Category Archives: Para-Equestrian

Great Day for Great Britain as Three Golds Pour In

Natasha Baker (GBR) takes the gold, grade II individual test (Liz Gregg/FEI)

Rio de Janeiro (BRA), 15 September 2016 – Following superb wins by British riders in the grades II and Ia individual tests at the Olympic equestrian Centre in Deodoro on Thursday (15 September), Great Britain have won the overall team championships of the Rio 2016 para dressage competition.

The team have won every Paralympic team competition since the sport was introduced to the Games in Atlanta 1996 and remain undefeated in European and World championships too – a total of 18 team titles.

“I’m absolutely thrilled,” said Great Britain’s Chef d’Equipe Sarah Armstrong. “I couldn’t have wished for a better result and the guys have been great.

“When I took on the role in November I took a massive personal risk. They were coming off the back of a home Games and it was a big ask to return this and improve on it but I just knew that the athletes, the horses and the amazing support team that we have, I just knew that we could do it.”

The team, made up of Sophie Christiansen and Anne Dunham (both grade Ia), Natasha Baker (II) and Sophie Wells (IV) had a combined score of 453.306 to finish 20 points ahead of Germany in silver (433.321) with The Netherlands in bronze (430.353).

“It’s very exciting,” said Dunham, who has now won five team titles with the team since starting her Paralympic games career in Atlanta 1996. “The one horror that all of us have at the moment is being on the team that doesn’t actually win the team gold medal. But we won it, and we won it in style.”

The team result rounded off a good day for Great Britain, starting with Baker’s win in the grade II individual test. Riding Cabral she scored 73.400% to finish just short of two points clear of The Netherlands’ silver and bronze medallists – Demi Vermeulen, and Rixt Van der Horst.

The win was all the sweeter for Baker as it follows her defeat to Van der Horst at the 2014 FEI World Equestrian Games™ (known as WEG) and the 2015 FEI European championships. In 2014 she was the strong favourite for gold but Cabral was spooked by the TV cameras as he entered the arena.

“I’m so happy. I’m still shaking. I’m still crying,” said Baker. “I was so worried he was going to come in here and do a repeat of WEG. I’m just so proud.

“I just love him so much; he means the absolute world to me. I said to him as we were trotting round in the 10-minute box: ‘Just trust me JP, just trust me,’ and he did. He just worked with me and felt so relaxed. It wasn’t the best test we’ve ever done but I’m just over the moon with him.”

Christiansen won the grade Ia individual title on Athene Lindebjerg with the top score of the week so far, 78.217%. Team mate Anne Dunham, competing in her fifth Games was second, and there was a hugely popular bronze for Brazil’s Sergio Oliva, his country’s second Para dressage medallist after team mate Marcos Alves took two bronzes in Beijing 2008.

“This is surreal at the moment,” said Christiansen. “I’ve had a change of coach and just injury after injury and up until last week, I didn’t even know which horse I would be bringing.

“I’ve always wanted to do my best at everything I put my hand to – academics, sport. It’s going to sound big-headed but I think you have to have more than talent to stay at the top.”

“For me it is a dream come true,” added Oliva. “I have worked for more than 12 years to get this bronze medal so for me it means gold. I’ve worked hard to find the good combination – the Two Hearts – which to me means one heart, and to get a medal in my home country is amazing. I don’t have any words. I love this. I love this moment. This is a dream.”

Full results and live scoring available here.

By Rob Howell

FEI Media Contacts:

Grania Willis
Director Press Relations
grania.willis@fei.org
+41 787 506 142

Leanne Williams
Manager Press Relations
leanne.williams@fei.org
+41 79 314 24 38

Hart Qualifies for Freestyle as Team Competition Concludes at Rio Paralympic Games

Rebecca Hart and Romani (Alexandre Loureiro/Stringer)

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – Following five days of Team and Individual tests, Paralympic equestrian team competition concluded Thursday afternoon at the Deodoro Equestrian Center. Rebecca Hart was first down centerline for the U.S. Team in the Grade II Individual test, scoring 67.714%. In the Grade Ia Individual test, individual competitor Roxanne Trunnell produced a score of 69.565%, while team representative, Margaret McIntosh, scored 66.217%. The U.S. finished 12th in team standings. Great Britain secured their 10th consecutive Team Gold medal, having topped the team competition since para-dressage’s inception at the Paralympic Games in 1996. Germany won Silver, while The Netherlands took Bronze.

The Grade II Individual tests kicked off Thursday morning at the Deodoro Equestrian Center. Hart (Wellington, Fla.) and Romani, her own 2002 Danish Warmblood mare, executed a respectable test and qualified for Friday’s Freestyle. Though the pair never quite found their rhythm, it was a clean test that placed them ninth in the class.

“It was not the test that I wanted so I am disappointed. Everything is a learning process though and you go with what you have at the moment; we did the best we could with it. I couldn’t have done anything differently, it was just not our moment,” Hart explained.

Speaking to her experience at her third Paralympic Games, Hart said, “It has been wonderful. It’s been a pleasure to be here in Rio where everyone has been so hospitable, welcoming, and very gracious.”

Riding as an Individual for the U.S. in the Grade Ia Individual test, Trunnell delivered a solid test aboard Royal Dancer, Julia Handt’s 2005 Westphalian gelding. The pair overcame a bobble during the first centerline to perform a harmonious test that placed them 10th in a very competitive field.

“I thought the test was good,” said Trunnell. “Royal was a good boy, especially in the free walk. We have been working on relaxing and he just flowed with it. Compared to the Team test, he felt more relaxed in the arena.”

This was Trunnell’s first Paralympic Games and she commented on the event, saying, “It is also Royal’s first Paralympics so it’s nice that we are going through it together. It’s not something I could have ever imagined, there are so many more people here than I expected. The crowds have been really respectful of the lower grades which we don’t always get, so that has been really nice.”

Riding as the final member of Team USA, McIntosh and her own Rio Rio, a 2006 Rheinland mare, placed 20th in the Grade Ia Individual test.

“The weather was so beautiful today in comparison to how hot it has been, so my horse was very happy out there,” said McIntosh.

Competing in her first major championship of any kind, McIntosh stated that while the actual competition experience was similar to a normal horse show, the exciting part of the Games for her has been staying in the Athlete Village. “I am in awe of the courage, determination, and effort that these athletes put into their daily lives, let alone what it takes to compete at this level and excel at their own sports. It’s been overwhelming to walk around the village and to see so many vibrant people at the top of their game.”

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Emotional Scenes as Wells and Puch Reign in Rio

Rio 2016 Paralympics Grade IV podium – gold Sophie Wells (GBR), silver Michèle George (GER), bronze Frank Hosmar (NED) (Liz Gregg/FEI)

Rio de Janeiro (BRA), 14 September 2016 – There were emotional scenes at the Olympic Equestrian Centre in Deodoro on Wednesday as Austria’s Pepo Puch and Great Britain’s Sophie Wells were crowned the latest winners of the Rio 2016 Para dressage competition.

Puch won the grade Ib individual medal, while Wells took the grade IV individual title.

Wells, riding Valerius, scored 74.857% to finish just ahead of Belgium’s London 2012 winner Michèle George, with The Netherlands’ Frank Hosmar taking the bronze. The win comes after Wells has lost out to George at both the London 2012 Games and the FEI World Equestrian Games™ in 2014.

“I’m crying a lot,” she said after collecting her medal. “It was pretty good. We couldn’t have given any more. I’m just so proud of him. We’ve worked really hard to get there.

“There are no words that can describe how I’m feeling right now. Definitely a sense of pride (in) my horse, my support team, and that we actually went and did it in the arena when it mattered. I can’t believe it. It brings back a little bit of what we didn’t get on Pinocchio in London and this is for him as well.”

George was clearly pleased with her silver but admitted to thinking she had won. “I’m not disappointed,” she said, “but I really don’t understand that I am second. I really had a great feeling. When I finished the test I felt, ‘yes, this was it.’

“Unfortunately, the five judges weren’t thinking the same as me. I’m really happy and I will be back next time, I can assure you.”

In a week which has seen winners sometimes decided by fractions of a point, Puch’s one-point win over Great Britain’s Lee Pearson seems even more impressive. Riding Fontainenoir, Puch scored 75.103% to Pearson’s 74.103%. Denmark’s Stinna Tange Kaastrup took the bronze.

“Amazing, amazing, amazing,” said Puch. “The horse was really good, but with the wind and some babies crying, the horse was looking outside, but I could catch him. I had him on my side.

“He was really good and I was so happy. With the positive feeling comes the emotion and with the emotion it’s not easy to handle the movement in my body. He was helping me. We were working four years for this day. The first day of London was the first day of training for Rio.”

Fontainenoir is known at Puch’s home as Fondy Blondy. “He’s the blackest blond horse ever,” said Puch. “His ex-owner says he’s in the wrong body. He wants to be a dog and wants to be with you all the time.”

Pearson was also happy with his silver, his 13th Paralympic medal in a career that started back in Sydney 2000. “I think the best man won on the day,” he said.

“The standard is tough. It has been up to London and since then. My aim was to go home with a medal so I’m over the moon.”

There was a dramatic moment half way through the grade Ib competition when Canada’s Ashley Gowanlock fell from her horse after it bolted as they were leaving the arena. Gowanlock was assessed by the Rio 2016 medical staff and found to have no serious injuries before being transported to hospital for further testing as a precaution.

The individual Championship tests conclude on Thursday (15 September) with the grades II and Ia competitions. The overall team champions will be announced at the end of the day as well. Denmark currently leads that competition ahead of France and Australia, but with more riders from more teams due to ride, that could all change.

Full results and live scoring available here.

By Rob Howell

FEI Media Contacts:

Grania Willis
Director Press Relations
grania.willis@fei.org
+41 787 506 142

Leanne Williams
Manager Press Relations
leanne.williams@fei.org
+41 79 314 24 38

Sydney Collier and Western Rose Place 7th in Grade 1B Individual at Rio Paralympics

Sydney Collier and Western Rose – photo by Lindsay Y. McCall.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – September 14, 2016 – The 2016 Rio Paralympic Equestrian competition continued Wednesday at the Deodoro Olympic Equestrian Center with the Grade 1B division riding their Individual Championship Test for a chance at a medal. The youngest rider in the Rio Equestrian Paralympics, Sydney Collier of Ann Arbor, MI, and Wesley Dunham’s Western Rose improved on their Team Test placing ending up 7th with a 67.665%. Collier commented, “I am so happy and proud of my ride today. I can’t stop smiling. My mare Rosie was a superstar and we had a top 7 finish. Seeing my name up on the jumbotron made me so emotional and I can’t wait to see what amazing things I have coming up in my future. Overall it’s just an honor to be here in Rio competing with the best of the best and representing our country.”

Winning the Gold Medal in Grade Ib was Austria’s Pepo Puch riding Fontainenoir to a score of 75.103%. In Silver Medal position was Great Britain’s individual rider Lee Pearson riding Zion for a score of 74.103%. In the Bronze Medal position was Denmark’s Stinna Kaastrup riding Smarties to a score of 73.897%.

Thursday we have three riders riding for the individual championship – Rebecca Hart up first riding the Grade II test at 9:54 AM. In the Grade IA division we have at Margaret McIntosh at 3:23 PM and Roxanne Trunnell at 4:22 PM.

The 2016 Paralympic Equestrian Games continue at the Deodoro Olympic Equestrian Center.

The Equestrian competition runs through September 16, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

For more information about the U.S. Paralympic Equestrian Team, please visit United States Equestrian Federation at www.USEF.org, the United States Equestrian Team Foundation at www.USET.org, or Team USA at www.teamusa.org/US-Paralympics/Sports/Equestrian.

For more information about the 2016 Paralympic Equestrian competition, please visit www.rio2016.com/en/paralympics/equestrian.

By: Eleanor R. Brimmer

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.

Gold for Norway as Lübbe Back on Top

Ann Cathrin Lübbe (Liz Gregg/FEI)

Rio de Janeiro (BRA), 13 September 2016 – The first gold of the Rio 216 Para dressage competition was won by Norway’s Ann Cathrin Lübbe at the Olympic equestrian Centre on Tuesday (13 September).

In a thrilling and closely contended grade III individual test Lübbe, riding Donatello, scored 72.878%, just over point seven of a percentage point ahead of Denmark’s Susanne Sunesen on Que Faire. And keeping it a neighbourly affair, Sweden’s Louise Etzner Jakobsson took the bronze at this, her first Paralympic Games, riding Zernard.

Lübbe is a former gold medalist having won both the individual and freestyle grade IV titles in Athens 2004, with silvers in those two events in Beijing 2008. She was clearly delighted to be back on top. “Oh, it’s good to be back,” she said. “I think it suits me. It’s heavy. I am happy. It’s nice and it makes a nice sound.

“It was very nice. I worked so hard for it. I’m so pleased that today I was the best and the horse did so well.”

Lübbe’s win was tinged with a level of sadness, however, as her horse had previously belonged to a student of hers, who was killed in a road accident. “Her parents are here,” she said. “It means everything. It’s so important to me.”

Denmark’s Sunesen was equally delighted with her silver. “I am very happy and relieved,” she said. “Everything was good. It means a lot. The medal is what it is all about. The coach for the Danish team, my family: it’s what we’re here for to win the medals.”

The day started with Great Britain’s Natasha Baker wining the grade II team test in one of the closest results of the competition so far. Riding her London 2012 double gold medal winning horse, Cabral, Baker scored 71.882 for the win, less than point zero six of a point ahead of second placed Demi Vermeulen (NED). Germany’s Steffen Zeibig was third. The competition was so close that the top four riders all scored 71 per cent plus.

“I had to work hard, really hard,” said Baker after her test. “He walked around OK and then he noticed the audience was here and he got a bit nervous and I had to really work with him. But I’m so proud of him. He came back to me so quickly.

“I never expected to get 71 per cent and I don’t really care what I got. I’m just so proud that we recovered. He coped with it all in London but he’s turned into a diva since then – it’s all gone to his head!”

While the individual test medals start to be given out, the team competition continues, as team members’ individual scores also count towards the overall team score. At the end of Tuesday Denmark had taken the lead, with France and Australia close behind. But that could all change on Wednesday (14 September).

Full results and live scoring available here.

By Rob Howell

FEI Media Contacts:

Grania Willis
Director Press Relations
grania.willis@fei.org
+41 787 506 142

Leanne Williams
Manager Press Relations
leanne.williams@fei.org
+41 79 314 24 38

US Equestrian Team Continues Competition with Team and Individual Tests at Paralympic Games

Angela Peavy and Lancelot Warrior (Loren Worthington)

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – Tuesday at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games marked the final day of Team tests and first day of Individual tests for para-equestrian dressage. Competing in the Grade II Team test for the U.S. was Rebecca Hart, who scored 69.941%. The afternoon session featured the first of the Individual tests. Angela Peavy was the first American to perform her Individual test in the Grade III, scoring 68.585%. Placings for the team competition are determined by combining the top three scores of each team from both the Team and Individual tests. The Individual tests will continue Wednesday and Thursday before medals are awarded at the conclusion of competition on Friday.

Riding in her third Paralympic Games, Hart (Wellington, Fla.) performed a solid test aboard Romani, a 2002 Danish Warmblood mare. The pair showed good connection throughout the test, scoring consistently well on its collective marks and executing beautifully at the working trot and in the serpentine to place fifth in the class. The Grade II Team test featured 14 athletes from 11 nations with less than one percentage point separating the top four placing combinations.

“I was happy with how I rode and the feel that Romani gave me,” said Hart. “She is the best horse I have ever sat on and it is a privilege to ride her and represent our country. I was slightly disappointed in the score, but in saying that, this is the highest I have ever scored at a Paralympic Games. I want to thank my amazing support system for getting me to this point. Having Todd Flettrich, Margaret Duprey, and Fernando Ortega here with me is amazing. It takes a village to get here and I am thankful for everyone here and everyone at home. I am thrilled to be in the top five heading into our Individual test on Thursday.”

Peavy (Avon, Conn. and Wellington, Fla.) was one of 16 athletes representing 13 nations in the Grade III Individual test. Aboard Heather Blitz and Rebecca Reno’s Lancelot Warrior, a 2002 Hanoverian gelding, Peavy delivered another consistent and fluid performance for the U.S. Team. Exhibiting powerful working trot, the pair secured an overall eighth-place finish.

“I was very happy with Lance; it was another great ride,” said Peavy. “He came in and did everything I asked. I could not be happier with him and what he has given me. I was happy with the results; it is our first Games and I am very excited to be where we are at.”

Ann Cathrin Lubbe of Norway secured Individual Gold aboard Donatello. Denmark’s Susanne Sunesen and Que Faire took Silver, while Sweden’s Louise Etzner Jakobsson and Zernard won Bronze.

Competing Wednesday for Team USA will be Sydney Collier in the Grade Ib Individual test.

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US Equestrian Athletes Give Solid Performances on Day Two of Paralympic Games

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – Para-equestrian dressage competition continued on Monday at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games with day two of Team tests. Riding as an Individual in the Grade Ia Team test, Roxanne Trunnell gave a strong performance to score 69.348%. Competing in Grade Ia for the U.S. Team was Margaret McIntosh, who scored 68.087%. Currently ranked 11th in the team standings, the U.S. Team will see its final representative, Rebecca Hart, Tuesday in the Grade II Team test, while Angela Peavy will perform the Grade III Individual test. The Individual test is the final test in team competition, in which placings are determined by combining the top three scores of each team from both the Team and Individual tests. Individual medals are awarded to the highest placing combinations in the Individual test. Great Britain currently leads the team standings, while Belgium sits in second place.

The afternoon session at the Deodoro Equestrian Center saw 26 athletes representing 19 nations in the Grade Ia Team test. Riding for the U.S. as an Individual, first-time Paralympian Trunnell (Rowlett, Texas) and Royal Dancer, Julia Handt’s 2005 Westphalian gelding, showcased poise and determination. Trunnell rode an accurate test that earned high marks for the transitions and final medium walk, placing her and Royal Dancer 14th in the class.

“Royal felt amazing during the test,” said Trunnell. “I couldn’t help but smile during it because he was so forward and marching in his walk! I was thrilled with his free walk. I’ve been working on letting the reins go more which is a bit of a weird feeling for me since with Nice Touch [Trunnell’s partner at the 2014 World Equestrian Games] I always had to keep a hold of her a little, but I’m getting better about it. Overall it was a fantastic first Paralympic showing. I couldn’t bring cookies with me [for Royal], but I snagged him some apples and I was sure to give him one after that lovely test.”

Representing the U.S. in team competition, McIntosh (Reading, Pa.) rode down centerline in her Paralympic debut with confidence aboard her longtime partner, Rio Rio, a 2006 Rheinland mare. The pair was rewarded for an expressive free walk and the overall feel and skill exhibited throughout the test to place 19th.

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Great Britain Takes Command of Para-Equestrian Team Competition

Great Britain’s Sophie Christiansen and Athene Lindebjerg (Jon Stround/FEI)

Rio de Janeiro (BRA), 12 September 2016 – Great Britain took control of the team competition at the Rio 2016 para-dressage on Monday, with London 2012 double gold medallist Sophie Christiansen winning the grade Ia team test with a massive 77.522%. Riding Athene Lindebjerg, Christiansen scored the highest marks of the entire competition so far to beat team mate Anne Dunham into second place, with Germany’s Elke Philip in third.

“For her to go in that loud, atmospheric arena I was over the moon with her,” Christiansen said after her test. “And I’ve got a really bad cold today so I had to contend with that as well.

“It felt a bit tentative and it’s nice getting that score knowing that there’s more to come.”

Belgium’s Michèle George won the grade IV team test in the morning, setting out her stall for the defence of her two individual London 2012 titles in the process.

Riding FBW Rainman, the current world champion scored 75.286% to finish just over half a percentage point ahead of Great Britain’s Sophie Wells. Frank Hosmar of The Netherlands was third.

“It felt great,” said George after her test. “I was very happy with my horse. When I came in he was a little bit under because there were a lot of things to see and he’s very sensitive to that, but I think the warmth was in my favour today.

“He was at 99.9% and not over the top and I really enjoyed my ride.”

Wells’ solid performance opened the scoring for Great Britain in the team competition in the best way possible. “He went in and listened to what he had to do,” she said. “He was a little nervous which is understandable as he’s not been to a Paralympics before, but he came back to me and concentrated and did what he needed to do.”

Following the day’s tests Great Britain currently lead the team competition, ahead of Belgium and Germany. The competition is still not half-way through, however, as the results of Tuesday’s (13 September) grade II team test, and then the five individual tests which follow, will also be counted.

One of the more emotional moments of Monday’s competition came when Uruguay’s Alfonsina Maldonado, riding Da Vinci, competed her test. Maldonado’s debut marks the first time Uruguay has entered the para-dressage competition and it appeared that the nerves and pressure of the event may have affected her. She finished at the bottom of the nine-rider field and left the arena in tears. “I always dreamed to be a champion,” she said afterwards. “The horse was really good but I was really nervous and emotional because it was the first time my family was here to see me and I couldn’t control my hands and legs. I hope that my country feels proud. I did my best.”

By Rob Howell

FEI Media Contacts:

Grania Willis
Director Press Relations
grania.willis@fei.org
+41 787 506 142

Leanne Williams
Manager Press Relations
leanne.williams@fei.org
+41 79 314 24 38

Lubbe and Pearson Lead on Day One of Para-Equestrian

Ann Cathrin Lubbe and Donatello (Jon Stroud/FEI)

Rio de Janeiro (BRA), 11 September 2016 – On a sweltering day in Deodoro, Norway’s Ann Cathrin Lubbe was the first to take the lead in the Rio 2016 para-equestrian dressage competition on Sunday (11 September), earning the top spot in the grade III team test. Riding Donatello at the Olympic Equestrian Centre, the double Athens 2004 gold medallist scored 72.237% to finish ahead of The Netherlands’ Sanne Voets in second, and Denmark’s Susanne Sunesen in third.

Lubbe’s victory was made even more impressive as it occurred during a period of competition which was regularly interrupted by bursts of fireworks from the neighbouring town.

“I had a marvellous ride what with the noise and everything,” she said. “My trainer had told me to ignore everything and just ride, so I just rode. But he’s a very good horse too.”

Lubbe is appearing in her fourth Games, having first ridden in Sydney 2000. She didn’t ride in London 2012 and added: “It’s good to be back.”

Reigning grade III world freestyle champion Voets was just two percentage points behind Lubbe. “I’m really happy with that,” she said. “I was hoping for a little more but for now the feeling and the test and the way my horse reacted to everything it was good. He did everything I asked and that’s the maximum we can get.”

The afternoon’s grade Ib test was won by Great Britain’s 10-time Paralympic champion Lee Pearson, riding Zion and scoring 75.280%. Pearson’s score, however, will not count towards the British Team’s competition as he was not selected to ride for the team.

In second place, and winning the team aspect of the contest, was Austria’s Pepo Puch with 74.000%. Germany’s Alina Rosenberg, at her first Games, was third.

“That horse gave me everything he could possibly give me at his age, his education and his strength,” said Pearson. “I love him to bits. I do care about the results but I don’t care what the judges think because he was brilliant, amazing. I think it’s the best test he’s ever done.

“The win doesn’t make me complacent for two days’ time but I think the warm up plan worked with him being relaxed in the arena.”

For Puch this was his first ride at a major international on his new horse, Fontainenoir. “I’m happy. It was not a bad start,” he said. “He’s a really nice hard working guy, with lots of thinking.”

Puch, Brazil’s Rodolfo Riskalla and Denmark’s Stinna Tange Kaastrup had to contend with the added stress of not knowing whether or not they would be able to competition Sunday as their horses were held overnight following Saturday’s (10 September) horse inspection. Kaastrup, who missed out on a place at London 2012 after her previous horse died, came fourth in the grade Ib and described the wait as “the worst night of my life”.

For Italy’s world number two and reigning grade Ia freestyle champion, however, there was not such fortune. Her horse, Royal Delight, was also held for re-inspection and was not passed as fit for competition, knocking a devastated Morganti out of the Games completely.

The team competition continues on Monday (12 September) at the Olympic Equestrian Centre in Deodoro with the grades IV and Ia competition.

By Rob Howells

FEI Media Contacts:

Grania Willis
Director Press Relations
grania.willis@fei.org
+41 787 506 142

Leanne Williams
Manager Press Relations
leanne.williams@fei.org
+41 79 314 24 38

Strong Start for US Equestrian Team at the Rio Paralympic Games

Angela Peavy and Lancelot Warrior (Liz Gregg/FEI)

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – Para-equestrian dressage competition got underway Sunday at the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games. Twenty-seven Grade III and Ib competitors representing 24 countries took to the main arena at the Deodoro Equestrian Center to perform the Team test, the first of two tests in team competition. Angela Peavy (Grade III) and Sydney Collier (Grade Ib) got the U.S. team off to a solid start, putting the U.S. provisionally into third place among the 14 nations, following day one of team competition. Five nations turned in one of their four Team test scores, while another three will not see their first athletes until Monday. Leading the team standings currently is France, while Denmark sits in second place. Both countries posted three of their four Team test scores.

U.S. Chef d’Equipe Kai Handt is pleased with how well the team is coming together, “We have an excellent team of strong riders here in Rio. We have some very young riders who started in this sport a few years ago, and they have been growing together, working and supporting each other. They are all at a good place mentally and are showcasing good readiness for this level of competition. We will see what the next couple of days brings. These are the best horses and riders in the world and the competition is going to be tough. We have an outstanding support team behind these riders that has been working tirelessly to take care of us and the horses. We are very grateful to the Team USA sponsors who have made all of this possible and to the organizing committee and officials – this is a superb venue.”

The Grade III Team test commenced the competition in the morning session with 16 athletes representing 13 nations. Pathfinding for the U.S. was first-time Paralympian Peavy (Avon, Conn. and Wellington, Fla.) riding Heather Blitz and Rebecca Reno’s Lancelot Warrior, a 2002 Hanoverian gelding. The pair produced a notably consistent and accurate test that featured a fluid and precise canter tour to earn a score of 68.974%, placing them sixth in the class.

“I was very pleased with my ride,” said Peavy. “My horse really poured his heart out – he was focused on his job and I felt like we had great connection. It was such an incredible atmosphere to be in with so many spectators.”

Looking forward to the Individual test on Tuesday, Peavy said she plans to, “Keep doing what I’ve been doing. Today we came out and put our all into it and that’s what we want to do again – ride another smooth and accurate test.”

Speaking to her first-time Paralympic experience thus far, she commented “It’s been a great experience. We have a very close team and are all very supportive of each other. All of the accommodations for the athletes in the village and the horses at the venue are very nice. It is a nerve racking and exciting event to be at, but when I got on Lance today and it was just me and him, I was able to totally focus on him and our performance. I am so thankful to everyone who has been supporting me, especially my parents, trainer Heather, and groom Alex.”

The afternoon session saw 11 athletes from 11 nations in the Grade Ib Team test. Representing the U.S. was the youngest athlete in the field, Collier (Ann Arbor, Mich.), competing in her first Paralympics with Wesley Dunham’s 2003 Oldenburg mare Western Rose. In the impressive atmosphere and heat of the afternoon, Collier was able to deliver a clean test, scoring 66.440% and placing ninth in the class.

“I was really happy with the test,” said Collier. “For this being my first time riding in the Paralympics, it was really great. Rosie was such a good horse and we really nailed our geometry today. I am really looking forward to what the future holds [this week]. I am so lucky to be with amazing teammates; I couldn’t make it without them. They really are my rock and we are a super strong team.”

Team tests will continue on Monday with Grades Ia and IV. Riding in Grade Ia, Margaret McIntosh will compete for the U.S. Team, while Roxanne Trunnell will represent the country as an individual.

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