Over the course of a decade-long partnership, Brian Hafner of Penngrove, CA and his 15-year-old Hanoverian gelding Lombardo LHF (Londonderry x Waluga by Werther) have successfully grown together from the Young Rider ranks into consistent performers in the Grand Prix arena. On the final day of California Dreaming Productions' Mid-Winter Dressage Fair CDI-W/Y/J/U-25 (presented by Hof Kasselmann) in Burbank, Hafner and Lombardo LHF added to their resume by winning the CDI Grand Prix Freestyle.
With music from the movie "Iron Man 3", Hafner earned a solid score of 69.650% from the judging panel, which included three FEI 5* officials. "I like the dramatic and masculine feel about the music – I think it suits my horse because he's the powerful type," said Hafner, who also finished third in Friday's Grand Prix test. "I'm very happy with my horse and how he's going. We had some mistakes this weekend, but we'll work to get those fixed for the next show. There's always room for improvement."
Hafner's goal with Lombardo LHF is to qualify for an invitation to return to the U.S. Festival of Champions and National Grand Prix Championship in Gladstone, NJ, and as a recent recipient of a $25,000 Carol Lavell Advanced Dressage Prize from The Dressage Foundation he is looking forward to heading to Europe later this year. "I know how rare it is that a Young Rider horse goes on to the large tour successfully, and it's quite amazing to have this opportunity," he said. "We've been together for a long time, and I appreciate the relationship I have with him. I'm realizing how lucky I am."
In the CDI Under-25 division, two young adult riders returned to the Equidome to contest the challenging CDI Grand Prix 16-25 Test. Twenty-one year old Mackinzie Pooley improved upon her previous day's performance to claim the champion's dress sheet with the veteran Grand Prix mount Partous (1997 Dutch gelding [Juventus x Ladyway by Hemingway] owned by Leslie Pooley) by earning a score of 65.426% over Canada's Monica Houweling and Rifradin (16-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare [Gribaldi x Atradin by Formateur] owned by Linda Houweling) with 63.527%. "This is a much tougher test than the Intermediate B, but it also plays to my horse's strengths," said Pooley. "We're still working out the one-tempi changes, but luckily the piaffe and passage are easy for him." As a junior at the University of San Diego majoring in business marketing, Pooley juggles a full college schedule with riding and competing, and hopes to qualify for the Festival of Champions in the Brentina Cup division. The former NAJYRC medalist appreciates how the Under 25 classes help prepare riders like her for a future at the top level of the sport. "This experience is really teaching me how to ride the Grand Prix properly," Pooley explained. "If my horse isn't doing something right, it's because I'm not doing something right, and that's how I learn and become a better rider."
As competition wrapped up at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center, riders ranging from first timers at Training Level to Grand Prix veterans were lavish with praise for the organizing team's efforts. "I just loved it," said Olympian Guenter Seidel of his experience at the Mid-Winter Dressage Fair. "Even coming in on the first day, it was exciting and there was a buzz in the air because things were different. The little extras mean a lot. I hope more and more people will come out and support this, because we have great quality here, and with super shows like this close to home there's no reason to leave and compete elsewhere."
"We know that exhibitors come to horse shows to ride and compete, but we also wanted to provide an exciting and enjoyable atmosphere for them to spend their weekend," said co-organizer David Wilson. "We have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support we've received from competitors, owners, and sponsors, as well as spectators from around the world who watched the CDI rides on our CDP Live webpage. Thank you to everyone, and we can't wait for the next show."
Complete results from the Mid-Winter Dressage Fair (presented by Hof Kasselmann) are available on the California Dreaming Productions website, http://www.californiadreamingproductions.com. The next competitions will be the Capistrano Dressage International CDI-W/Y/J/U-25 on March 22 – 24 and the Festival of the Horse CDI 3*/Y/J/U-25 on March 28 – 30, both to be held at the beautiful Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park in San Juan Capistrano, CA.