Category Archives: Para-Equestrian

Cindy Screnci Wins US Para Grade 5 Dressage National Championship

Cindy Screnci Riccione (Lindsay Y. McCall photo credit)

Wellington, Florida (November 12, 2020) – Reigning USEF Grade V Para Equestrian of the Year, Cindy Screnci of Wellington, Florida, has been promoted to the Para Dressage Pathway Development Athletes roster following multiple victories on Eragon VF and Riccione at the Adequan®/USEF Para Dressage National Championships at Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC) in October.

After being named to the US Team last month, Screnci secured the US Para Grade V National Championship on her 11-year-old KWPN gelding, Eragon VF,(aka ‘Danny’), and won the Grade V Freestyle in front of judges Adrienne Pot, Elke Ebert, and Carlos Lopes. She also earned Reserve Champion honors with her KWPN mare, Riccione, posting the top two scores in both her Team and Individual classes. The fairytale week just kept getting better for Screnci, after making the US Team and winning the US National Championship, she was also unanimously nominated by her peers to receive the Lloyd Landkamer Memorial Sportsmanship Award in recognition of high standards and virtues of integrity, honor, team spirit, good temper, and unselfishness. Screnci was overcome by with the award.

Just don’t say “Break a leg” if you want to wish her luck. Because her road to Tryon and (she hopes) to Tokyo for the Paralympic Games began 26 surgeries and a couple of riding lifetimes ago.

As a girl, barrel racing and pole bending left her unscathed from injury, but years later, when her own daughter showed interest in horses, she joined her in the hunter/jumper ring, only to suffer a freak accident in a jumper class at Wellington that shattered her ankle and ultimately changed the direction of her life.

It was a pool not a horse that redirected her to the para equestrian world. “In my zeal to return to the ring after breaking my ankle I decided, on my own, to start physical therapy ahead of the suggested schedule and use my pool at home. I didn’t know I shouldn’t have gone into water so soon.”

She contracted an aggressive bacterial infection in the pool water, leading to a 26-surgery battle against osteomyelitis, an infection and inflammation of bone and bone marrow caused by bacteria or fungi entering bone tissue through an open or unhealed wound.

“I am so grateful, to this day, for the amazing support I received from the surgeons and staff at Paley Orthopedic & Spine Institute in Royal Palm Beach. They put my ankle, and me, back together.”

Repaired and ready to ride, she bought Sally L, a former jumper of Murray Kessler’s. “My friend, Nataly Liebowitz told me that Robert Dover said that Sally L should be in the ‘para program’ because she had extensive dressage training.  I said, para what?”

Shortly after, she attended a para dressage clinic at Vinceremos Therapeutic Riding Center in Loxahatchee and “was so impressed by the community that I truly fell in love.”

“I don’t miss jumping at all. Dressage is so cognitive! Every step means something,” she said. “This is my full-time world now, and I do believe my husband, Stephen, will be sainted someday for bearing with me.”

She praises Sharon Decker, the Chief Operating Officer at TIEC and the TIEC team who helped make Tryon’s indoor arena available to all the para equestrian athletes to train in. “The support Sharon and her team at TIEC showed the Para Dressage Program is truly remarkable. We are all so thankful for everything they have done for us and continue to do.  The new indoor facility at Tryon is incredible and they stopped everything and got it ready for our National Championships in a matter of days!”

The pair had never performed the freestyle, produced by Tom Hunt to the music of Les Miserables, in an arena or in front of judges, when their choreographed performance was given a winning score in the 70s.

“The Tryon CPEDI received great results,” said Michel Assouline, USEF Head of Coach Development and Para Dressage Technical Advisor. “We are very proud of the continued progress of our Para Dressage athletes and horses.”

The new Virtual Coaching Program is working, the chef d’equipe said, as proven by riders, like Screnci, earning higher scores and breaking the “magic 70% benchmark” at levels like this CPEDI3*. “This is all due to a hard-working campaign of daily training with coach support, as well as live-stream remote sessions and video analysis.”

Screnci is the only para dressage rider among eight Developing Athletes on the Para Dressage Pathway list to do so with two horses, Eragon VF and Riccione. The Para Dressage Pathway’s three levels (emerging, developing, and elite) identify and assist athletes on track to becoming medal contenders at the Paralympic and World Championship level.

“Breaking my leg turned out to be a blessing. It made me settle down and develop a deeper relationship with my family, and it has given me this opportunity – at my age – to have a goal of competing in Tokyo.”

The 2020 Summer Paralympic Games have been rescheduled for August 24 – September 5, 2021 in Tokyo. Follow Cindy Screnci and her horses on their Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/cscrenci.

Young Para-Dressage Rider Andie Sue Roth Receives United States Dressage Foundation Grant

Andie Sue Roth on Centeno XIII. Photo by Lindsay Y. McCall for the USPEA.

Alamo, California – November 6, 2020 – Four young riders received grants from The United States Dressage Foundation’s Cynthia Aspden Youth and Young Adult Development Fund. Para-Dressage young rider Andie Sue Roth from Alamo, California, was one of the recipients. Roth is 15 years old and recently competed at the Tryon International Equestrian Center. Roth rode in the 2020 Para Dressage Emerging Athlete Competition sponsored by USPEA which was held in conjunction with the CPEDI3* and USEF Para Dressage National Championship October 22-25, 2020, in Mill Spring, NC.

Roth is aiming for the Paralympics. She began as an Eventer and was an accomplished Pony Club rider before switching to para dressage. Roth and her sister, Kaysie Li, were adopted from China at 15 months and six years, respectively, each with a severely deformed lower limb requiring amputation, multiple surgeries, and specially fitted prosthetics.

The Dressage Foundation (TDF) was pleased to announce that grants from the Cynthia Aspden Youth and Young Adult Development Fund were awarded to four riders after receiving a record number of grant applications.

TDF’s Cynthia Aspden Youth and Young Adult Development Fund provides financial assistance to youth and young adult riders (age 25 and under) to aid in their development in dressage. Grants are being used for educational experiences that are not within the horse and rider’s typical training plan. The grant selection committee was pleased to receive a record number of applications and stated that the quality of the applicants was exceptional.

Roth has also been awarded $500 to continue training with Brenda Beare.

From Roth: “I am so grateful to TDF for this very generous grant. I have been working to get my horse, Blue, up the levels in dressage so that we can compete at the standard needed for the USEF Paralympic Emerging and Developing athlete lists, but I need extra training on a horse who is confident at the higher levels. That is where the beautiful ‘Exclusively Sunny’ comes in. Being able to extend my training with Brenda and Sunny for another month is invaluable as I am hoping to compete in another para dressage competition in Wellington in January. Thank you so very much for this opportunity.”

The Cynthia Aspden Fund Grant application is available on The Dressage Foundation’s website with a deadline of September 1st of each year. For more information about this Fund, visit www.dressagefoundation.org or contact Sara Weiss, Director of Grants and Programs, at (402)434-8585 or sara@dressagefoundation.org.

The Dressage Foundation

The Dressage Foundation is a 501(c)(3), non-profit, tax-exempt, donor-driven organization that is dedicated to educating, supporting, and advancing the sport of dressage. The organization solicits contributions, appropriately allocates the donations, and awards grants and scholarships to dressage riders, judges, instructors, breeders, high performance teams, and nonprofit equestrian organizations. For more information, please visit www.dressagefoundation.org.

For more information about the USPEA, please visit www.USPEA.org.

CDI World Cup Winners and Para-Dressage National Champions Command Centerline

Abraham Pugh and Elfenperfekt ©Sharon Packer Photography.

 Mill Spring, NC – October 27, 2020 – Abraham Pugh (USA) and Elfenperfekt grabbed their first career CDI wins together at Tryon Fall Dressage 3 at Tryon International Equestrian Center and Resort (TIEC), claiming the FEI Grand Prix on a score of 68.109% and topping the FEI Grand Prix Freestyle with a score of 74.010%. Julio Mendoza Loor (ECU) and Rosali, Aileen Daly’s 2005 Danish Warmblood mare (Blue Horse Romanov x Mosegardens Ratina), claimed second in both the FEI Grand Prix Freestyle and the FEI Grand Prix, scoring 73.990%, and 67.022%, respectively. Jessica Jo Tate (USA) and Kynynmont Gunsmoke’s Gideon, the 2008 Connemara Cross gelding (Gun Smoke x Kynynmont Tara x Greystone McErrill) owned by Pam Liddell, claimed third in both CDI competitions, scoring 66.261% in the FEI Grand Prix and earning 71.150% in the FEI Grand Prix Freestyle.

Pugh and the 2006 Trakehner stallion (Peron x Elfentruam x Zauberklang) owned by Alice Drayer have been together for seven years now, he said, and they keep “getting better and better” as they go. “My weekend went really well. This is our first time winning an international competition like that, so it’s pretty special. He just keeps getting better, and I keep getting better, so it’s really exciting. He really is a great partner,” Pugh shared of his mount. “He really will try his heart out for me day, in and day out; he doesn’t tell me no. He comes to work the same horse, whether we are at a show, whether we are in a big environment or a small environment.”

Rebecca Hart Is the 2020 Adequan®/USEF Para-Dressage National Champion

Rebecca Hart and El Corona Texel ©Leslie Potter/US Equestrian

The Adequan®/USEF Para-Dressage National Championship named Rebecca Hart (Wellington, FL) and Rowan O’Riley’s El Corona Texel at the 2020 Champions, earning a total composite score of 77.029%, with the Reserve Championship awarded to Sydney Collier (Ann Arbor, MI) scored a personal best in her freestyle with Going for Gold LLC’s All In One in the Grade I division with a 78.711%, which gave her a composite score of 76.147%.

“I’m so blessed to have him,” said Hart, who led all weekend and produced consistent personal bests with the 2009 Dutch Warmblood gelding (Wynton x Urieta Texel x Goodtimes). “He’s such a fun ride. He’s very dynamic and powerful. He was just awesome all week for me. I couldn’t have asked for more. He gave me the best birthday present ever! All three days were his top scores. Each test was the best it’s ever been for that test.”

With the 2020 season drastically impacted by COVID-19, Hart relayed that she focused on “getting back to basics,” so that their debut performance this weekend would be a strong one. “It was a crazy year! We went back to basics. We [sometimes] get so set on this date and that date with all of the shows, so we took the break as a silver lining. We caught our breath and really focused on the training and keeping our horses happy and healthy,” she emphasized. “We’ve done a lot of training at home working on certain things while in lockdown. This is our first time back out, so to have him be so happy and strong was fabulous.”

Sydney Collier and “Alle,” the 2009 Hanoverian gelding (Abanos x Dauphin), produced personal best after personal best to finish in reserve, and shared that she was searching for words other than “incredible” to describe her experience:

“It has been just so fun, and I wish I had better words to describe how good it feels to be back in the show ring, and to see all of our hard work during quarantine pay off. To step in there and be better than we ever have been is something that is really beyond words, and it invigorates me for going home and continuing on the same path and polishing up on some things before heading to Florida.”

For more competition information, visit www.Tryon.com/dressage.

Elite Athletes Head to Tryon for USEF Para Dressage National Championship CPEDI3

Rebecca Hart. Photo by Lindsay Y. McCall.

Mill Spring, NC – October 22, 2020 – With the uncertainty of the calendar year of 2020 the Para Dressage community is looking forward to the Adequan®/USEF Para Dressage National Championship and CPEDI3* competition. Riders will compete October 22-25, 2020, at the beautiful Tryon International Equestrian Center in Mill Spring, North Carolina. The event will include a national championship along with CPEDI3*, CPEDI2*, and CPEDI1*. Elite, developing, emerging, and young riders will be showcasing their talents in front of international judges Elke Ebert (GER), Carlos Lopes (POR), and Adrienne Pot (USA).Fifteen horse and rider combinations team and individual tests will take place on Friday and Saturday, October 23-24, and the top horse and rider combinations will return for the freestyle tests on Sunday, October 25. High Performance athletes in multiple countries will showcase quality tests as they aim for the rescheduled Paralympic Games taking place August 24 – September 5, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. The competition will be live streamed on USEF Network: https://www.usef.org/network/.

For more information about the USPEA, please visit www.USPEA.org.

Riders from 16 Countries Compete in Virtual Windsor’s Autumn Series

The Virtual Windsor Autumn Series has received over 1,200 entries, with participants competing from 16 countries around the world. The September edition of the first-of-its-kind virtual show series — which runs entirely via a live-stream composed of video competitions, photographs, and calls — will take place from 25-27 September 2020. Alongside online Showing, the Show also hosts a new-format video jumping competition, The Omega Equine Equitation Jumping, The Omega Equine Pony Club Dressage Home International, and The Riding for the Disabled Association Dressage Challenge.

ONLINE SHOWING

The 20 Online Showing classes saw a good turnout, with several well-known names making an appearance. Top showing producer Robert Walker’s seven-year-old daughter Isabella will contest Class 12, the Plaited Mini Pony, on the eight-year-old Sorells Royal Jubilee. Robert says, “Willow, as he’s known at home, has given Isabella four years of enjoyment. He has been very successful in Lead Rein [classes] picking up many wins, including the Blue Riband and Champion at Cheshire two years running.”

Young rider Liberty Taylor-Hopkins competes in the Intermediate class on the Emma-Jayne Dujardin-produced Carnsdale Kings Secret. Emma-Jayne, sister of Olympic medallist Charlotte Dujardin, is a renowned Showing Producer, who said previously that she is “very proud to be the Producer of two of the top Show Hunter Ponies in the top 10 of the [May Edition] Virtual Windsor Horse Show.” Liberty is a previous winner at the inaugural Virtual Windsor Show, where she took the Show Hack and Riding Horse title on Whalton Goodness Gracious.

Another one to watch in the Online Showing will be Fiona McIntyre, an Australian Showing Producer who was recently awarded the 2020 ‘Lady of Racing’ for her contribution to the retraining of former racehorses. Amongst her entries is Bart Cummings’ former grand stayer Precedence, who competed in four Melbourne Cups and won two Moonee Valley Cups. The online Showing classes have been particularly popular amongst Australian riders, with 135 entries across the board.

The Showing will be played out over the three days of the Show and will culminate in The Voltaire Design Supreme Championships.

THE OMEGA EQUINE EQUITATION JUMPING

Brand new for this Series is The Omega Equine Equitation Jumping, an entirely new video discipline which brings jumping competition into the mix. Riders complete a set test, which incorporates a one-stride triple of any safe height and construction along one side of a 20x40m marked out space, and are marked on their rhythm, riding and the willingness and shape of the horse. Designed to make competition accessible, and to promote excellent horsemanship at all levels, the Autumn Series will see two sections: U16s and Open.

The U16s will see a familiar name in the shape of 13-year-old Ellie Stockdale, niece of the late Tim and cousin of Joe. She rides Ostaras Umberto, a Dutch New Forest Pony who she has owned for six months, with whom she has recently been to Pony Club Camp. The Stockdale family has been great supporters of the Royal Windsor Horse Show for many years, with both Tim and Joe securing memorable victories there.

The Open section also sees young rider Gracie Tyte, better known by her social media handle @pony_nuts. Gracie, who is also an ambassador for British Eventing, blogs about her training journeys with her four horses and has a quarter of a million followers across her social media channels. She contests the class on her six-year-old mare, Myspires Another Star.

The Omega Equine Equitation Jumping has seen great support from overseas riders, with entries from as far afield as Canada, Bulgaria, New Zealand, and Finland. Six entries have also come from Thailand, including nine-year-old Punyaphat Budsaenkhom who contests the U16s aboard City NP, having previously achieved 10th in the 2019 Thailand Pony Showjumping Championship.

THE OMEGA EQUINE PONY CLUB HOME INTERNATIONAL DRESSAGE

Entries for the qualifying rounds of The Omega Equine Pony Club Virtual Dressage Home International have also closed and selection for the national teams is underway. The competition, where the winners of the qualifying rounds go on to represent their countries in the Virtual Home International, saw 89 entries from across England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and the Republic of Ireland.  Several competitors, including Tirion Budd (Wing Man) and Jazmin Vollands (Mo Chara Nua), represented their country at the inaugural event at Royal Windsor Horse Show in 2019 and are competing for the 2020 Virtual Trophy; former RWHS Tetrathlete, Lauren McGlennon (OMS Lady Esquire), is also competing for a place on the team.

THE RIDING FOR THE DISABLED DRESSAGE CHALLENGE

There was a total of 43 entries for The Riding for the Disabled Dressage Challenge, supported by Players of the People’s Postcode Lottery and Wyychanger. Open to all levels and grades of riders, the result is decided on the highest overall percentage, with riders performing the test most suitable to their grading. Alongside some well-established RDA and para riders, the class was also an opportunity for many new RDA riders to take part in their first competitions virtually in this COVID-19 year, including Sophie-Alice Pearman (Carnival Red), Lisa Brooks (Blue), and Alfie Brew-Lee (Maple), who are all riding in their first dressage competition at Virtual Windsor.

Virtual Windsor Autumn Series 2020 can be found at https://virtual.rwhs.co.uk/ — the site will be constantly updated and will remain in place throughout the year.

For more information, please contact:
Gayle Jenkins / rEvolution / gjenkins@revolutionworld.com / +44 (0)203 176 0355

Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games Competition Schedule for 2021 Confirmed

The Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (TOCOG) has confirmed the Paralympic Games Competition Schedule for 2021. For Para Dressage, the competition dates have been moved forward by one day so as to mirror the 2020 daily schedule. The Para Dressage events which were due to start on Thursday 27 August 2020 and finish on Saturday 29 August 2020 will now run from Thursday 26 August 2021 to Monday 30 August 2021. There are also some minor modifications to the starting times.

The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic equestrian timetable for 2021 can be viewed here on the FEI’s Paralympic hub.

Media contact:

Vanessa Martin Randin
Senior Manager, Media Relations & Communications
vanessa.randin@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 73

Riding for the Disabled Association Dressage – A New Virtual Windsor Discipline

The Virtual Windsor Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) Dressage Challenge will take place for the first time during the Virtual Windsor Autumn Series 2020, streamed live from 25-27 September. The class, for which competitors will film their dressage tests at home and submit them online, gives riders the opportunity to get back to competition while remaining socially distanced.

Run in accordance with RDA rules, the Virtual Windsor RDA Dressage Challenge, supported by players of the People’s Postcode Lottery, will be free to enter and open to all Classified riders. Judged as one championship section, competitors will select the appropriate test for their grade from a choice of eight (Grade 1, Grade 2, Grade 3, Grade 4, Grade 5, Intellectual Disability Walk Only, Intellectual Disability Walk & Trot, and Intellectual Disability Canter) and submit a video. The tests will then be judged, with the best scores across all tests taking the top places. Judging the competition will be RDA Dressage Lead and Judge John Robinson, who is also a BD List 2A and FEI 4* Para Dressage Judge.

The Virtual Windsor RDA Dressage Challenge will be broadcast as the highlight of the Virtual Windsor livestream on Friday 25 September, during which the finalists’ rounds will be played and the winners announced. The livestream, which will be available on Facebook, YouTube, and the Virtual Windsor website, is free to watch and will remain online to enjoy after the event.

Ed Bracher, Chief Executive of RDA UK, said, “I am delighted that the Virtual Windsor RDA Dressage Challenge will be part of Virtual Windsor’s Autumn Series. With so many competitions having been cancelled, this is a great chance for classified riders – whether they are part of RDA or not – to compete nationally. We are grateful to the organisers for including an RDA class and look forward to this becoming a regular fixture in the Virtual Windsor Series.”

Virtual Windsor’s Show Director, Simon Brooks-Ward, said, “We are delighted to announce that RDA Dressage will be one of the disciplines we host as part of the Virtual Windsor Autumn Series, alongside Online Showing, Equitation Jumping, and the Pony Club Home International Dressage. While 2020 has been a challenging year, with the Virtual Windsor Series we have embraced the opportunity to provide accessible, high-level competition in a format available to all. The standard of competition at the inaugural Virtual Windsor was extremely high, so we are expecting great things from the Autumn and Winter Series.”

The Virtual Windsor Autumn Series 2020 will run from 25-27 September 2020, with entries opening on Friday 14 August and closing on Friday 4 September, and the Show itself taking place as a free‐to-view livestream available on Facebook, YouTube, and the Virtual Windsor website across the Show Weekend.

For more information, please contact:
Gayle Jenkins / rEvolution / gjenkins@revolutionworld.com / +44 (0)203 176 0355

Support the Future of Para Equestrian Sport

Photo (c) United States Para-Equestrian Association.

United States Para-Equestrian Association Mission Statement  

To Help Develop, Promote, Support, and Sustain all USA Para Equestrian Athletes for Regional, National, and International Competition with a focus on Paralympic Equestrian Sport.

United States Para-Equestrian Association Vision Statement  

The vision of the United States Para Equestrian Association (USPEA) is to provide leadership for equestrian sport in the United States of America for athletes with an eligible physical impairment, promoting the pursuit of excellence from the grass roots to the Paralympic Games, based on a foundation of fair, safe competition and the welfare of its horses, and embracing this vision, to be the best national Para Equestrian Association in the world.

About USPEA

The United States Para-Equestrian Association (USPEA) includes every recognized equestrian discipline that is practiced by athletes with an eligible physical impairment with a focus on Paralympic Equestrian Sports. The USPEA is a network of current and past athletes, owners, officials, event organizers, and equestrian enthusiasts. The Association assists athletes to get involved and expand their knowledge and experience in the Disciplines of Para-Equestrian.

USPEA was created to fill a need to assist Para Equestrian disciplines when they came under the governance of the FEI. While Para Equestrian disciplines were originally segregated, they now are integrated in international sport. As each individual Para Equestrian discipline develops, it is USPEA’s mission to always serve as an advisory resource with the ultimate goal that the established able-bodied discipline affiliate will integrate within their organization.

In 2010, the USPEA earned its 501 (c)(3) status and became a recognized International affiliate association of the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) working together to grow the FEI recognized disciplines by helping to provide press, educational information, symposiums, and competition opportunities for athletes with eligible physical impairments.

For more information about the USPEA, please visit www.USPEA.org or contact USPEA President: Hope Hand by e-mail: hope@uspea.org or by phone: (610)356-6481.

The USPEA is a USEF Recognized National Affiliate. The USEF International High Performance Programs are generously supported by the USET Foundation, USOC, and USEF Sponsors and Members. For more information please visit US Equestrian at https://www.usef.org/compete/disciplines/para-equestrian.

FEI European Championships in Olympic & Paralympic Disciplines Cancelled for 2021

The FEI European Championships in the Olympic and Paralympic disciplines of Jumping, Eventing, Dressage, and Para Dressage will not be held in 2021 due to the revised dates for the Tokyo Games next year. European Championships in the non-Olympic disciplines will still be organised in 2021.

The Hungarian capital of Budapest had been due to play host to five disciplines next summer – Jumping, Dressage, Para Dressage, Driving, and Vaulting – from 23 August to 5 September. However, the proximity of the Championships to the rescheduled Olympic and Paralympic Games has meant that it is no longer feasible to run Jumping, Dressage, and Para Dressage. As part of its 50th anniversary celebrations of the first FEI European Driving Championships in Budapest back in 1971, the Organisers will maintain both Driving and Vaulting next year.

The FEI European Eventing Championships 2021 were scheduled to take place from 11-15 August at Haras du Pin (FRA), venue for the Eventing test of the FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2014, but the decision has been made to cancel the Championships following the postponement of Tokyo 2020.

The new dates for the Tokyo Olympic Games are 23 July to 8 August 2021 and the Paralympic Games will run from 24 August through to 5 September 2021.

The FEI Board has agreed that the bid process for the European Championships 2021 in these four disciplines will not be reopened, as all organisers would face the same challenges of trying to host major Championships so close to the Tokyo Games.

“Together with the Organising Committees of both Budapest and Haras du Pin, as well as the Hungarian and French National Federations, we have examined every possible option to try and save the Championships in 2021,” FEI Secretary General Sabrina Ibáñez said, “but we have reached the regrettable decision that it simply is not possible to have these important events so close to the Olympic and Paralympic Games next year.

“While there are some nations that have enough horsepower to send strong teams to the Olympic and Paralympic Games and also to the European Championships across the four disciplines, we have to offer a level playing field to all eligible countries and we simply cannot do that in this case, so we have agreed that the focus should be on Tokyo next year.

“Of course, it is desperately disappointing to lose these Championships from the 2021 Calendar, but we will continue to support Budapest with their double Europeans for Driving and Vaulting.”

The FEI Secretary General has overall responsibility for the FEI Calendar and is currently chairing the eight discipline-specific Task Forces that have been set up to seek ways of mitigating the effect of the current Covid-19 pandemic on the FEI Calendar, including the knock-on effects into 2021.

“It was the very first time that a Central European country had won the opportunity to organise the prestigious FEI multidiscipline European Championships, Dorottya Stróbl, Member of the Managing Board of the Budapest Organising Committee and Secretary General of the Hungarian National Federation, said. “We strongly believed that the event would serve as a high motivation for the owners and sponsors in Hungary and in the neighbouring countries and promote the sport towards the elite level, but we understand that the significant challenges of holding major FEI Championships in the Olympic and Paralympic disciplines in the year of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, has meant that unfortunately cancellation was inevitable. However, we will continue to work to ensure the very highest level of FEI Driving and Vaulting European sport in Budapest next year.”

Valérie Moulin, President of the Ustica Organising Committee at Haras du Pin, also expressed her disappointment: “We are very disappointed that the rescheduling of Tokyo 2020 has led to the cancellation of the Championships in Haras du Pin, but unfortunately we were unable to find alternative dates outside August 2021. We had gathered a lot of local partners and we were financially invested. All riders counted on this date; nevertheless, we understand that the situation has changed over the last months with the postponement of the Olympic Games. We have made a proposal to the FEI about potentially hosting the Championships in 2023 and we look forward to hearing about that.”

Discussions around other FEI Championships, including the Europeans in 2023, will be held during next month’s FEI Board videoconference meeting, which is set for 23-25 June.

Media contacts:

Grania Willis
Director Communications
grania.willis@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 42

Shannon Gibbons
Media Relations and Communications Manager
shannon.gibbons@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 4

We All Have More Strength Than We Think We Have: Rodolpho Riskalla

Rodolpho Riskalla with Don Henrico. (FEI/Liz Gregg)

“Some people think they can’t change, but we can all see now that when we are forced to change then we can do it.” This is coming from a man who knows what he’s talking about, 35-year-old Brazilian Dressage and Para-Dressage athlete Rodolpho Riskalla. He’s as disappointed as everyone else that the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games have been postponed until next summer, and that equestrian sport in general has ground to a standstill due to the pandemic.

But he has learned to take life, and everything it throws at him, in his stride. He knows what it is to have the world turned upside-down and the best-laid plans swept away in an instant. But he also knows what it is to grit your teeth and get back on your feet – in his case two new prosthetic ones – without ever taking your eyes off the prize. And right now his eyes are fully focused on nothing less than a gold medal at the Paralympic Games in Tokyo in 2021.

Rodolpho is sitting beside the “camping car” (I’m imagining it’s a pretty smart RV) he’s sharing with his mother, Rosangele, and sister, Victoria, close to the stables at Haras de Champcueil, about 60km south of Paris, as we begin our chat. He has a long connection with Ecurie Marina Caplain Saint Andre at Champcueil, so when the French lockdown was about to begin he quickly closed up his Paris home and moved his two horses from their usual lodgings at the Polo Club in the heart of the capital city so that he could continue to be close to them in the countryside. “We didn’t know at the time if the Olympics were going ahead this year or not,” he says. “It was chaos!”

Dior

He works as an Events Manager for the Paris fashion house Christian Dior, and normally exercises his two competition horses at 7.30am every day before heading to the office. “The Polo Club is normally open to the public, but we were told it would be closing from March 16th (due to the pandemic lockdown) so we brought them here right away. Everything is closed in France until May 11th at least,” he explains.

Adapting to new situations has long been a way of life for Rodolpho who travelled over and back from his family home in Sao Paolo in Brazil to France and elsewhere in Europe during his early teens. “I spent a few months with Mariette Witthages in Belgium, and I went to Germany when I was about 20 and spent two years with Norbert van Laak. Then I went back to Brazil for about five years before deciding to leave again for Europe so I would be close to horses and shows and training, and that brought me here to work with Marina, who I already knew from when I was younger, for about two-and-a-half years as a manager and trainer before I started at Dior,” he says. He’s been based in France ever since.

Rodolpho, whose mother is a Dressage judge and trainer, always showed potential. He claimed gold in the South American Young Rider Dressage Championships in Buenos Aires (BRA) in 2004 and won the Grand Prix Special, finished third in the Grand Prix and fourth in the Freestyle at the CDI3* in Sao Paolo (BRA) in February 2012. He produced a series of strong results in Young Horse classes on the French circuit the following year and was hoping to move his horse, Divertimento, up to Big Tour level, and take a shot at a place at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, when tragedy struck in the summer of 2015. He had to return urgently to Brazil.

Very Suddenly

“My dad got sick and he died; it happened very suddenly and by the time I got there he was already gone. I had to look after all the paperwork for that, and I needed to be with my family for a while. But then two weeks later I got sick,” he says. It was bacterial meningitis. “It’s a bit like Coronavirus; some people can get it and are not affected by it, but they can infect someone else. It came out of nowhere. I was good in the morning; I went to see the lawyer and then on to teach one of my friends. In the afternoon I felt like I was getting a flu and I had a high fever, and the next day my mother took me to hospital. I was very sick. They put me in a coma a couple of days later so I could breathe – my heart and everything was shutting down.

“I was in the coma for almost three weeks. Somehow, I managed to survive; they said probably because I was in good health and fit. But my hands and my legs – the extremities – suffered a lot. My (medical) insurance was here in Europe, so Dior managed to fly me back, and I had the amputations in Paris,” he says quite practically.

In June he had been competing at the CDI2* in Compiegne and chasing an Olympic dream. By October he had lost both feet, all the fingers on his right hand and some from the left. And then in November, although he was still very weak, he had to be transferred to a rehabilitation centre much sooner than expected because his hospital bed was needed for victims of the 2015 Paris terrorist attacks.

I ask Rodolpho how he coped with all this, mentally as well as physically.

No time to think

“I didn’t have time to think too much; that’s the good thing, and I was really lucky to have my family and friends with me all the time; that was so important,” he replies. And he’s clearly a rule-breaker. On 2nd January 2016, less than five months after falling ill, he went to the stable where one of the horses he had been riding was kept and was lifted into the saddle. He didn’t have his prosthetics fitted at this stage.

“We could get out every weekend from rehab and yes it was crazy to get on the horse that day, but this moment changed something in my head. I suddenly realised I could manage!

“When you have everything (all your limbs) you think you could never do without them. I was one of those people who would look at a person in a wheelchair thinking I could never be like them.”

He’d lost 30kgs, and with his amputation scars still raw he had to wait until March before his prosthetics could be fitted. However, by the time he was discharged from rehab on 1 May he’d already competed at his first two Para-Dressage shows on a horse borrowed from a friend. His doctors let him sneak out of the rehab facility, saying, “Go! but don’t tell anyone at the hospital!” he tells me with a laugh.

He has now mastered his movement so well that he has a separate set of prosthetics so he can go running a few times a week as well. He’s back competing in both Dressage and Para-Dressage. There’s just no holding this man down.

Transition to Para

Having competed up to Grand Prix Dressage level, he found the transition to Para a bit bewildering at first. He says you get away with nothing in a Para test. There are five grades of competition and Rodolpho competes in Grade lV. “There are a lot of transitions and small turns and the judges look at every little thing! When you ride Prix St George or Grand Prix, it’s one movement after another; in Para it’s about straightness, suppleness, contact, good transitions, and it has really improved my horses because you have to be right on point; everything has to be fluid. Sometimes at the higher level, riders produce a flashy half-pass but forget about the basics. I feel now that my PSG horse is much more on the aids,” Rodolpho explains.

It’s hard to believe that he made it to the Paralympics in his home country just four months after leaving hospital in 2016, finishing individually 10th with Warenne. His extraordinary story earned him the FEI “Against All Odds” award that year, and there was hardly a dry eye in the house when he walked to the stage at the Park Tower Hotel in Tokyo to accept his trophy in November. And then, two years later, he claimed individual double-silver in Para-Dressage at the FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2018 in Tryon, USA riding Don Henrico.

He’s had Don Henrico, which is owned by Ann Kathrin Linsenhoff of Gestüt Schafhof, since 2017. “He’s a stallion and sensitive, but right away we got along together. Some horses don’t adapt too well to Para riders; you can’t have a horse that’s too lazy or too big. In my case the disability is my legs and the reins (Rodolpho uses looped reins), but Don Henrico really played the game. He’s super fun!”

Don Frederic

Then along came Don Henrico’s brother, the stallion Don Frederic. “I needed a second horse and my sister was working for Ann Kathrin at the time and told me about him. She said he was a better mover and would suit me well.” However, Ann Kathrin wasn’t ready to sell, so Rodolpho continued his search for a back-up ride until, in a phone call with Ann Kathrin’s stepson Matthias Alexander Rath on the way home from last summer’s FEI European Championships in Rotterdam, he got an invitation to come and try the horse. They really clicked and, thanks to Brazilian friend Tania Loeb Wald who purchased him, Don Frederic joined Rodolpho’s team in November 2019.

“It took a few months for him to adapt and be a little more on my aids but he’s really great, a bit less sensitive than Don Henrico who sometimes has a little too much character! We started this year doing both Dressage and Para-Dressage and I took him to Doha (CPEDI3* in February 2020) where he was super and got three really nice scores (winning all three classes).”

Earlier in February Rodolpho competed Don Henrico at the CDI1* in Neumünster (GER), finishing fourth in the Intermediate Freestyle and fifth in the Prix St Georges, both won by German superstar Helen Langehanenberg. In Para-Dressage and in Dressage, the Brazilian rider is very competitive.

The postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games to summer 2021 means he has even more time to really cement his partnership with Don Frederic. “So I’m in the lucky position of having two championship horses and now we don’t want to just go to Tokyo for a medal – we want gold!” he says with another laugh.

Adaptability

But I know it’s not a joke. This is a man with colossal inner strength and steely determination. I can sense he’s grinning when he confirms, “Yes, I always want more. I want to win; I want to be better. I’ve always been like that! That’s how I got through what I’ve been through because I was able to adapt. Adaptability is the key word, and pushing your own boundaries a bit. We all have more strength than we think we have!” he insists.

As we conclude our time together I ask him if he has a message for people worried about the instability in the world right now due the pandemic, and he replies, “It’s not an easy time for anyone because we don’t know what the future holds. We need to get past this and we’ll get there, but we can’t rush time and we’ve got to be patient.”

He concludes, “If there is one thing I have learned from my own experience over the last few years, it is that when people care about each other, then everything is easier.”

By Louise Parkes

Media contact:

Shannon Gibbons
Media Relations and Communications Manager
shannon.gibbons@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 46