Margaret McIntosh and Heros. Photo by Lindsay Y. McCall.
Margaret McIntosh and Heros Top International Para-Dressage Competition Followed by Annie Peavy and Royal Dark Chocolate
Wellington, FL – January 8, 2018 – United States Para-Dressage riders ended a fantastic weekend earning an unprecedented number of scores over 70. Top Grade I rider and 2016 Paralympian from Reading, Penn., Margaret McIntosh, rode Heros to the overall highest individual score. Equestrians from the USA and Canada competed at the 2018 Adequan Global Dressage Festival (AGDF) CPEDI3* Week 0, January 4-7, sponsored by By Mission Control, Rowan O’Riley supporting athletes in the USPEA and US Equestrian, and Cargill. It was an exciting three days in Wellington with unseasonably cold temperatures and high winds but the importance of this international show could be seen from the outstanding scores. For Para-Dressage athletes in Grade I-V, the AGDF shows (Week 2 is January 18-21) are two of only three stateside opportunities left to secure their FEI certificates of capability for the FEI World Equestrian Games™ Tryon 2018. These shows are also a chance to showcase their rides in front of the FEI Ground Jury consisting of Dr Jan-Holger Holtschmit (GER), Kristi Wysocki (USA), and Sarah Leitch (GBR). The Deloitte U.S. Para-Equestrian Dressage Team earned Gold with USA Teammates Margaret McIntosh, Roxanne Trunnell, Michele Bandinu, and Katie Jackson. The USA Team was led by Chef d’Equipe Kai Handt with US Equestrian Head of Para-Dressage Coach Development and High Performance Programs Michel Assouline.
It was a weekend of record breaking with the largest amount of US Entries in a CPEDI and the greatest amount of riders earning over a 70 or even the high 70s in a CPEDI.
Kai Handt commented, “We had a very large competition and we will do it again in another week. It was a great weekend that began with some inclement weather on the first day of schooling. A lot of people got a little nervous in the beginning but our riders are used to dealing with all types of atmospheres and weather and their scores in the show ring showed that. We had some new team members this week and our system changed where our selection committee picks the team instead of the Chef.
Our team did great and overall and the competition went well. We have some top elite riders that are on the right path to superb tests, our riders scores can be seen improving from the outside resources including the online judging program and the additional Center of Excellence symposiums and Coach Development Programs. I hope we can see some more consistency at the next show and get even more athletes in the mid-70 range.”
Michel Assouline confirmed, “It’s interesting because we have the same two top riders that we had last September in Tryon at the CPEDI3*. I am seeing a great deal of improvement especially with the unprecedented amount of scores in the 70s. The riders had some challenges including the wind and distractions but the high performance riders made it work. Overall the quality of the performances is improving. I can see they are benefitting from the online judging each month helping each rider raise the bar. I have only been in this job for half the year and I already see changes. Gigi (Margaret McIntosh) has moved up by 3% and Annie Peavy has moved up by 2%. We still need more depth, more riders, and more quality horses.”
Before working for the US Equestrian Team, Assouline was with the British Team for 12 years. Assouline explained, “I love the U.S. and I love the challenge of having another project. We have good athletes and immense support but we need more horses. The structure is there and a lot of people are willing to help. America has a great culture in Equestrianism and the horses are brilliant here. But it seems that para-equestrian has been a little behind compared to the European sport. So now we need to push everyone that is on board. It’s nice to see US Equestrian, Murray Kessler, and many other individuals and organizations pushing forward and getting the wheels in motion. A para-equestrian athlete isn’t just an athlete with basic athlete requirements for their sport. A para-equestrian is not only competing and getting that opportunity but we are giving them a better life overall.”
Assouline was instrumental in 2017 with his wife Mette and Margaret McIntosh’s Coach Missy Ransehousen finding McIntosh her new horse Heros. The duo dominated the CPEDI at Global posting scores in the high 70s over the weekend solidifying their partnership for the 2018 year.
McIntosh explained, “We’ve been working really hard since Tryon so I was pleasantly surprised to see that everything we have been working on with Missy came together this weekend. It was nice having done so well in the Team Test that we could relax, concentrate, and really ride my horse for the Individual Test. Taking a step back and experimenting with the warm-up, Missy road her a little bit deeper and rounder and changed things up to the next higher level.”
McIntosh added, “When I looked at my scores I was delighted to have Sara Leitch’s judging feedback because Michele speaks very highly of her as a ground jury member. So when I was received the highest score in the individual test that was vindication that we are on the right track. I am thankful to my Coach Missy, my family and to all the US support staff for their hard work this weekend.”
McIntosh was one of the four members of the US Team which included fellow Grade I rider Roxanne Trunnell (Rowlett, Texas). Trunnell, a 2014 WEG rider and 2016 Paralympian had a consistent week with NTEC Daytona Beach. “I am very happy with Daytona and our tests went really well,” said Trunnell. “We have been working on Daytona’s stretching to the bit and keeping her walks the same tempo. She was quite precise this weekend overall and I enjoyed being a part of the U.S. Team.”
Trunnell rides with Chef d’Equipe Kai Handt at the North Texas Equestrian Center along with Grade V top rider and U.S. teammate Katie Jackson. Only one year ago, Jackson was looking at her first CPEDI competition in The Stadium, and in October 2017 Jackson took over the ownership of this high performance horse Royal Dancer.
Jackson stated, “It’s wild in some ways because it seems like a long journey in a short amount of time. It’s exciting to be back here. It’s my favorite place to show, Royal is happy here, and the arena is great. There isn’t anywhere else I would want to show. I was really pleased with how Royal performed this weekend. He was with me and listening to me. We have been working really hard this fall and it is rewarding to see it all come together in the ring. I am thankful for Kai for helping me focus on each detail of our test. I am also thankful for the clinics with Michele (Assouline). We have plenty to improve on but I am happy with how far we have come. It’s beyond my wildest dreams to own a horse like Royal and we are getting to know each other better and better. He tries his heart out and he just wants to please. There is so much more in him that I haven’t even tapped. I get these glimpses of what the possibilities could be and it’s riveting.”
Michele Bandinu (Santa Barbara, Calif.) rounded out the team of four for the U.S. Bandinu, a grade IV rider, drove his two horses Soulman 13 and Skagen from California for the CPEDI3* shows. “It was an honor being a part of the U.S. Team. There is definitely a lot of support with Michele (Assouline) and Kai (Handt). I am also thankful to my coach Ryan Torkelli and trainer Albrecht Heidemann. As a West Coast Para-Dressage rider I wish there were a few more opportunities on the West Coast since the logistics and mileage can be hard on the horses.”
Also from the West Coast was Alanna Flax-Clark (Los Angeles, Calif.) who flew out to the East Coast to work with Sara Schmitt Dressage LLC. Flax-Clark secured the Grade II win with Captain Moonlight TG. This was her first CPEDI3* and first time in Wellington, FL.
“It was a great show,” stated Flax-Clark. “I have only been riding him a few weeks but he is fantastic. He had to learn a lot for our partnership to work and he learned quickly. He’s a smaller horse with big gates and as soon as he enters the show ring he knows to turn it on. I enjoyed the ride this weekend and I am thankful for all of the support from California, New Jersey, and here in Florida.
In Grade III Rebecca Hart (Unionville, Penn.) finished the weekend with a 74.167 in the Freestyle competition and obtained the Grade III championship. As a Three-time Paralympian (2008, 2012, 2016) and two-time WEG athlete (2010, 2014), Hart is comfortable with the electric atmosphere of The Stadium at AGDF. So when Hart and her new mount El Corona Texel paraded down centerline Hart showcased her horse’s power and finesse.
“He’s kind of a unicorn,” smiled Hart. “I am so blessed and I can’t thank Rowan O’Riley enough for helping me with him and backing me. It’s been a true pleasure to experience a horse of such quality and character. Without Rowan it would not have been possible. It has been an amazing four months and I am really looking forward to the future.”
Hart continued, “This weekend has been an incredible event. I have missed getting in the CDI ring and it’s been a lot of fun to go down centerline again with a new horse and new programs. Tex is an extremely talented young horse. He continued to listen, focus, and do his job even when it was windy and cold, which shows his talent as a high performance horse.”
Hart concluded, “I personally want to thank Melissa MacLaren Felix, Sara Mullins, Rowan O’Riley, and my groom Alexandra Philpin for helping us in and out of the dressage ring. I also want to thank all of the managers, sponsors and volunteers, that make Global a first-class event.”
In Grade IV Annie Peavy, 2014 WEG athlete and 2016 Paralympian, performed outstanding with Royal Dark Chocolate. Peavy (Avon, Connecticut) and Royal Dark Chocolate overtook Grade IV with scores in the middle 70s. Together they were the reserve champion high point rider.