California Dreaming

31 Mar

The scores from the two back-to-back CDI’s in California are now all in, as well as the top news of winners and their teams, so here are snapshot moments from the weekends.

The Hof Kasselmann hospitality lounge was a hit–and then became an even huger hit with the dry-witted,sympathetic commentary of retired 5* judge Axel Steiner, proving again and again that he has lost n0ne of his eye or perceptiveness.


Jo H(Jo Hinnemann)


Outside the tent, the coaches around the warm-up arenas also had more of a European flavor than usual, as Jo Hinnemann seemed to be there from morning until night, schooling this rider, coaching that rider, making small talk with owners, sponsors, as well as press. Jo is a legend in Europe, his pupils over the year have been a who’s who of international riders, not least of all the van Baalen family, from Coby and the legendary stallion Ferro through Marlies  and her current string of top FEI horses, including Miciano, recently added to the Dutch A-Team..

Although Jo has traveled the world giving clinics, it is well-known that he has had a fear of flying to any destinations. But he made a commitment to his U.S. riders (who include  international riders Steffen Peters, Kathleen Raine, Shelly Francis, Christine Traurig as well as several others) that he would come back every few months for 2 weeks at a time…”It was not so much a fear of flying,” says Jo, stretching out his lanky German frame, “as claustrophobia. The tiny,cramped seats, not being able to put your hand out”– he puts his hand out. “But sitting in the new kind of seats they have, it is like sitting by yourself–so I trained me!”

I asked him what, after so many years, is the motivation to change his lifestyle, spend perhaps half of a year in a new country. “Every day is exciting because there is the chance to work with a horse and rider and think-how to make this better?” He thinks for a moment, then nods and smiles.

Before the weekend was over, much of the rest of the Hinnemann family appeared, and there is now serious talk of getting a farm in Southern California ,to have as a base for future training.

The first weekend was an observation show for U.S. riders hoping to go to WEG, and U.S. coach Robert Dover was everywhere, giving encouragement, coaching–and observing. “I’ve had a vision of how it can be, a vision that has only grown through the (six) Olympic teams I’ve been part of–and I am taking everyone there, ” he smiles, “even if  I have to drag them, kicking and screaming. But the U.S. has everything it needs to be successful, to be on podiums–and I am simply giving it my all to get us there.”

Kathleen Raine and Breanna produced some of the best piaffe-passage tours on their way to ribbons, cementing their high standing in the rankings for the WEG  Selection Trials later this summer.

Jan Ebeling brought out his new younger horses, the two stallions Breitan (Breitling x Cavan) and Rassolini

( Rubioso N  x  Olympic Silvano N  ).



Breitan’s amazing piaffe-passage and extended trot thrilled Robert Dover, who pronounced both ‘world-class’ and Rassolini, after a major hiccup in his first Grand Prix, settled down and showed he belongs with the big boys. Both stallions had to take a back seat to Jan’s Olympic partner, the mare Rafalca, who was on fire during her performances and produced lovely tests in Grand Prix and the Special.

Still, it was Steffen Peters who dominated the shows, not only with Legolas but also his younger star, the mare Rosamunde at Small Tour.  Asked what has influenced his riding, Steffen smiles,, “Competing in Europe. Seeing the bar–working to match it.” Then he adds, “really, riding so many different horses, at home, in clinics–they really are the best teachers.”

He is hoping that Legolas can maintain his present level through selection, through to WEG. ” I really think I have the discipline now to maintain standards for myself, to be fair in what I ask of the horses.” Steffen feels that working with his personal trainer has been great both for motivation and insight into how to use his body better. “Years ago, we worked on separate groups of muscles. Now, everything we do, engages the core.”

During one of  Steffen’s  schooling sessions with Jo Hinnemann, I see a familiar figure standing on the side. It is  Akiko Yamazaki, Steffen’s sponsor and a serious competitor herself. She and her partner Matrix, were US Dressage Finals champions winning the Adult Amateur Prix St.Georges ribbons last November. “This year,” she says, ” we hope to get out at Intermediaire II, and work closer to Grand Prix.”

I ask about Ravel’s baby, Gaspard, who was awarded the title Top KWPN foal of North America in 2011. “He is just starting under saddle.”

And,with the click of a smartphone–here he is: Possibly the future and certainly worth the dream!


Gaspard de la Nuit  (Ravel x  Sir Donnerhall)









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