Mark Bellissimo Donates $20,000 to the US and Canadian Para-Dressage Teams

Equestrian Sport Production’s Mark Bellissimo and U.S. Chef d’Equipe Kai Handt when Bellissimo offered his $10,000 donation to the U.S. team. Photo by Lindsay Y. McCall.

Wellington, Florida – January 27, 2016 – Unbeknownst to anyone at the $10,000 CPEDI3*, held January 22-24, 2016 at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC), home of the Adequan Global Dressage Festival, Mark Bellissimo of Equestrian Sport Productions donated $10,000 to the United States Para-Dressage Team and $10,000 to the Equine Canada Para-Dressage Team. This impressive donation was a kind gift to each Para-Dressage Team as they approach the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Over two weeks the Para-Equestrian Dressage Tour took place in The Stadium at the PBIEC. The tour included two $10,000 CPEDI3* events (January 8-10 and January 22-24) presented by Mission Control, Mane Stream, courtesy of Rowan O’Riley, Adequan®, and Nutrena. These shows were crucial as the final opportunities in the United States to qualify for the 2016 Paralympics. The professional staff including Monica Fitzgerald, John Hoppman, Thomas Baur, and their team, the volunteers, and so many others added to the best U.S. Para-Dressage CPEDI3* event in history.

U.S. Para-Equestrian Dressage Chef d’Equipe Kai Handt was grateful for the $10,000 donation. He noted, “The money will help us a lot. Capital is the bigger struggle in this business. We may be the most expensive sport that the Olympic Committee has. For some sports they need some shoes or clothing. For equestrian you need a lot more. Credentials will be tight this year for the Paralympics and we have a huge support staff. That includes a groom, a trainer, an assistant, a physiologist, and so much more. We drag a few more people along then everyone else. So this will help us a lot with some of the burden of the Paralympic costs to go over there.”

Equine Canada Para-Dressage Chef d’Equipe Elizabeth Robinson agreed. “These donations were just wonderful. I appreciate the fact that he did it for both teams. That was really special. We have a lot of items to check off right now. We need a horse for Ashley, which the donation may contribute to a lease or purchase. We have to fly all over the world. Since we are up in Canada and we don’t have any competitions in our country, we have to fly people in constantly. That includes coaches and trainers. The donation will be extremely helpful with all of those expenses. We will be spending it wisely.”

Laureen K. Johnson, USEF Discipline Director of Para-Equestrian and Vaulting, commented, “The USEF and Para Equestrian athletes would like to extend our deepest thanks to Mark Bellissimo for his surprise donation. Generous gifts from donors like Mr. Bellissimo provide the financial and moral support needed to continue our Paralympic mission. Equestrian Sport Productions and Mr. Bellissimo’s support has repeatedly played a key role in the Para Equestrian athletes continued success. We absolutely love competing at Global Dressage, as it provides the European atmosphere for our U.S. athletes.”

USPEA President and past Paralympian acknowledged, “Reflecting back on the last few weeks has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. As President of the United States Para Equestrian Association, it is our job to keep the pipe line of new horse/rider combinations moving up the levels both Nationally and Internationally. We are constantly striving to find ways to expand our horse sports and to bring the equestrian families together for the public to get to know us and to fall in love watching our talented horses and riders perform. Leading up to these last qualifying events for a Team Ranking slot for the Paralympics resulted in success, but not without the support of many and the hard work from the athletes and their equine partners. Everyone has a story to tell and the journey it took to get there for some took many bumps in the road and sacrifices but in the end, they all prevailed and gave us some great performances that proved that the US Para Dressage Team earned the right to represent their country at the Rio Paralympics this fall.”

Hand continued, “Equestrian sports recognized by the Olympic and Paralympic committee are probably the most expensive among all sports represented at the summer games. The athletes depend on family, friends and sponsors that believe in the Olympic/Paralympic dream to participate at the high performance level. Mark Bellissimo, owner of the Global Dressage Facility, presented both the US and Canada each a check of $10,000 to continue on the road to Rio. Mr Bellissimo, there are no words but a heartfelt thank you for your generous support. Our athletes love Global and all its amenities and are most grateful for the opportunities to compete here.”

By: Lindsay Y. McCall

To view an online version of this press release, please visit:

About United States Para-Equestrian Association:

The USPEA is a network of riders, judges, national federation board members, and equestrian enthusiasts. The association gives athletes the ability to get involved and expand their knowledge and experience in the Para-Equestrian sport. The USPEA encourages para-athletes to participate in all disciplines under the para-equestrian umbrella.

The USPEA is a recognized affiliate of the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) which serves as the National Governing Body for the equestrian sport. This relationship between the USPEA and USEF is to encourage para-equestrian competitors, leisure riders, coaches, fans and enthusiasts to network and get involved with the entire equestrian sport.

Ultimately the goal of the USPEA is to foster growth in the para-equestrian discipline. From growth in the number of participants to growth as a team, and growth in the experience and knowledge of all involved. From local horse shows to international Olympic Games, the USPEA will provide para-equestrians the knowledge of what they need to succeed. The USPEA connects with the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI), the United States Dressage Federation (USDF), and USEF which provides Para-Equestrians the top equestrian resources.

In June 2010, the USPEA earned its 501 (c)(3) status which has encouraged supporters to help supply funding to the Para-Equestrian Team as a recognized affiliate of the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF).

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

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