An Equestrian Institution

Equestrian fans delight in multi-discipline show for all ages

Posted on May 1, 2018

The return of the Del Mar National Horse Show, which kicked off its 73rd annual event on April 17, has us completely enthralled in all things equestrian. Steeped in tradition, the three-week show dedicates one week each to the Western, Dressage, and Hunter/Jumper disciplines, making the event one that delivers something for everyone.

The prestige of this show creates an environment and a venue for truly special events to take place. This year, one of the most memorable moments on the three-week calendar is the retirement of Legolas, a highly decorated dressage horse ridden by international champion and two-time Olympic medalist Steffen Peters, who also trained him at the Arroyo Del Mar facility he operates with wife Shannon. Legolas is owned by Akiko Yamazaki, a longtime client and sponsor of Peters’ who is herself an avid and competitive rider. Of the horse’s retirement, Yamazaki says that though Legolas is still very interested in working, she didn’t want to reach the point where they felt they were riding him into the ground. “For me, it’s important that they go out at their best,” she says.

Equestrian Institution

Akiko Yamazaki, Bailarindo, and Dawn White-O’Connor

While Peters rode Legolas to many championships over the years, he literally passed the reins to protégée Dawn White-O’Connor in 2016, who wasted no time adding to the horse’s trophy collection. A former working student who even groomed for Peters at the 2012 London Olympics, White-O’Connor has honed her ability under the Peters’ tutelage since relocating here from Colorado in 2007. The honor of showing Legolas and other high-level horses is not lost on the humble rider, who says, “I think it’s very special to have been given so many opportunities. Shannon, Steffen, and Akiko are so generous to keep pushing horses toward me and other people who maybe wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to ride.” Though she won’t be aboard Legolas at Del Mar, she will be riding another of Yamazaki’s horses, Bailarindo, at the show. “I think it’s a really fun venue,” says White-O’Connor of Del Mar. “Some shows don’t have as much atmosphere, which sometimes can be a little more difficult on some of the horses, but it’s fun to ride in that big, indoor arena. I think everyone likes it.”

As the event approaches its conclusion, Hunter/Jumper fans will delight in watching the $100,000 Grand Prix of Del Mar, a show jumping competition taking place Saturday, May 5, on the eve of the show’s conclusion. Though spectators are invited to enjoy nearly all of the activities at Del Mar free of charge, the Grand Prix requires paid admission, but it’s a small price to pay compared to the excitement that awaits in this thrilling competition of athleticism and agility.  delmarnational.com   Deanna Murphy

Equestrian Institution

Dawn White-O’Connor aboard Bailarindo

Photography by Vincent Knakal