The Florida 2021 show season has formally begun with three FEI Dressage competitions (CDIs) having been held by the end of January. A total of eight CDIs will be held in Wellington, two in Ocala at the new World Equestrian Center and two in Tryon, North Carolina. One might think that the effect of Covid-19 on the show world was minimal until viewing the status of the West Coast, particularly California. The effects of the pandemic on California shows have been devastating.
First, review the shows not being held: The Del Mar National, all the LAEC shows, the June Rancho Murieta CDI, and any traditional CDIs held at Galway Downs this Winter. No calendar year 2021 CDIs will be held in Thermal until October. While the California show scene has visibly contracted, the number of East Coast shows have actually expanded.
Effect of Facility Closings
California has lost the use of two major facilities, Del Mar (Racetrack and Showpark) along with LAEC. Both will hopefully return to use by next year. Sadly, Del Mar Showpark may be shut down permanently for boarding and shows, pending the decision of the California 22nd State Agricultural District. Watch this space. For now only the larger venues of Rancho Murieta, Galway Downs and Thermal remain open and viable.
Los Angeles Equestrian Center
California Reaction to Loss of Shows
Put simply, most of the prominent riders have simply relocated to Florida for the Winter season. This has become the meeting place for the best and the brightest in Dressage competition today. Global Equestrian Center shows offer the only opportunity to ‘head to head’ competition for riders seeking to qualify for the (possible) Tokyo Olympics this Summer. The vibrant milieu of this show environment attracts riders wishing to compete at the national levels, and those simply wishing to participate in the concentration of riding/training talent. Global has become a world unto itself.
Shows continue to be held in California, but not on the grand Florida scale. The initial USEF Rancho Murieta show drew sufficient riders for a strong three-day, three arena competition. Thermal will feature a Level 3 USEF National show in February, expected to be a larger event. Many other smaller shows are scheduled, but all at smaller facilities. The market is far from dead, but not thriving on the scale of the East Coast circuit.
One new CDI has been hastily scheduled for Galway Downs in early May,2021 in reaction to riders who wish to qualify for National Championships to be held this Summer at Lamplight Equestrian Center near Chicago. Spearheaded by rider/judge Patty Mayer and organized by Del Mar National manager Regina Antonioli, West Coast riders will be offered a convenient alternative to the travel and expense of a pilgrimage to Florida. The panel will be of the quality of any of the Global productions, offering top riders a realistic evaluation of the quality and scope of their competition rides. The open question is how the new CDI will be supported by the West Coast show community. Similar organizations have been offered in past years, but not always with the enthusiastic support of the California dressage community. This is further hampered by the economic downturn precipitated by the pandemic.
There is a worry that the unique California tendency to indulge in ‘judge shopping’ and its impact. Many West Coast shows engage Dressage judges who may be described as more encouraging than realistic. While this allows trainers and riders to feel good with that optimistic scoring, the blunt reality provided by a more rigorous competition (with well-qualified judging panels) can induce a most rude awakening.
What Can West Coast Riders Do?
In short- ‘suck it up and put on your big boy pants’.
FEI competitions such as Golden State (Rancho Murieta) and the new Galway Downs show need aggressive support. Recent CDIs have been lightly-supported by the community in either attendance, sponsorships or both. Valiant efforts in providing a quality show production demand support by the local community of riders and dressage professionals.
Reliable financial benefactors Lila Kommerstad and Jane Brown have sadly passed away in the last year’s span and can no longer shower the West Coast show world with tens of thousands of sponsorship dollars. Who will now assume this role and replace them?
Without this support, the West Coast show world will continue to contract and wither post-Covid. The wealthy and well-heeled will still choose to caravan to Florida instead, leaving a desolate desert of a dressage world in California.
Riders, the future is in your hands.
David Schmutz : USEF ‘S’ & FEI 4* PARA DRESSAGE
David Schmutz was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. He starting riding late in life, while in graduate school for his MBA. He had the great opportunity to ride with a very prominent elderly attorney, who needed one of his three horse exercised. During many mornings, they would meet at 6am where they would ride the trails of Griffith Park in Los Angeles. After graduate school, David purchased his own horse, a thoroughbred, and continued training on the Griffith park trails and local jumping arenas.
While owning and managing “The Paddock Riding Club” in Los Angeles, he graduated the USDF ‘L’ Program with distinction and then received his USEF Dressage ‘r’ certification.
It was while working on his promotion to become a USEF ‘R’ Dressage judge, that USEF offered a clinic on judging Para Equestrian riders. Through the help of international judges Inger Bryant and Anita Own, David obtained his IPEC (International Para Equestrian Committee) approval. Not long after, the FEI also began approving these types of competitions, Dave received his FEI card as a 3* Para Judge. He presently holds a 4* certification.
David continues to enjoy his dual roles as judging in addition to clinics, helping both able-bodied and para athletes achieve their best. See more details on his website at: www.gdsdressage.com