Dressage Affaire returning to Del Mar

By Diana Saenger

There’s nothing more exciting for equestrian riders and fans than the return of the annual Dressage Affaire in Del Mar. Hosted this year by Rancho Valencia, the eighth annual event will once again gather many of the world’s top riders to compete and match their skills in this exciting sport. The Dressage Affaire runs March 8-11 at the Del Mar Horse Park Equestrian Facility, a 65-acre first-class equestrian center.

The competition events include the following qualifying pursuits in the equestrian discipline of Dressage:

• 2012 Olympic and Para Olympic Games

• 2012 Reem Acra World Cup Finals

• 2012 Collecting Gaits Farm/USEF National Grand Prix and Intermediate Championships

• 2012 Collecting Gaits Farm/USEF Pony, Junior, Young Rider and Brentina Cup Championships

• 2012 FEI North American Junior/Young Rider Championships

• 2012 Markel/USEF National Young Horse and Developing Horse Dressage Championships

President Kim Keenan Stordahl and her staff at KP Events are in the final stages of readying the grounds for the spectators, competitors, classes, and events that take place during the Dressage Affaire.

“We’re working non-stop,” Stordahl said. “We had a scare because of the Equine Herpes Virus outbreak that hit horses in Orange County in January. The quarantine is lifted and everything is a go, but for a time we thought we would have to cancel the show.”

Riders come from the United States, Canada and Mexico hoping to qualify for the 2012 Olympics in London and the 2012 World Cup Finals in The Netherlands. Stordahl is seeing some new names among the more than 300 riders signing up this year. An additional 20 handicapped riders will compete to qualify for the 2012 Olympics in the Para Equestrian Division.

“On the jury this year are two judges from Sweden, one from Canada and one from the U.S. for the CDI jury.” Stordahl said. “For the Para Equestrian Division is one judge each from Holland, Sweden and Germany. Judges go through levels of training that takes them years to work their way up to judge international events.”

Prize categories for the Dressage vary. This year will be a new presentation of a Grand Prix Freestyle Perpetual Trophy donated by the James Knox family.

“The Knox family live locally and have been involved with horses for many years,” Stordahl said. “The freestyle events are enjoyed by so many that we upped their promotion, and we’ve introduced prize money for the popular musical freestyle events as well.”

Sponsor Rancho Valencia is presenting both the $5,000 Rancho Valencia Grand Prix Freestyle (alteration) and the $5,000 Rancho Valencia Olympic Grand Prix Special (alteration) classes. Custom Saddlery will be presenting the $2,500 Custom Saddlery Intermediare I Freestyle Class. Wilson Cunningham West Insurance is sponsoring the $1,500 Wilson Cunningham West Young Rider Freestyle Class and Pegasus Training. Equine Rehabilitation Center is presenting the $1,500 Pegasus Training and Equine Rehabilitation Center Junior Freestyle Class. The $5,000 Para Equestrian Freestyles will be equally split between the grade levels.

The Dressage Affaire sheds a special light on equestrian competitions. Dressage is the French word for training, and this sport is the most disciplined of the equestrian sports requiring a refined, harmonious, silent conversation between horse and rider.

Christine Traurig of Christine Traurig Corsage Stables, Inc. has been a trainer and coach of Dressage for 30 years.

“This is such a beautiful sport to watch the precise athletic movements between the horse and the rider, through his seat and leg,” said Traurig, who was born in Germany, but has been in the U.S. since the 1980s, and has extensive international experience. “I train horses to fit the riders and rides to fit the horses, and I love what I do.”

Local San Diegan and three-time Olympian Guenter Seidel has won numerous medals and awards in national and international Dressage Affaire competitions. Seidel suffered a serious accident several years ago but after a lengthy rehab, returned to competition. A favorite at Del Mar’s Dressage Affaire every year, Seidel returns this year on a new Grand Prix horse. With thanks to Ed and Camille Penhoet of Toyon Farm in Napa Valley, Seidel will be riding Fandango, an Oldenburg Gelding. Fans need not worry; he drew great responses for his and Fandango’s exhibition at the 2009 FEI World Cup in Las Vegas and their themed Pas de Deux “Phantom of the Opera.”

“I’ve been working with Fandango a lot this year,” Seidel said. “It’s always difficult for a rider to get to know a new horse and for the horse to get to know the rider, but we’re doing OK. I’m looking forward to the Dressage Affaire again at Del Mar.”

One thing that probably helped Seidel overcome his injuries after his accident is his ongoing physical regime. “I workout with a trainer, try to eat well and I love to surf,” he said. “I just started that about four years ago, but now I try to make it a regular morning activity.”

Along with exciting competitions, Dressage Affaire includes several social networking opportunities. A Welcome Exhibitor Party takes place on Thursday, March 8, at 4:30 p.m. featuring hors d’oeuvres by Chef Eric Bauer of Rancho Valencia. The “Freestyles, Dinner and Dance” party follows on Saturday, March 10, at 5 p.m., featuring a VIP dinner after the Grand Prix, then dancing after the Rancho Valencia Grand Prix Freestyle Class. On Sunday, March 11, are the “Olympic Special” Day and more Freestyles. Champagne and pastries will be served for VIP/Sponsor patrons. Twenty percent of Silent Auction and Grandstand admission will benefit the United States Para Equestrian Association.

A silent auction and raffles will be part of these events with exciting items such as three luxurious nights for two guests at the Rancho Valencia Resort, including wine pairing, tennis lessons and a spa package, and “The Bridges Olympian Dining Experience — An exquisite dinner for four guests along with popular Olympians Guenter Seidel, Steffen Peters, Christine Traurig and Sue Blinks.”

The Rancho Valencia Dressage Affaire has a lot to offer for everyone who loves horses. “It’s wonderful to come out and see how beautiful this sport really is and the harmony between man and animal,” Traurig said. “And I really appreciate the great job Kim is doing in keeping this fantastic event worthy for the horses, competitors and spectators.”

“Rancho Valencia Dressage Affaire”

Del Mar Horse Park Equestrian Facility

14550 El Camino Real, Del Mar

March 8-11

More information at www.dressageevents.com

Ticket information

• General Admission to the USEF Show outside – free parking.

• Limited Grandstand seating for the Rancho Valencia International CDI show in the covered arena: $15/day or $30/weekend includes program, pen, schedule, and commemorative sticker.

• VIP Box seating (limited and must be purchased prior to the event). Premium ring-side seating available for the entire weekend includes complimentary beverage/wine services, snacks, coffee & tea and pastries in the morning; Saturday night plated dinner before the Grand Prix Freestyle; champagne and pastries on Sunday along with show program/schedule and KP Events pen. VIP Box Seating guests are invited to the Rancho Valencia Welcome Party on Thursday. Will call is in show office before start of show or at the South entrance to covered arena beginning Friday Morning. Fee: $700/box for 6 seats or $125/seat.