“My favorite part of this show is simply attending. I love to compete, so going to these championships feels like a reward for the hard work we’ve put in all year.”
For the past four years, the highlight of 14-year-old Celsiana William’s summer has been the California Dressage Society (CDS) Junior and Young Rider Championship Show. Despite a long six-hour drive from her seaside home of Trinidad, Cal. to the Northern Region show held August 5-7 in Elk Grove, it was an event William wasn’t going to miss. Aboard her eight-year-old American-bred German Riding Pony gelding SVS Heartthrob, she earned the Franklin Downton Trophy for winning her Third Level division with an average score of 70.7%, as well as the 14-18 Dressage Equitation Championship. Both were special wins for William.
“When my mom and I first saw Heartthrob, he was a spooky youngster with okay gaits,” she remembered. “Over the years, he has become so much more. I’ve gained his trust and now he will do almost anything for me. He is an extremely special pony who pours everything he has into his work for me. I was so pleased with how my rides went, and this is always such a fun show. I think all junior riders should consider being a part of this program because it’s a lot of fun and everyone has great sportsmanship.”
Encouraging sportsmanship in the next generation of dressage riders is a cornerstone of the CDS Junior and Young Rider Program. Whether a Pony Clubber on her first pony or an accomplished international Young Rider competitor, there’s something for everyone at the championships which offer classes and divisions for individuals and teams from Training Level to FEI as well as equitation, freestyles, and quadrilles. While the two annual championship shows held in the Northern and Southern regions of California give youth a place to shine and earn valuable prizes, they also offer a myriad of fun social activities to encourage teamwork and camaraderie among exhibitors.
“I have been involved with the CDS Junior and Young Rider program since I started riding dressage 10 years ago, and I’ve done the championship show since 2011 with several different horses,” said 20-year-old college student Bryce Quinto of Los Angeles. “I always love going to the championships because I get to see and support my friends from all over Southern California. [CDS Director] Kristin Young is amazing and gets all the kids involved in the program while making it a fun, enjoyable experience for everyone.”
Quinto competed at this year’s Southern Region CDS Junior and Young Rider Championship Show, held August 25–28 in Burbank, where she won the Second Level title with David James’ seven-year-old Thoroughbred gelding Been Verified and also placed third with her own 11-year-old Oldenburg Djedefre. “I have been riding and training ‘Benny’ since he was just three, so winning the Second Level Championship with him was a huge accomplishment and I am very thankful to David for letting me ride his super horse, and to my trainer Lehua Custer for helping me bring him along all these years,” said Quinto.
Another integral element of the CDS Junior and Young Rider Program is education. The organization hosts a series of clinics throughout the year in the Northern, Central, and Southern Regions, and for the last two years the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) Youth Dressage Coach, Team Bronze Medal-winning Olympian, international judge and long-time CDS member Charlotte Bredahl has served as clinician. Quinto believes that participating in the CDS clinic series has helped her find success in the show ring. “I’ve been lucky enough to ride with Charlotte several times, and she’s absolutely amazing,” she explained.
“I think we have a lot of talent here on the West Coast, and it’s been a privilege teaching these clinics,” said Bredahl. “I try to give the kids a lot of information and exercises that they can take home, and I make sure everyone watches each other’s lessons so they get to see how to approach all kinds of training issues at a variety of levels. I also really appreciate when their trainers come so they can carry on with what we start in clinics, because that’s when it’s most productive in the long run. I think another benefit is for the kids to get to know each other and form long term friendships, because that will help to keep them riding dressage. And that’s very important for the continued development of our sport in the future.”
Photo courtesy of Bryce Quinto