‘Ballet for horses’ – Santa Barbara News-Press

Dressage show featuring 82 riders comes to Earl Warren Showgrounds

KENNETH SONG / NEWS-PRESS PHOTOS
Jill Giri competes in the Fourth Level Test 3 AA class with her horse Blue during a dressage show hosted by the Santa Barbara County Chapter of the California Dressage Society at the Earl Warren Showgrounds in Santa Barbara on Sunday.

When it comes right down to it, the intricate, precise dance steps performed by horse and rider during dressage, guided by their intimate connection, is nothing short of “ballet for horses.”

At least that’s how Gina von de Burg describes it. And she should know, since she’s the show chair for the Santa Barbara County Chapter of the California Dressage Society.

And what a show it was this past weekend at the Earl Warren Showgrounds, as 82 riders and horses mesmerized about 200 spectators on Saturday and again on Sunday.

“It really went well. I mean really well,” Ms. von de Burg told the News-Press. “It was ecstatic here at the Earl Warren Showgrounds.”

Brooklyn Gagne competes in the Training Level Test 2 Jr/YR class with her horse Curran.

And it didn’t hurt that Mother Nature played her usual part in setting the stage.

“It is so beautiful here in Santa Barbara,” Ms. von de Burg said. “We had glorious weather.”

As expected, the Musical Freestyle dance performed by riders and horses proved to be the event highlight, with 11 pairs of rider and equine participating on Saturday and more on Sunday.

“Dressage is like ballet for horses, and when you put music to that” the result is pure equestrian magic, Ms. von de Burg said.

“The connection between horse and rider is so intimate at the upper levels,” she said, “that the rider literally thinks of a movement and their body responds and it goes right down to the horse and it responds accordingly. It’s so subtle that spectators can’t even see it. It’s such a delicate thing.”

Anita Parra competes in the Prix St. Georges AA class with her horse Epona’s Roroy O’Connor during a dressage show hosted by the Santa Barbara County Chapter of the California Dressage Society at the Earl Warren Showgrounds in Santa Barbara on Sunday.

The show is rated by the United States Equestrian Federation, the California Dressage Society and the United States Dressage Federation.

Dressage is known as a horse discipline that develops a gradual harmonious physical and mental relationship between horse and rider. It is one of the Olympic sports, and one of its oldest traditions is the Lipizzaner stallions of the Spanish Riding School in Vienna. Its beauty is that it can be practiced by any discipline or breed of horse from beginner to Olympic level, according to dressage enthusiasts.

The Santa Barbara County Chapter of the California Dressage Society was created to bolster interest in the activity. The chapter’s program is educational and is designed primarily to offer a framework in which individuals can progress with the schooling of themselves and their horses. Activities such as riding clinics, dressage shows and education are directed towards a better general understanding of dressage.

The Earl Warren Showgrounds, the 19th District Agricultural Association, was created in 1955 to house the National Horse Show and remains a cornerstone in enabling the Santa Barbara and surrounding communities to celebrate and experience the area’s agricultural and equestrian history.

The showgrounds also serve as a key location for the care and safekeeping of animals in the event of wildfires and natural disasters. It is the only local facility that can provide space for more than 1,000 large animals.

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