On February 14th, I drove from Colorado to California, 900 miles, 14 hours, to experience the final FEI-level competition weekend, of the six week long circuit hosted by the Adequan West Coast Dressage Festival in Del Mar.
While I had a chance to watch world class dressage riders and their students compete in this gorgeous location, I thoroughly geeked out on photographing one jaw dropping pirouette after another. While I was on assignment to meet Dawn White-O’Connor, one of Steffen Peters talented assistants who recently earned the reins to his Olympic mount Legolas, I learned that Dawn grew up in Colorado of all places. The 29-year old moved to San Diego 11 years ago, where she started working as a groom in Steffen Peter’s barn. How the torch was passed on to her might be another story in the future.
She kindly invited me to meet the stars up close, Rosie, Mopsi and Legolas. They were all right there. And for me, someone who has never been this close to Olympic athletes and horses, I enjoyed seeing how they live an ordinary life once you step behind the scenes. Horses still get to be horses after all.
Another highlight of the weekend was Britain’s three-time Olympic gold medalist Charlotte Dujardin’s masterclass Friday night. Here she talked about the importance of correct transitions, while teaching three riders, one of them Lehua Custer, whose experience you can read about in California Riding Magazine. If I had to sum up Charlotte’s concept of the night: be disciplined and not sloppy. You must ride exercises until you get them right. “There is no getting away from those judges; they are everywhere.”