Collaboration Of A Leading Organizer & Equestrian Family Aims to Revitalize California Dressage Shows

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

Dec. 23, 2013

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

A collaboration of one of the United States leading dressage show organizers and a prominent equestrian family with aims to revitalize Southern California’s dressage competitions has already blunted a move by some top riders to Florida’s winter-long Global Dressage Festival of eight CDIs and more than a half million dollars in prize money.

Aptly named California Dreaming Productions, the partnership is between Glenda McElroy, known locally for management of several competitions and internationally as the manager of the three dressage World Cups in Las Vegas, and David and Alissa Wilson, accomplished Grand Prix riders who have also built a substantial international horse training and sales operation and insurance business at their Chino Hills W Farm.

Promotion of the shows and the addition of a concierge service is expected to attract more riders from western Canada and from as far east as Texas, Glenda told dressage-news.com.

“We’re trying to make the CDIs a little healthier, stronger in the number of competitors and focus,” Glenda said. “We have some of the best trainers in the country, great facilities, some of the best weather. We’re really trying to enhance what we have and add a little more to it.”

David Wilson said, “It has long been a goal of mine to become involved in the production of a CDI horse show circuit on the West Coast. I see areas of opportunity to expand and improve our current circuit and wanted to create venues to do just that. I aim to achieve the establishment of a true international circuit and therefore our West Coast riders have a top notch series of shows to qualify and participate in.”

While no big jump in prize money is expected immediately, the joint effort has won the support of Steffen Peters, Günter Seidel and Kathleen Raine among some of the leading international competitors who call Southern California home. Both Steffen and Günter, German-born long time residents of Southern California and among the stalwarts of United States Olympic and World Equestrian Games teams for almost two decades, scrapped plans to compete in Wellington in February.

Instead, they intend to compete at the Mid-Winter Dressage in Burbank Feb. 20-23, Capistrano Dressage International in San Juan Capistrano Mar. 21-24, both World Cup events, and the Festival of the Horse CDI3* also at San Juan Capistrano Mar. 27-30.

“All West Coast riders appreciate the consistent efforts to improve our shows in many aspects,” Steffen said. “I can imagine that most East Coast riders would make the same decision if we would reverse coasts.”

The end of March San Juan Capistrano show will share the facility with jumpers and hunters that add considerable atmosphere as it did during the 2004 and 2008 Festival of Championships that packed the stadium.

Günter Seidel riding Aragon at the 2004 Olympic selection trials at San Juan Capistrano, California. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Günter Seidel riding Aragon at the 2004 Olympic selection trials at San Juan Capistrano, California. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Serious economic issues caused a big decline in horse shows in California in recent years and, Glenda said, “everybody was treading water for a few years, a lot fewer people traveling.

“It just felt like we wanted something new, something diferent, a fresh approach.”

She did some traveling to shows in Europe and in Canada and wanted to start 2014 with the lineup of three CDIs, an addition for her Cornerstone Event Management from previous years to make up for the loss of the CDI at the Dressage Affaire by a different organizer in Del Mar.

“We want to do some shows differently, fun, fresher, lift up the shows a little more,” she said.

More technology is being added, social media used a lot more and working with trainers to accommodate their needs.

There seems little doubt that the investment in a completely new Global Dressage Festival show grounds as a companion to the already internationally successful Winter Equestrian Festival of jumpers and hunters provided impetus. Debbie McDonald and her assistant, Adrienne Lyle, who was on the 2012 Olympic team, and Leslie Morse, a member of the 2006 World Equestrian Games bronze medal team, have already migrated for the winter to Florida instead of their usual California bases.

“There will be prize money,” Glenda said. “But we’ve got to build the cake and go from there.

“We’re going to put it into making the shows, the amenities better. The prize money will come. Ask me that question five years from now.”

Glenda has been appointed manager of dressage when the World Cups of jumping and dressage return to the Thomas & Mack Arena in Las Vegas in 2015, the fourth dual world championships at the venue.

The organizers, Las Vegas Events, have already begun planning for the World Cups with a lot of new ideas and a big new entrance for the general public that is expected to tap into what Glenda sees as “a lot of pent up demand” built up since the last Final in 2009 that was won by Steffen Peters and Ravel.