Global Dressage Forum NA Attracts Large Audience, Top Participants

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Steffen Peters at the Global Dressage Forum NA. © 2013 Ken Braddick/


WEST PALM BEACH, Florida, Jan. 28–The Global Dressage Forum North America, an inaugural symposium patterned after the European event of the same name, saw some of the world’s top trainers, judges and other leading experts demonstrate, lecture and entertain more than 600 paying spectators from around the world on Monday.

Steffen Peters of San Diego, California, was the star of the first of two days with the audience good naturedly drowning out the presenter to demand more demonstrations with horses and riders and less talking. The initial session lasted more than four hours without a break. Spectators streamed to the bathrooms midway through the session.

Even so, the first symposium of its type open to the public appeared to be successful beyond even the organizers’ hopes.

Concerns that the event would not attract a high level of participants and a large number of spectators were unfounded.

It followed immediately the World Dressage Masters that was a sellout. For many it was an affordable add-on expense as they had flown in from as far away as New Zealand to join the celebration of high performance dressage in the United States.

WDM required tickets with a hefty price tag to cover the costs of bringing top European combinations and Californians to the Jim Brandon Equestrian Center in West Palm Beach for the CDI5*, the highest level of dressage competition. So a few hundred dollars more for the GDFNA at the same venue was, for many, worth the price.

Interestingly, a show of hands of those who were based in Florida with its 12 CDIs over the winter circuit–half the total number in the Unted States over the entire year–indicated the majority of spectators had come from elsewhere in the United States and around the world.

The forum copied most of the successful elements of the Global Dressage Forum in Hooge Mierde, the Netherlands, that has learned from experience over the past 10 years. An intimate spectator-interview-panelist format with a curtain opened for demonstrations on a full sized dressage arena.

The presenter in Florida was no Richard Davison, the British Olympian who keeps the Dutch event on message, on schedule and inclusive.

Discussions centered around the panelists, with the audience as silent spectators–except when they had enough talk and not enough action and made their feelings known.

But this was a first-time event and a learning experience.

The panels were top notch and large, some said, too large–judges Stephen Clarke of Great Britain, Wim Earnes of the Netherlands, Christoph Hess of Germany, Gary Rockwell, Lendon Gray, Sue Blinks and George Williams of the Unted States. Also, Jan Ebeling, the rider of Rafalca for the U.S. dressage team at the 2012 Olympics and Anne Gribbons, U.S. team coach through the 2011 Pan American Games and the 2012 Olympics, as well as others.

In addition to Steffen, spectators saw Wolfram Wittig who came with Victoria Max-Theurer of Austria, whom he coaches and is the No. 9 rider in the world making her first visit to the United States. Wolfram was the coach of Isabell Werth for several years.

Plus, Rudolf Zeillinger, a gold medal rider for Germany before he became the coach of the Danish team several years ago.

A lifetime achievement award for German Olympic gold medalist Klaus Balkenhol, former coach of the U.S. for eight years, was another highlight on the schedule.

And Ingred Klimke, gold medalist in Olympic eventing and an amazing trainer of dressage horses including Damon Hill NRW as the six-year-old champion at the world championship and was ridden by Helen Langehanenberg on Germany’s silver medal team at last summer’s Olympics in London.