For the last few years, the talk of the dressage world has been Ballerina DMV, a young Hanoverian mare that has won every title and honour a horse can claim, but based on Dreamcatcher Meadows' results at their season opener at Whidbey Island, Washington, this past weekend, the Pemberton stable has a lot of future champions in its stable as well.
All told, the team's four horses came away with 11 first-place ribbons.
Ballerina DMV was, as usual, the star of the weekend. Owned by Earl "Bus" Fuller, owner of the Earls and Joey's restaurant chains, and ridden by John Dingle, Ballerina scored an 8.98 to take over the top spot in the U.S. Markel Young Horse Rankings and finished the Materiale with a score of 93.7. All told, the horse competed four times and is a safe bet to keep her title as the high-scoring horse of any level or breed in North America, or U.S. dressage history.
Also representing Dreamcatcher Meadows was Kristen Mitchell, 16, making her debut while riding Lady of the Dance DMV, and Anna Scott riding Radiance DMV. Mitchell won the Training Level category and Scott won First Level.
Mitchell, who moved from Vancouver to Dreamcatcher Meadows to train full time while attending Pemberton Secondary, had competed about four times before but always on older, easy-to-work with horses.
"Being able to ride an older, more experienced horse and make mistakes on him has been really beneficial (in working with Lady of the Dance)," she said.
She was the only junior out of the 12 riders in her category.
Getting in competition form means practicing twice a day, waking up a 6 a.m. to get in a ride before school and then training after school.
"The whole idea (of competition) is making it look like you're not doing anything, but you're really working so hard," she said. "The trick to riding is being able to think about 10 steps ahead of your horse. If you have a corner coming up the horse has no idea where it's going, so you have to turn him. It's a lot of core and leg muscle — it looks like you're using your hands, but in dressage you're trying to control the horse with your lower body and core muscles."
Mitchell is looking to earn more points in national standings, and has her eye on a couple of awards that are available for young riders.
Jill Giese, owner and operator of Dreamcatcher Meadows and one of Mitchell's coaches, said that at Mitchell's age the riders are training to be good all-around riders and competitions have elements of dressage, western riding, polo riding and show jumping.
Last, but not least, Dingle also rode Lancelot DMV to first place in the Materiale for geldings and stallions.
All four horses stayed in Washington State with a trainer, and will compete again this weekend at the Champagne Classic with four additional horses and two additional riders joining in. Giese will be riding 10-year-old stallion Dreammaster at the Prix St. George Level, and Shelley Sharpe of Whistler will be making her debut on Juliette DMV. Wonderful Dream will also be making the trip, as will a three-year-old stallion named Lordsley DMV that is owned by Vancouver businessman Tony Ma and ridden by John Dingle.
By taking part, Ballerina DMV should meet the minimum qualification standards for the U.S. Equestrian Federation Young Horse Dressage Championships in Chicago later in the season.