Competition, Dressage

Spring Benefit Dressage Concludes with West Coasters Celebrating a Welcomed Event

With a doubling of entries over last year’s inaugural show, the DASC Spring Benefit CDI, CPEDI and National Dressage Show more than proved its value to the West Coast dressage scene. The international para-dressage competition was new this year, and those equestrians joined the CDI and National contenders in their appreciation for the event.

            Organizer Regina Antonioli of Equestrian Concepts recognized the unique suitability of Galway Downs Equestrian Center to host international level dressage. Over four years, Galway Downs has undergone substantial facility and amenity upgrades. They are the result of the venue’s owner Ken Smith and hunter/jumper show manager Nilforushan EquiSport Events investing in footing, stabling and many exhibitor-related niceties. “I knew it was the right place to hold an event of the high caliber we wanted and that’s proven true, with hopes for even more enhancements in the future.”

            Tokyo Silver Medalist Sabine Schut-Kery summed it up after dominating the weekend’s Markell/USEF FEI Six-Year-Old division with Gorgeous Latino. “The two most important things to me in a show venue are footing and stabling, and both are great at Galway Downs. We are breeding for very refined sporthorses these days, and we need to give them the right dance floor.” Shaded stabling and spacious grounds are appreciated, too, as are the little touches that contribute to a positive overall experience. “Nice healthy food and a comfortable VIP area are really nice to have, too.”

            Goals Met

Steffen Peters & Suppenkasper

            Many goals were met throughout the weekend. To no one’s surprise, Steffen Peters and Suppenkasper followed up Friday’s terrific 76.848% Grand Prix with an equally relaxed 76.319% in Sunday’s Grand Prix Special. Again, Nick Wagman and Don John rode elegantly to a red ribbon on a 71.511%, followed by Matthew Cunningham and Ribery 27 on a 66.340%.

            The scores should easily put Steffen and Nick in good stead for the soon-to-be-announced USET Short List for the World Championships this summer. The marks were determined by judges Freddy Leyman, Maria Colliander, Magnus Ringmark, Kari McClain and Jane Weatherwax.

            The ability to earn the needed scores without another trip to Florida is huge for horses, riders and their teams. Akiko Yamazaki explained why her Four Winds Farm is a presenting sponsor of the Spring Benefit. “It’s very important for us to have the shows that can be used for qualification at different levels.”

            Four Winds Farms supports the Florida dressage circuit and several other shows and Akiko was especially happy to support this one due to unusually challenging circumstances involving the EHV-1 virus earlier in the year. The virus outbreak in February truncated the Desert Dressage series that Four Winds also supports and created many horse-protecting hoops for owners and organizers to jump through to safely stage this show. “We appreciate the organizers who have risen to the occasion and gone the extra mile in these challenging and difficult times.”

            There were no signs of challenges or difficult times for Akiko’s daughters on this Mothers Day Weekend event. Miki Yang and her longtime partner Donovan earned a personal best in the Young Riders FEI Freestyle with their 72.258% from judges Jane Weatherwax and Kari McClain.

            Polishing a slightly reshuffled Freestyle and “ironing out some of the many wrinkles,” Miki was very happy with the performance and with confirming their confidence in an atmospheric setting and in front of George Williams, the USEF High Performance and Pathway Development Advisor. “I was really happy with Donovan’s enthusiasm, especially in the extended canter. I just pointed him and he went for it on his own. And I loved how we stayed on the music.”

            The whole weekend nicely fulfilled the agenda of prepping for European competition this summer, Miki said.  (In the FEI Pony Riders division of the National show, Emi Yang and Gardens Sam had nice outings in their individual and team tests to make it a family affair.)

Charlotte Dunn & Golden Noir

            Charlotte Dunn and Golden Noir were reserve on a 63.300% in the YR Freestyle. She’s only had the horse for a month, and the USDF Region 5 rider considered everything about the weekend valuable.  As a venue, Galway Downs is woven into the fast-growing Temecula community. Not far from the Grand Prix Arena, cheers and whistles carry from youth soccer fields. The arena itself is surrounded by VIP and exhibitor tents and spectator stands, plus international flags flapping behind the judges at C.

            “I learned that my new horse is not a super fan of flags,” laughed Charlotte. “It’s good practice to ride in this kind of atmosphere because it’s going to come up in other places and I know I’ll be fine.”

            Josephine Hinnemann and Copa Cabana MRF topped the FEI CDIY Junior Freestyle on a 71.308% in their first CDI together. Their scores and the unique show experience advance their quest for a berth on the Region 7 NAYC team this summer.  Region 5 rider Kali Riddell and Hashtag had a 66.792% for second. “I’m very grateful for the experience of my first CDI: doing the jog, getting feedback from multiple judges and the general experience was very helpful,” Kali said.

Para Dressage Dynamic Duo

            With the support of Perrigo and Adequan®, the Para Dressage competition was given center stage throughout the weekend. Canadian Tokyo Para Equestrian Noni Hartvikson earned stellar scores with Onyx throughout the weekend, accomplishing her mission of meeting the World Championships requirements.

             The Grade I athlete performed a walk test and Noni appreciated the fact that one of the show’s officials understood the complexities that involves. “After my second technical test, I had one of the staff tell me they’d just had a clinic at the walk, and I said, ‘Thank you!’. Keeping the tempo of a clock over a five minute-plus test is much more difficult than it looks.” She was thrilled that Onyx was not thrown off his game by windy weather and a few unusual delays in their rides over the weekend. “He knows his job so well and he just clicks in when it’s time.”
            To qualify for Tokyo Paralympics last summer, Noni had to travel from her Langley, British Columbia home to Florida. She added her name to the long list of West Coasters grateful to spare their horses and themselves that taxing and expensive trip in their qualifying quests.

            Markell/USEF Young Horse Finals

             Nobility LH and Dawn White-O’Connor topped today’s 4-Year-Old Final with an 86.600%. Alyssa Doverspike Burkett and For Eddition followed with an 82.600%, and Willy Arts and New Adventure DG were third on a 78.400% from Ulf Wadeborn.

Laura Brandt & Ikon

            In the 5-Year-Old Final, Ikon and Laura Brandt earned at 81.400% to top the field. Marie Francesca Medosi and Eddie the Eagle followed on a 79.300% and Dawn White-O’Connor and Magnifico were third on a 76%.

            The 6-year-old Gorgeous Latino wowed the judges again. He and Sabine Schut-Kery added an 87.20% in the Final to Saturday’s 87.40% in the Preliminary Test from judges Magnus Ringmark and Ulf Wadeborn. Lionelle VE and Rebecca Rigdon followed in the Final with an 84% and David Blake and Lion Heart were 3rd on an 83.800%.

            In the two phases of the 7-Year-Old final, David Blake and Amelia Newcomb swapped places. David and Delilah won the first on a 70.357% and were 2nd in the second with a 72.300%. Amelia and Kensington won the second class on a 76.500% and were 2nd in the first class with a 69.500%.

            On To Next Year!

            Juggling three distinct competitions in the CDI, the CPEDI and National show on the same weekend is no easy feat, even for experienced and ambitious show manager Regina Antonioli. Reflecting on the show’s origins, she explained that the suspension of the Southern California fixture, the Del Mar National, in 2020 was the catalyst for the Spring Benefit Show. “I felt that Southern California needed another premier show and I thought that Galway Downs, under Robert Kellerhouse’s management, was ready to handle it.”

            “I’m grateful to the support of our exhibitors and sponsors, especially for the extra precautionary measures required in the aftermath of the EHV-1 situation. Expect more exciting enhancements to this special event and see you all next year!”

Happy Mothers Day to all! FEI Pony Rider Mia Folk celebrates the day with a lovely test at the end of a great weekend of experience. Her pony partner, Alastor, is owned by trainer Stephanie Fields, middle, and her mom is on site to share the experience.

Full results can be found on

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