By George Williams
As I write this, the semis filled with horses are pulling out of Wellington, signaling a sure sign that the season is ending. Although a bit of a blurred whirlwind, what a season it has been!
In looking back, one of the first things that strikes me is that there was every type of CDI imaginable. At times perhaps a little confusing, but in a way, it simply reflected the many different goals of a diverse competitor base. Some of those competitors had their eye on the FEI World Cup Finals while others were gearing up for the World Championships in Herning in August. Admittedly, in some ways the youth were underrepresented this year, especially in the CDIYs and Juniors. However, if you use the term more broadly, they were extremely well represented, and, if I may say so, proved that our programs are working.
Proof of that statement is the afternoon in March when we had a nail-biting competition as a result of the points based on placings versus the old percentage system put in place a couple of years ago for the World Cup. It was down to the wire as young guns Codi Harrison and Anna Buffini fought it out at the last CDI-W for an invitation to the FEI World Cup Finals. It turned out to be Anna’s day. Anna had a beautiful test and was awarded a 79.265%, putting her in first place and earning her enough total points to join fellow U.S. athlete Ashley Holzer as the representatives from the North American League at the World Cup Final in Leipzig, Germany. Both Anna and Codi are under 30 years old, and it’s the first time we’ve had two younger athletes contesting for a spot at the FEI World Cup Finals. With his eye on the World Championships rather than the World Cup, Ben Ebeling more than proved he was one of our top athletes, regardless of age, competing on two horses in the Grand Prix and one in the U25. The 2021 NAYC gold medalist, Christian Simonson, who in January and February was ranked number three on the FEI Young Rider World Ranking list, also had a successful season in the CDI1* and CDI2*s.
With the offering of CDI1*, 2*, 3*, 4*, 5*, Ws (well, you get the picture), there was something for everyone including amateurs with the CDIAm divisions. The current FEI definition of an amateur for dressage is very different from US Equestrian’s, and more along the lines of a peer-to-peer system. I will say that I still firmly believe that a peer-to-peer system is the fairest way to go. Regardless, the CDIAm is a great addition to the FEI competition designation lineup and offers opportunities for those competitors just getting their feet wet competing in international competition or returning after a hiatus without getting their feet stomped on. It’s a nice introduction to the standards expected at an FEI competition, and allows adults to ease into it much the way our youth are able to.
George Williams reflects on the dressage shows in Wellington which featured every type of CDI imaginable.
Photo by Melissa Fuller
There were several new and returning faces over the three months. It was wonderful to see Juan Matute Guimon competing once again. He was here for the World Cup qualifiers, successfully earning a starting place in the Western European League for the FEI World Cup Finals.
Bianca Berktold and her mare Imperial caught the attention of many with her I-1 Freestyle during the CDIO3* Nations Cup. Much to the delight of the baby boomers, the Paris-based Belgian rider Laurence Vanommeslaghe struck a chord with the spectators when she rode to rock classics Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin, mounting her own “Stairway to Heaven” to the top of the podium.
One of the highlights of the season was the Jessica von Berdrow-Werndl Master Class held in the stadium at Global. As an audience, we gained insight and inspiration from her winning ways and approach to the horses. It was nice to hear her put emphasis on building and giving the horse confidence as well as other essentials to good training such as (my favorites) longitudinal balance and engaged hindquarters.
The icing on this season’s dressage cake was the final Friday Night Stars CDI4* Freestyle. Receiving two 10s on piaffe and a 10 on music, Adrienne Lyle riding Betsy Juliano’s stallion Salvino set not only her own personal best record but a Global Dressage record score of 85.58%. Her Bruce Springsteen music was put together by Terri Gallo and was approved by “The Boss” himself.
The return of the CDIs to the World Equestrian Center in Ocala and the Global Equestrian Group’s purchase of the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center—now rebranded as Wellington International—brings to my mind what a Nobel Prize winner once wrote and sang, “The Times They Are a-Changing.” A lot will be happening in our dressage world between now and next season. It’s exciting, and I look forward to coming back next year!