Cornelius Rides Her “Dream Horse” To Claim First Title Awarded at 50th Anniversary California Dressage Society & Great American/USDF Region 7 Championships

The excitement was palpable as six rings of competition kicked off on the first day of the 50th Anniversary California Dressage Society (CDS) Championship Show, being held September 21-24 in Rancho Murieta.

Karen Cornelius and Fiderello were foot-perfect in their First Level Freestyle to earn the first championship title awarded at the 2017 Great American Insurance Group/USDF Region 7 Championships, held as part of the 50th Anniversary California Dressage Society Championship Show. Photo: Jennifer M. Keeler.

Even the weather gods seemed to be celebrating half a century of dressage on the West Coast as sunny skies and refreshingly mild temperatures welcomed horses and riders to the Murieta Equestrian Center to compete for a multitude of CDS Horse of the Year and United States Dressage Federation (USDF) championship honors, including the Great American Insurance Group/USDF Region 7 Championships as well as the Great American Insurance Group/USDF Breeders Championships West Coast Series Final.

One of those appreciating the festive atmosphere was Karen Cornelius, who traveled six hours from Nipomo, Cal. with her five-year-old Hanoverian stallion Fiderello. “I was so excited coming here for the anniversary show – I read all the e-blasts that came out this summer talking about the history of CDS, and it was fascinating!” Cornelius said. “It’s such a cool atmosphere to be here with legends like Hilda Gurney as well as riders who are attending for the very first time. There’s an air of positivity that just seems to spread from person to person at a special event like this, and makes all the hard work that it took to get here worthwhile.”

Cornelius’ journey with Fiderello to the CDS 50th Anniversary Championship Show has literally been years in the making: she purchased the colt when he was just four months old from breeder Bjoern Kommerell in southern California. “I knew that the only way I could afford a super horse was to buy one young, and he is my dream horse,” she explained. “This is hopefully just the start of a long journey and a promising future with him.”

The eye-catching pair appear to be well on their way as they were presented with the first championship title of the year in the Great American Insurance Group/USDF Region 7 First Level Freestyle Championship for their foot-perfect 80’s-themed performance, which thoroughly impressed the judges for the day’s highest freestyle score of 76.750%.

“I love freestyles, and when I listen to music in the car, I’m always thinking, ‘that would be a perfect freestyle song’,” Cornelius laughed. “So I have a list of 50 or 60 songs that I like, and from those I pick tunes that work well with the rhythm of his gaits. Then I purchase instrumental versions on iTunes, and since I’m on a budget I use music software to put it together myself. I watch lots of videos on YouTube of top riders, and I get motivation from that and study how they compose their freestyles.”

Fifty years after her first CDS Championship Show in 1968, Hilda Gurney earned yet another championship title by topping a hard-fought Great American/USDF Third Level Freestyle class with 72.833% aboard Lotta Silver. Photo by Jennifer M. Keeler.

Also finding success were last year’s First Level Freestyle champions Diane Abraham of Los Gatos, Cal. and her Oldenburg mare Dasha, who returned to the winner’s circle for the second straight year, this time by successfully moving up to the Second Level Freestyle division and earning a top score of 68.500% for their efforts. Meanwhile at Third Level, Hilda Gurney topped a hard-fought freestyle class with 72.833% aboard Lotta Silver, a seven-year-old Trakehner gelding she bred, raised, rides and owns. Gurney has been a legendary figure in CDS’ 50-year history, having attended the inaugural Championship show in 1968 and almost every edition since, and was pleased that her anniversary weekend was off to a winning start. “I’m happy to be here and so pleased to be competing with two really nice horses,” she noted.

U.S. High Performance competitor Charlotte Jorst of Reno, Nev. has several top international mounts in her barn, but she has a soft spot for her up-and-coming Westphalen gelding Ray Dance, who cruised to victory in the Great American/USDF Intermediate I Freestyle with 74.938%. “Did you see how amazing he was? I am so proud of him today,” she exclaimed, and hinted she may now take her rising star to Kentucky to compete at the U.S. Dressage Finals in November.

Thursday afternoon featured in-hand sport horse breeding competition with the Great American Insurance Group/USDF Breeders Championships-West Coast Final. For the Current Year Foal Championship, the Dutch cross colt Minstrel de la Nuit (Gaspard de la Nuit x HPB Widget by Watch Me) earned top honors for owner/breeder Jeannie Brown with 76.513%. In the hotly-contested Great American/USDFBC Filly Championship division, judges Sue Mandas and Lynn McEnespy rewarded owner/breeder Anita Nardine’s two-year-old Oldenburg mare Fait Accompli HSR (Fackeltanz x Santina by Sir Donnerhall) with a top score of 79.488% for the win. For the Mare Championship, Linda Varnum’s Hanoverian mare Paris C (Pabilto x Opera by Ostwind, bred by Sandy Campbell) earned top honors with 75.025%.

Cindy Wilkin’s three-year-old Hanoverian colt Wild Escort (Wild Dance x Erristable R) was best of the boys in the Colt/Gelding

In the hotly-contested Great American/USDFBC Filly Championship division, judges Sue Mandas and Lynn McEnespy rewarded owner/breeder Anita Nardine’s two-year-old Oldenburg mare Fait Accompli HSR (Fackeltanz x Santina by Sir Donnerhall) with a top score of 79.488% for the win. Photo by Jennifer M. Keeler.

Championship with 76.213%, while DG Bar Ranch’s four-year-old KWPN stallion Ion SWF (Lingh x Dorothee, bred by Southernwood Farm) won top Stallion division honors with 80.775%. Under saddle in the Great American/USDFBC Materiale Championship classes, Dantia Benson rode her homebred KWPN gelding Joule (Ampere x Rajani by Radikal) to win the three-year-old division with 83.800%, while Jennette Scanlon rode Leslie Blaney’s Oldenburg gelding Bronson (Fürst Romancier x Lucrezia by Laurie’s Crusader, bred by Helmet Heidmeyer) to earn a score of 77.250% and edge out three rivals to win the four/five-year-old class title.

Three divisions of the CDS Dressage Seat Equitation Challenge wrapped up a busy first day in the main arena, where Michele Mooney of Phoenix, Ariz. rode her Oldenburg gelding Don Viamo to win the Adult Amateur title with 80%. For juniors and young riders, Katelyn Mosle rode David Wightman’s five-year-old Swedish mare Kai to top the field of 14-21-year-old competitors with 82%, while in the 13 and under class Katrina Ragsdale earned the blue ribbon with 76% earned aboard Natalie Jensen’s Thoroughbred gelding Wrigley.