New Las Vegas World Cup, Last Minute But Most Dramatic Change in West Coast Dressage in Years
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By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
LAS VEGAS, Nevada, Jan. 9, 2016–The newly created World Cup event, a last-minute addition to the international calendar that sacrificed promotion to getting ready for the first dressage show of 2017 at perhaps the best indoor facility in the world, holds the promise of reinvigorating dressage on the West Coast of the United States.
At the end of the show at the South Point casino-resort about 15 minutes south of the famous Las Vegas Strip, most riders and trainers declared the event a success that will bring them back next time with more than the 205 starting combinations in four days of national competition and a total of 55 over three days of CDI classes.
Allison Bonanno and Jenifer Luce-Zakhary, two local competitors and first-time organizers who also rode in it, promised they will be back next year despite a big hole in their bank balances from staging this year’s event. But they are uncertain whether to hold to the same date or stage it later to compete directly with Florida’s Global Dressage Festival.
The Las Vegas show and a CDI1* scheduled at the mid-California coastal community of Paso Robles in mid-June are seen by many riders as a long overdue revitalization of the West Coast circuit that has declined in recent years.
Shows at Burbank and San Juan Capistrano in Southern California venues long past their prime and that resisted CDI amateur classes until this year, offer no prize money and a sporadic World Cup calendar are cited by riders and trainers as leading to the decline.
Although the World Cup final in 2017 is scheduled for the American Midwest city of Omaha at the end of March, the only events to qualify on the West Coast were in Del Mar last April and the Los Angeles suburb of Burbank in February.
Until Allison Bonanno joined with her dressage coach, Jenifer Luce-Zakhary, to make a bid for a CDI-W in Las Vegas that was awarded in late September West Coast riders had little choice but to go to Florida.
Allison, a financial services marketing executive, admitted that she and Jenifer made many mistakes not uncommon for first-time producers, especially compared with long entrenched organizers who put on what some riders describe as “the same show every year, nothing new and nothing exciting.” But at Las Vegas, a refusal to allow media permission to access the under utilized WiFi show network–hotel WiFi was limited to rooms and mobile service was almost non-existent–to post reports was one example of poor preparation.
Receiving approval just three months before the the Christmas-New Year holidays and as the first dressage show in the world in 2017, several vendors exhibited goods and services, however, that provided ambience to a new competition.
The center of dressage competition in the United States had clearly moved east to what some Californians describe as “the vortex” of the Adequan Global Dressage Festival in Wellington, Florida.
A strong base of California riders and trainers competed or coached riders here–Olympians Steffen Peters, Günter Seidel as well as Kathleen Raine, David Wightman, Charlotte Bredahl, Shannon Peters, Laurie Falvo, David Blake and Mette Rosenkrantz. But Wellington was on everyone’s lips.
In its sixth year, Florida’s Global circuit has become the world’s richest dressage lineup of seven weeks of CDIs with $700,000 in total prize money at show grounds with state-of-the-art footing and innovations such as spectator judging designed to further engage the thousands of spectators that turn out for freestyles under lights on Friday nights.
Steffen Peters, Jan Ebeling and several other Californians make the trek east for the quality of competition and money to be made at the South Florida lifestyle destination that is as cosmopolitan as the biggest shows in Europe. The companion Winter Equestrian Festival of world class jumping and the best of polo at the International Polo Club, all within a golf cart ride of each other add to the glamor and excitement.
There is, however, no comparison in the Americas–and perhaps in the world–to South Point’s sprawling indoor equestrian center of a 4,400-seat centerpiece arena, two adjoining competition rings and a super sized warm-up area with stables for 1,200 horses–all air conditioned and integral to the casino resort. Typical of Las Vegas, the show facilities are well catered by bars and food stands overlooking the arena.
Drive into the stables, move the horses into their stalls, and when the show is over drive your rig back in, load up under cover then head home.
This correspondent did not leave the hotel for four days of the show and did not know until checking weather on the computer that snow dusted the area one overnight.
“There’s one thing here that is not available anywhere else in the world,” said David Wightman who with his wife Kathleen Raine drove four hours from their farm in Rancho Murietta.
“With this event, people can do this show and then go to Florida.”
Günter Seidel, of Cardiff, California, a four-time Olympian and coach of many riders including some who have gone to Florida this winter, said: “I love the whole set up. I love how convenient everything is. It’s great. I love everything about it. The better footing that is available should be in. But that’s a detail that just needs to be worked out.”
The state of the California shows is due “a little bit” in Günter’s estimation to the number of riders going to Florida, fewer Canadians that has led to California being “a little behind.”
“Nevertheless,” he said, “the quality is still very, very good out here. When we do something it’s usually good. I think it takes a little bit like this show and maybe some other shows to pick up. I think it just got a little left behind and not enough people with enough enthusiasm behind it.
“I think behind the scenes there are people trying to revamp it and give us an opportunity to have something out here as well.”
If riders knew the event was a fixture on the calendar, he said, “I think they would do this show again and there would be a much bigger turnout.”