelli is similar. He’s a very hot horse, and he hasn’t shown a lot. During our second dressage class, there were also awards going on with music and lots of activity, but he just stepped right up and did his job. This show was a big test for me, with two new horses. It was a big goal for me. Everybody’s been in the same boat: riding at home, with some barns shut down, and very few shows to qualify.”

With Kastel Denmark’s KWPN stallion Kastel’s Nintendo, this longtime partnership won the $750 CDS Grand Prix Freestyle Open Horse of the Year on 75.500%, and the Great American/USDF Region 7 Grand Prix Open Championship on 71.304%.

“Nintendo is always game – he loves his job. I think he was disappointed he didn’t have more classes! He’s always ready for anything, all the time,” she laughed. Hmmm, I think he sounds a lot like Charlotte.

Charlotte was still in Del Mar when we spoke after championships, getting ready for the two CDIs in November, and then heading to Florida where she’ll try out for the World Cup or the Olympics, depending on how life unfolds. With the uncertainties of the current pandemic, that will take the optimism and perseverance that Charlotte has in abundance.

Tina Lovazzano and Dancing Kings Farm's P.R.E. gelding Leon XXIX, Great American/USDF Region 7 Grand Prix Adult Amateur Champion. Photo: Terri Miller Photography

Sandy Savage Takes Home Schooling up the Levels

Sandy Savage brought two horses to the championships and came away with two championships for each horse. Although they’re different ages and purchased at different times, both were spotted on Facebook videos, and both imported sight unseen as unridden, coming 3-year-olds that Sandy broke and brought up all the way.

Of course she did, I thought, remembering her early rides on the very big and very green Woccelli years ago when we both happened to be riding in the same clinic. I hadn’t met her but I was mesmerized by how calmly, confidently, and kindly she rode the very rambunctious greenie. She took him up through the levels, too, so it didn’t surprise me to see her repeating her success.

With Maureen Lamb’s Oldenburg mare Fiana, Sandy won the First Level Warm Up class on 73.333%; the $750 CDS First Level Open Horse of the Year on 73.542%; and the Great American/USDF Region 7 First Level Open Championship on 79.028%.

“Fiana is one of the best chestnut mares in the world,” Sandy contends. “She wants her attention and tells you what she wants. She really loves people and despises other horses. She’s very precocious, very brave, can be a little dramatic, and she is super confident and willing to work. She’s one of the most uncomplicated horses and very run to ride. Her rider appreciates her the most – she’s very friendly to people but not to other horses!”

With Maureen Lamb’s Dutch gelding Ilario, Sandy won the Fourth Level Warm Up class on 70.417%; the $750 CDS Fourth Level Open Horse of the Year on 74.097%; and the Great American/USDF Region 7 Fourth Level Open Championship on 75.000%.

“Ilario is at the opposite end of the spectrum from Fiana,” Sandy explains. “He’s very tall and very scared. He needs lots of emotional support. If you fulfil his needs, he tries his heart out for you. He’s a really good boy, the sweetest, kindest horse on the planet. He has beautiful eyes; he seduces you with his eyes and melts your heart.”

Haley Smith and Pacific Coast Vaulting Club’s Hanoverian gelding Sir Charles, CDS Third Level JR/YR Horse of the Year. Photo: Jerry Yang

Tina Lovazzano’s Overwhelmingly Good Show

For me, Tina Lovazzano represents the quintessential qualities of adult amateur riders: a passion for her horses and a passion for the art, sport, and lifestyle of dressage, for all the joy that brings to life. And sometimes for the chaos it brings, as well.

In the months leading up to the championships, Dancing Kings Farm held and had to cancel shows; evacuated the entire farm (P.R.E. stallions, mares, and babies as well as riding horses) due to approaching wildfires and unhealthy air quality; and later headed south to compete in the championships. Tina’s daughter Shae and Shae’s fiancé Manuel Peña Santos, partners in Dancing Kings Farm, were along for moral support as well as eyes on the ground.

With Dancing Kings Farm’s P.R.E. gelding Leon XXIX, Tina won the Great American/USDF Region 7 Grand Prix Adult Amateur Championship on a score of 64.239%.

“For me, the experience at my very first Championship show was overwhelming in a good way,” Tina explained. “To win the championship on an Iberian horse that I trained myself to Grand Prix, in our first year showing  Grand Prix, in a class of seasoned competitors all riding accomplished warmbloods, was truly the silver lining to such a turbulent 2020!

“Seeing myself wearing a mask in my honor round and award photos will forever remind me what this year has brought, both good and bad, but it goes to show that with determination, drive, and passion you can reach your goals even during a global pandemic.”

Sandy Savage and Maureen Lamb’s Dutch gelding Ilario, CDS Fourth Level Open Horse of the Year and Great American/USDF Region 7 Fourth Level Open Champion. Photo: Victoria Savage

Haley Smith Vaults into Dressage

Recently introduced to Haley Smith by my longtime trainer, Anke Herbert, I quickly saw what had so impressed Anke: Haley’s natural talent, athleticism, and intelligence to succeed in whatever equestrian sport she chooses. Haley just happened, thanks to the pandemic, to segue from vaulting to dressage.

With Carolyn Bland’s KWPN mare Checara, Haley won CDS Training Level JR/YR Horse of the Year on a combined average score of 75.043%. Not to rest on her laurels, she added other championships with the Pacific Coast Vaulting Club’s Hanoverian gelding Sir Charles, taking the CDS Third Level JR/YR Horse of the Year on a combined average score of 68.408%.

Hayley’s own account says it all:

“I competed in vaulting for eight years, attending my first World Championship in Le Mans, France, in 2016. In 2018, I competed at the World Equestrian Games, where we placed fourth in Squad and 6th in Pas de Deux. Sir Charles also competed at the WEG for vaulter Kristian Roberts. Most recently, I won an FEI Silver medal at the World Cup in Saumur, France, for Pas de Deux.

“This year was set to be a very exciting season for the vaulting competition, before COVID-19 hit and all was shut down. We had our eyes set on the 2020 World Championships, which would have been held in Flyinge, Sweden. Reality soon struck, as we were notified that it could be a long while until competitive vaulting would resume. As an athlete and competitor, I didn’t want stop or give up on all that we had worked for. In addition to vaulting, our horses are trained in dressage as cross-training to strengthen and develop their balance and ability to move with regularity.

“Since I was very young, I have always been in the saddle, first with hunter/jumper, western, English, and soon vaulting, as I had done some gymnastics as a child. When my vaulting coach Carolyn Bland saw that I had a tool box of riding skills and a quality seat, she began teaching me dressage. We have also been very lucky to have Anke Herbert helping to train the US vaulting horses in dressage.

“When we found out that there would be no vaulting competitions this season, Anke asked if I would consider showing in dressage instead. I was a bit nervous at first, as I really had no clue what even M-X-K meant! Many YouTube videos later, I began to understand and develop the basics of what I would need to do.

“With a lot of patience and grace, Anke soon taught me how to bring the confidence I held in the vaulting arena to the court of the dressage world. I believe this was my key to success, as even though I did not have much experience or time under my belt, I knew how to have a competitive mindset and drive to succeed.

“In March, I attended my first dressage show and in September won championships in Del Mar on two horses. The championship show was the highlight to my year, as even though life did not go as planned, we were able to make something pretty magical of it! I have so many to thank for the incredible opportunity and hope to be back in the dressage arena soon. I owe a big “thank you” to Akiko Yamazaki for allowing me to train in her dressage court prior to the competition in Del Mar.

Barbi Breen-Gurley and her KWPN gelding Happy M, Great American/USDF Region 7 Fourth Level Freestyle Champions. Photo: Terri Miller Photography

Miki Yang Grows Up Through the Levels

Speaking of Akiko Yamazaki, her daughter Miki Yang rode Four Winds Farm’s Oldenburg gelding Rapsodie Espagnole to win the Third Level Warm Up class on 70.125%, as well as the Great American/USDF Region 7 FEI Junior Team Test Championship on 68.636%.

It’s a sign of a bright future for our sport when you see a new generation of talented young riders growing up immersed in the details of dressage and committed to excelling in their chosen sport. Watch for more championships in Miki’s future.

Freestyles Pay Off for Barbi Breen-Gurley

Over the years, there’s always been a smile, a friendly comment, and a helping hand when needed from Barbi Breen-Gurley and her husband Geof Gurley. Longtime mainstays of California dressage shows, competitions are always a bit brighter when they’re around.

This year’s championship show was no exception, and it might have been due to the brilliance of their smiles when Barbi and her KWPN gelding Happy M won both the Great American/USDF Region 7 Fourth Level Freestyle Championship on a score of 73.500%, and the CDS Fourth Level Freestyle Horse of the Year on 74.750%.

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).