Florida’s Dressage Initiative Gets Big Thumbs Up in California as Great for Sport in USA

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Glenda McElroy. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

Glenda McElroy, who probably has run more dressage competitions, including four World Cup Finals on the West Coast, than any other show manager in the United States, is excited about the initiative to create a dressage stadium in Palm Beach, Florida as are the top riders competing at her shows.

“Anything that can showcase dressage and appeal to a broader audience, bring a brighter spotlight to the sport, is good for dressage,” she said during her Festival of the Horse World Cup qualifier at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center.

Some of California’s top dressage figures who were competing at the LAEC in Burbank came out strongly in support of plans to build a new dressage complex as part of Phase II of development of the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center, home to the world famous Winter Equestrian Festival.

Steffen Peters. © 2011 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Steffen Peters, Olympic and World Games medal winner and 2009 World Cup champion who has competed in all three World Dressage Masters CDI5* competitions in Palm Beach, said: “It has the real possibility of being the Aachen of the United States.

“It could be even better than Aachen, with the infrastructure of hotels, retail and all the services for horses and riders in one place,”said Steffen, who lives in San Diego, California.

He was competing at this World Cup qualifier with Weltino’s Magic aiming for a place on the U.S. team for the Pan American Games in October.

“Finally someone with a vision,” said Jan Ebeling, who completed qualification for the World Cup Final in Germany at the end of this month.

“This is exactly what we need in this country for dressage,” said Jan who represented the U.S. on the gold medal team at the 2003 Pan American Games and the World Cup Final in Las Vegas in 2009 and also competed in the CDI5* in Wellington in 2009. He lives in Moorpark, California.

Jan Ebeling. © 2011 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

“It could change the whole sport. It is exciting, It’s fantastic!”

Leslie Morse, who was on the 2006 World Equerstrian Games U.S. team and is well known as a competitor in Europe, said she is considering competing in Florida next winter.

“It will now be possible for me to travel to Florida  because of the prize money,” she said. “I hope everyone will support this project and rally together. Hopefully, this is just the beginning.”

Glenda McElroy’s Cornerstone Events Management based at LAEC, in addition to World Cup Finals, has organized hundreds of horse show including dozens of CDIs and U.S. team selection trials over more than three decades. And the “regulars” at her shows read like a roster of America’s best: Debbie McDonald, Guenter Seidel, Jan Ebeling,  Leslie Morse, Steffen and Shannon Peters and many more.

Although the World Cup Dressage Finals she has run, including the three at Las Vegas that outdrew jumping for spectators, this icon of show management is looking for ways to increase participation in the sport.

Making stars of the top dressage horses to kids and families–as was done with Brentina, Debbie McDonald’s Olympic and World Equestrian Games medal and the first U.S. World Cup champion. Those efforts need to be stepped up.

The shows themselves need more than just dressage that may be appreciated by participants, but should display different disciplines and breeds to appeal to a broad cross-section of spectators.

“I would love to see promotion of our American horses to our prospective audiences,” she said. “I think people would be really attracted to that, they would feel a real connection.”

She recalls the train saga across Canada for Big Ben, one of the most famous horses in jumping history, when Ian Millar retired his mount.

“There are a lot of things that need to be done at different levels,” she said. “Getting the discipline recognized as a sport would help.”

Most of the competition venues in  California, she said, also could use a face lift, not least the LAEC in Burbank that was state of the art when it was built in 1983 but hasn’t been upgraded since.

“I hope that Florida’s new venue is very successful,” she said. “What’s good for Florida will benefit everybody.”