Tag Archives: Para-Equestrian

US Para Dressage Qualifies for Paris 2024 with Their World Championship Bronze in Herning

Roxanne Trunnell, Kate Shoemaker, Rebecca Hart, Beatrice de Lavalette, and Chef d’Equipe Michel Assouline. Photo courtesy of U.S. Equestrian.

Wellington, Florida – August 24, 2022 – Adequan® U.S. Para Dressage Team continued to prove themselves at another world event with multiple medal wins at the Orifarm Health FEI Para Dressage World Championship held in the BB Horse Arena. The 2022 ECCO FEI World Championships were held August 6-14 in Herning, Denmark. This was the ninth edition of the Games, which are held every four years and run by the International Federation for Equestrian Sports (FEI). These championships which were formerly the World Equestrian Games included jumping, dressage, para-dressage, and vaulting. Eventing, driving, and endurance will be held at a later date. The Adequan® U.S. Para Dressage Team included Roxanne Trunnell and Fortunato H20, owned by Lehua Custer; Kate Shoemaker and her own Quiana; Beatrice de Lavalette and Sixth Sense, owned by her parents Elizabeth and Nicolas; Rebecca Hart with El Corona Texel, owned by Rowan O’Riley; and Chef d’Equipe Michel Assouline. The team had top scores earning them a team bronze, an individual silver, and an individual bronze. They have now qualified the United States for a team berth at the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games.

Kate Shoemaker of (Wellington, Fla.) and Quiana earned a fantastic score in the FEI Para Dressage Grade IV Freestyle, receiving an 80.275 percent. For Shoemaker and her 2014 Rhinelander mare, this was a personal best, winning them the FEI Para Dressage Grade IV Freestyle silver medal. Rebecca Hart (Wellington, Fla.) and El Corona Texel had some new experiences, but the veteran duo secured a bronze medal in the Individual para-dressage championship test grade III. They provided excellent scores for the team helping to secure the team bronze medal. In Grade II, Beatrice de Lavalette (Loxahatchee, Fla.) and Sixth Sense did quite well, placing 4th in both her Grade II Individual and Team tests. Roxanne Trunnell (Royal Palm Beach, Fla.) rode her new mount Fortunato H20. The pair had a great showcase and Trunnell was quite proud of the six-year-old Oldenburg stallion, scoring the pair’s personal best of 76.447 after only a very short time together.

In 2018, the trio of Shoemaker, Hart, and Trunnell made history with their unprecedented four medal wins for para dressage at the World Equestrian Games held at the Tryon International Equestrian Center in Tryon, North Carolina, United States. In 2021, at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, the same trio secured a team bronze medal, Trunnell earned two gold medals, and the fourth current team member in Denmark, Beatrice de Lavalette, was an individual at that 2020 games.

Trunnell noted, “I cannot believe that Fish (Fortunato H20) handled that show as well as he did. The atmosphere at a big Championship is very different from any kind of show he had ever done. It was a big question mark whether he could keep it together for the whole event. He not only kept it together, but he scored above a 75% in only his second International show. Lehua Custer, Karin Flint, Andrea Woodard, and I all took a chance on Fish, and it paid off. Fish is definitely a superstar in the making and we’ll be back for more dancing down the centerline in the future.”

President of the USPEA Tina Wentz was alongside the riders and U.S. staff while in Denmark. She remarked, “The World Championships at Denmark exceeded our expectations and was truly a team effort. Watching each athlete, horse, trainer, and groom give 110% toward producing their best performances was a joy. Beginning at training camp under the leadership of Michel Assouline the athletes showed improvement each day leading up to the first day of competition. The goal was to secure a Team spot for Paris 2024, but the cherry on top was their team bronze, and individual silver and bronze. This definitely would not have been possible without everyone pulling together to help the athletes succeed including their sponsors and horse owners Karin Flint and Rowan O’Riley, Elizabeth & Nicolas De Lavalette, Deena & Craig Shoemaker, Lehua Custer, their trainers, Andrea Woodard, Nicole Wego-Engelmeyer, Jennifer Baumert, and Shayna Simeon, grooms Lillie Durbin, Molly O’Brien, Esteban Quintero, Rafael Hernandez Carrill, along with Chef d’Mission Will Connell, Team Leader Laureen Johnson, Chef d’equipe Michel Assouline, Team Vet Meg Mullins, and team Physio Joanna Frantz. A huge thanks to these and everyone who supported and worked hard to produce this tremendous result. I can’t help but think how proud both Hope Hand and Jonathan would be with the Team’s performances.”

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

United States Para-Equestrian Association Remembers Organization President Hope Hand

Hope Hand at the Tryon CPEDI3* in Mill Spring, NC. Photo by Lindsay Y. McCall.

Newtown, Pennsylvania – June 29, 2022 – Hope Hand, USPEA President, passed peacefully surrounded by family at age 73 on June 12, 2022. Surviving is her husband, Stanley Hand, daughter Amy Cappozzoli and son in law Eric and their children, Parker and Lincoln, a brother, Charlie Kean and sister-in-law Pamela Kean, and her westie, Finley.

Sleep may be the only thing Hope Hand did not do well, and it would be no wonder since she gave 110% of her boundless energy and time to Para Equestrian Sport and Para Dressage. Constantly promoting, recruiting, educating, and encouraging everyone she met as she traveled at her own expense to all US International and National Championship competitions and to numerous Para Dressage symposiums, clinics, and Centers of Excellence. Hope not only knew every US Para Dressage athlete from emerging to elite, but recruited many of them, and was available 24/7 to all to advise, encourage, and educate them on their journey to be the best. Hope is well known in the equestrian world globally for her tireless work in advancing Para Equestrian sport and has served on numerous boards and committees, all in the pursuit of bringing competition excellence to the US in Para Dressage.

Two-time Paralympian Barbara Grassmyer and close friend of Hope remembered their time together. “Hope and I traveled many miles together. We were competitors first then became close friends. It was always an adventure when traveling with Hope. From flat tires in Germany to her being carried up two flights of stairs to the train by my Dad and the Mayor of the small town in Germany. She had a big smile and thrived on the adventures we had together. While we were in England, we decided to go to a safari park. While driving through the monkey area, a few came through the sunroof, making us laugh. Hope had a heart of gold and made sure everyone around her had a fantastic time. She became my mentor and then when my parents couldn’t make the international trips, she became my show mom. While I was horse shopping, I called her to tell her I found my dream horse. She didn’t like it when I informed her that Mibis was a chestnut mare. She came to love Mibis almost as much as I did. When Hope retired from competition, she took on yet another role as president of the USPEA. Without Hope the United States Para Dressage program would not be where it is today. In 2021, we had a watch party for the Tokyo Paralympics. We all stayed up all night cheering on the USA team. We both had tears of happiness when the team won the bronze and Roxie Trunnell won the gold medals for the United States. I enjoyed my time with the Hand family especially when I stayed with them for two summers before the Athens and Hong Kong Olympics. Their family was my family, and I watched her daughter Amy grow up, I watched Hope become a grandmother to two grandsons, and I met many of Hope’s dogs over the years. Hope was one amazing lady who never took no for an answer. She is greatly missed by her west coast family.”

Hope’s list of accomplishments and committee representations were always to help promote and grow the sport of Para-Dressage. Her achievements are as follows:

  • Established and served as President of the United States Para Equestrian Association 2010-2022
  • FEI Para Dressage Technical committee 2016-2020 & 2006-2010
  • USEF IDC member 2013-2022
  • USEF Para Dressage Sports Committee Vice Chair 2013-2022, Chair 2006-2013
  • Para Dressage Centers of Excellence panel 2017-2022
  • Path International Advisory Board 2018-2022
  • USEF Board member 11years 2002-2013
  • USDF Para Dressage Committee Chair 2006 up to restructuring ~2013
  • Instrumental in helping with the transition of Para Dressage into the USEF and FEI in 2006
  • Para Dressage Athlete representing the US at the 2000 Sydney Paralympics serving as Team Captain, 1999 World Dressage Championships Denmark earning a bronze, 1997 British Invitational earning a gold and bronze, and the 1996 Atlanta Paralympics
  • 1997 Bradshaw Challenge Cup at the Festival of Champions, competed with fellow team members Steffen Peters and Guenter Seidel
  • Spearheaded the first Para Dressage group fundraiser – webathon in 2010
  • Initiated clinics with high profile AB dressage clinicians stand alone and after CPEDI3* for PD riders, including Debbie McDonald 2011, Mette Rosencrantz 2012, and more
  • Initiated clinics/symposiums with FEI Para Dressage judges/trainers Hanneke Gerritsen 2011, Carlos Lopes
  • Worked to secure two spots for Para Dressage in Able-Bodied dressage clinics 2009-2011 with top clinicians Sue Blinks and Robert Dover
  • Has attended all US CPEDI3* to meet with new riders, parents, and clinicians for education information and recruitment.
  • Production of Para Dressage promo videos 2009 & 2011
  • Instrumental in the development of Para 101 for athlete education
  • Consistently works with show secretaries and regional dressage areas to include Para dressage classes at their licensed shows, and developed education sheet for how to include classes working with USDF
  • Recruitment of Para Dressage sponsors
  • Instrumental in working with show secretaries & USEF to hold CPEDI3* in the US
  • Initiated Train, the trainer program with FEI 5* judge & trainers Hanneke Gerritsen working with Carlisle continued developing symposiums for Train the trainer & developing HP athletes 2012-2014
  • Instrumental in working with USDF to establish Para Dressage year-end awards
  • Working with USEF to include Para Dressage in NAJYRC, and sponsor 2015 & 2016
  • Established & Developed the Para Dressage mentor program through USPEA
  • Worked with US Pony Club Association to mainstream Para Dressage riders

Tina Wentz who serves as interim President of the USPEA is also a mom of Jonathan Wentz who was a Para Dressage rider that rode on the U.S. Team 2010-2012. Wentz noted, “I had the incredible privilege of working alongside Hope since the time she first formed the USPEA, and I have yet to figure out how she was able to do the work of ten every single day, always with a twinkle in her eyes. I met Hope because of my son Jonathan. Hope and Jonathan, also a Paralympic equestrian, shared the same competitive spirit and independent mindset of never considering their disability but in developing their abilities. They saw themselves as parallel to able bodied athletes and fiercely promoted that to others. Para means parallel.”

Wentz continued, “The board of USPEA and all who knew and loved her will strive to continue her vision of Para truly being parallel, with ALL athletes focused and working together to improve their ability in equestrian sport and life. Hope was a remarkable and irreplaceable individual that I am so thankful to have known as a kindred spirit and friend. And I know she’d say to all of us don’t stop now, you must carry on!”

A memorial service is being planned later this year. Details will be published once confirmed. Follow United States Para Equestrian Association (USPEA) on Facebook to up to date on information.

USPEA accepts tax-deductible donations, and they may be sent to USPEA c/o Ellie Brimmer, USPEA Secretary, 12359 Westhall Pl, Wellington, FL 33414.

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

Tegan Vincent-Cooke: “Whether I win or not, I’m a face that is a role model for people of colour”

The May edition of The Para Equestrian Digest is now out!

In this edition of The Para Equestrian Digest, British Para Dressage athlete, four-time British Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) Dressage Champion, aspiring Paralympian and TikTok (@teganvincentcooke) star Tegan Vincent-Cooke talks about race in equestrian sport.

About The Para Equestrian Digest
The FEI launched The Para Equestrian Digest in February 2022.  The online magazine was created for Para Equestrian athletes and the people connected to the sport so they can share – in their own words – their personal experiences and disability stories. Every month, the Digest will put the spotlight on an athlete or project in Para Equestrian sport with the aim of improving disability awareness and inclusion.

Previous editions of The Para Equestrian Digest: https://www.fei.org/stories/lifestyle/my-equestrian-life/para-equestrian-digest

April 2022: Paralympic & World Championship medallist Rodolpho Riskalla (BRA) provides his views of what businesses can do to provide a more inclusive environment for people with disabilities.

March 2022: US Paralympian and 2021 FEI Against All Odds Award winner Beatrice De Lavalette (USA) talks about mental health and how she coped with losing both her legs in the airport terrorist attack in Brussels (BEL) on 22 March 2016.

February 2022: Five-time Paralympic gold medallist and two time European Para Dressage champion Natasha Baker, MBE, OBE (GBR) talks about ableism and what can be done to change people’s attitudes towards disability.

Media contact:

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

Rodolpho Riskalla: “You can do the job even if you’re disabled”

Rodolpho Riskalla (BRA) riding Don Henrico at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games (© FEI/Liz Gregg)

The April edition of The Para Equestrian Digest is now out!

This month, Paralympic & World Championship medallist Rodolpho Riskalla (BRA) provides his views of what businesses can do to provide a more inclusive environment for people with disabilities.

About The Para Equestrian Digest

The FEI launched The Para Equestrian Digest in February 2022.  The online magazine was created for Para Equestrian athletes and the people connected to the sport so they can share – in their own words – their personal experiences and disability stories. Every month, the Digest will put the spotlight on an athlete or project in Para Equestrian sport with the aim of improving disability awareness and inclusion.

Previous editions of The Para Equestrian Digest: https://www.fei.org/stories/lifestyle/my-equestrian-life/para-equestrian-digest

March 2022: US Paralympian and 2021 FEI Against All Odds Award winner Beatrice De Lavalette talks about mental health and how she coped with losing both her legs in the airport terrorist attack in Brussels (BEL) on 22 March 2016.

February 2022: Five-time Paralympic gold medallist and two-time European Para Dressage champion Natasha Baker (MBE, OBE) talks about ableism and what can be done to change people’s attitudes towards disability.

Media contact:

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

Personal Best for Charlotte Merle-Smith and Guata in CPEDI3* FEI Para Freestyle Test Grade III

Charlotte Merle-Smith and Guata © SusanJStickle.com.

Wellington, FL – March 13, 2022 – Perrigo CPEDI3* competition presented by Mission Control, Fair Sky Farm, Adequan®, and Nutrena® came to a musical conclusion on Sunday, March 13 with CPEDI3* FEI Para Freestyle Tests Grades I-V. It has been an exciting week nine of the Adequan® Global Dressage Festival (AGDF) sprinkled with personal bests from several riders throughout the featured CPEDI3* classes, and the final day of competition was no exception.

Charlotte Merle-Smith (USA) and her and Susan Merle-Smith’s Guata have gotten better and better with each test this week, scoring 69.559% in the CPEDI3* FEI Para Team Test Grade III test and then 71.226% in the CPEDI3* FEI Para Individual Grade III test. On the final day of competition, they struck the right chord, earning a personal best of 74.489%.

Merle-Smith has been partnered with Guata, an 11-year-old KWPN mare by Vivaldi x Haarlem for almost two years, and in that time their relationship has continued to blossom.

“I couldn’t be more thrilled to have my horse. I’m so honored to ride her, and I feel like we have only scratched the surface of what we’re going to have,” said Merle-Smith. “It’s just been an awesome week. I really feel like ‘Gigi’ and I are having fun together now. She felt great today. In the test she just felt so available and so ready to do whatever I asked.”

Gigi and Merle-Smith are in Wellington for the season training with Ruth Hogan-Poulsen. Hogan-Poulsen, who specializes in developing freestyle choreography, helped mastermind Merle-Smith’s test set to the Ladyhawke movie soundtrack.

“You can tell Gigi really likes the music. It fits her really well. Even when I’m riding daily, Ruth will say, ‘Okay, now sing your song,’ so I can sing it in my head to keep my rhythm and keep the energy up,” explained Merle-Smith.

Earlier, Kate Shoemaker and Solitaer 40 were fine-tuned in their freestyle for the CPEDI3* FEI Para Freestyle Grade IV class. The 2020 Paralympian and the 15-year-old Hanoverian stallion by Sandro Hit x De Niro, owned by Kate, Craig, and Deena Shoemaker, never scored below a seven and received numerous eights from each of the judges. Their performance resulted a personal best of 77.808% for the blue ribbon. From their top rides over the three days of competition, Shoemaker and Solitaer 40 earned the overall championship title.

Cynthia Screnci (USA) finished her week on a high note with Sir Chipoli, scoring 66.200% in the CPEDI3* FEI Para Freestyle Grade V. Screnci and the 15-year-old KWPN gelding by Sir Donnerhall I x Carabas she owns with Volado Farms were rewarded for their consistency, especially in the canter work.

In the CPEDI3* FEI Para Freestyle Grade II Beatrice de Lavalette (USA) and Elizabeth and Nicolas de Lavalette’s Sixth Sense, a 12-year-old Oldenburg gelding (Sir Donnerhall I x Florencio), jammed to a techno remix of Diplo’s Revolution. Their creative choreography and interpretation of the music resulted in a final percentage of 73.734% for the win. Additionally, de Lavalette and Sixth Sense received the reserve championship honors for their strong tests throughout the week.

Jody Schloss (CAN) was all that jazz in every sense as she guided her own Lieutenant Lobin to a winning score of 73.023% in the CPEDI3* FEI Para Freestyle Grade I class. Schloss and the 18-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Lobster x Fanal Prydsholm) rode to a ragtime mix which featured the musical Chicago’s All That Jazz.

For more information and results, visit www.globaldressagefestival.com.

Shoemaker and Screnci Have Blue Ribbon Days at 2022 AGDF

Kate Shoemaker and Solitaer 40. © SusanJStickle.com.

Wellington, FL – March 12, 2022 – Perrigo CPEDI3* competition presented by Mission Control, Fair Sky Farm, Adequan®, and Nutrena® continued on Saturday, March 12, with Para Individual Tests Grades I-V. Kate Shoemaker (USA) and her trusted partner Solitaer 40, who she owns with Craig and Deena Shoemaker, got the day started as first to go in the CPEDI3* FEI Para Individual Grade IV class. On par with their performance in the first day of competition, they earned an overall percentage of 74.146% to claim the top spot once again.

Shoemaker and “Soli” have represented the United States at the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games Tryon, but their more recent Paralympic experience as a member of the bronze-medal-winning team in Tokyo really brought their partnership to a new level.

“Since Tokyo was so far away compared to WEG, it really taught us a lot about each other and allowed me to trust him that much more. It showed me that when I want to go for it, that I can, and he’ll be there for me,” reflected Shoemaker.

At 15 years of age, Shoemaker feels like the Hanoverian stallion by Sandro Hit x De Niro is coming into his own.

“I feel like he’s finally growing up,” she said laughing. “It’s been really cool this week. He walked off the trailer and just walked nicely next to me, which he has not done ever. I think he’s just really starting to look at me and say, ‘Okay, we can do this together,’ and it’s the most incredible feeling.”

In the CPEDI3* FEI Para Individual Grade V test, Cynthia Screnci (USA) rode Sir Chipoli, who she owns with Volado Farms, for a solid and consistent test scoring 65.158%.

Screnci and the 15-year-old KWPN gelding by Sir Donnerhall I x Carabas have only been together since May 2021, but they clicked from the start. At their first competition together after having only known each other for four weeks, the pair earned two wins at the Perrigo Tryon Summer Dressage CPEDI 3*. Over time their relationship has continued to flourish.

“We’re meant for each other. It’s one of those things where it’s a once-in-a-lifetime kind of horse, and I’m very blessed to have him,” said Screnci. “He’s just an amazing, amazing animal. He’s got so many different gears, and it’s so much fun. Every day when I get on him, I learn something new.”

Charlotte Merle-Smith (USA) continued her winning week with hers and Susan Merle-Smith’s Guata, an 11-year-old KWPN mare by Vivaldi x Haarlem. In the CPEDI3* FEI Para Individual Test Grade III, they improved on their performance from the team class, this time earning 71.226%. They were more consistently marked throughout the individual test compared to the team test, but their straight, square halts were still the highlight.

As if one personal best was not exciting enough for one week, Jody Schloss (CAN) and her 18-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding Lieutenant Lobin (Lobster x Fanal Prydsholm) shattered their team score and previous personal best of 70.953%, earning a new personal best of 73.095% in the CPEDI3* FEI Para Individual Grade I test. They were never marked below 6.5 from any of the judges, and finished with a bang, receiving two eights and a nine in their final pass down centerline.

Beatrice de Lavalette (USA) was already having a stunning week, but her performance on both of her mounts in the CPEDI3* FEI Para Individual Champ Grade II class upped the ante. Both horses, owned by Elizabeth and Nicolas de Lavalette, had the distinction of achieving personal bests. With Sixth Sense, a 12-year-old Oldenburg gelding (Sir Donnerhall I x Florencio), de Lavalette earned an overall percentage of 73.137%. Not to be outdone by his barn-mate, Clarc, a 15-year-old KWPN gelding by Dreamcatcher x Lord Sinclair I, scored 75.294% for the blue ribbon.

For more information and results, visit www.globaldressagefestival.com.

Beatrice De Lavalette and Clarc Have a Winning Return during AGDF 9

Beatrice De Lavalette and Clarc. © SusanJStickle.com.

Wellington, FL – March 11, 2022 – On Friday, March 11, 2022, Perrigo CPEDI3* competition presented by Mission Control, Fair Sky Farm, Adequan®, and Nutrena® got underway during week nine of the Adequan® Global Dressage Festival (AGDF) with Para Team Tests Grades I-V.

While Adequan® U.S. Para Dressage team rider Beatrice De Lavalette has competed in national shows since her Paralympic debut in Tokyo last August, her Paralympic mount Clarc made his first reappearance in the show ring this week in the CPEDI3* FEI Para Team Test Grade II. The return was a winning one for De Lavalette and Clarc, a 15-year-old KWPN gelding by Dreamcatcher x Lord Sinclair I, as they earned an overall percentage of 72.848%.

De Lavalette and Clarc, owned by Elizabeth De Lavalette and Nicolas De Lavalette, had only been matched up since October 2020 when they made their nine-month run toward the Paralympic Games. That intense time together and their experience at the Games made for a strong partnership, and they’ve learned a lot from each other.

“I was lucky enough to open the entire competition [in Tokyo], because I was first to go. That was stress added to more stress,” recalled De Lavalette. “Both days [of competition] were great, and we learned a lot in those two days.”

She continued, “Now he’s just a love bug. He’s so sweet. He’s so willing to work and to learn, and he’s just such a good boy. I couldn’t be prouder of him.”

That connection was on full display as judges Carlos Lopes (POR) at E, Adrienne Pot (USA) at C, and Anne Prain (FRA) at M unanimously put De Lavalette and Clarc on top. For De Lavalette, it was the leg yields that were the most impressive part of their test.

In the CPEDI3* FEI Para Team Test Grade I class, Jody Schloss (CAN) rode her own Lieutenant Lobin to a personal best 70.953%. Lieutenant Lobin, an 18-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding by Lobster x Fanal Prydsholm, received consistent marks throughout the test and finished on a strong note, receiving some of their best scores down the final centerline. The emotion was palpable from Schloss, who stood from her power-chair to honor her country’s flag during the awards presentation.

Schloss and “Lobin,” who she affectionately calls “Lobylu,” first paired up in 2015. Schloss admired his big, beautiful walk gait, but it took them some time to fully come together.

“Lobin had to learn to be a para horse and to take care of me. At first he was a bit spooky, but he quickly learned that that was not appropriate behavior,” explained Schloss. “I fell in love with him almost immediately because he has a definite fun-loving personality. He loves to cuddle, and he always makes me laugh with his funny faces when he reacts to something!”

In the CPEDI3* FEI Para Team Test Grade IV, U.S. Paralympic team bronze medalist Kate Shoemaker and Solitaer 40 continued to demonstrate their dominance. Shoemaker and the 15-year-old Hanoverian stallion by Sandro Hit x De Niro owned by Kate, Craig, and Deena Shoemaker scored numerous eights from all three judges across the entirety of their test to earn an overall percentage of 74.208%. Rodolpho Riskalla (BRA) and Rigaudon Tyme earned 69.417% highlighted by the collected trot and canter. Genevieve Rohner (USA) and Phoenix Gwyngalet came in third scoring 58.042%.

Charlotte Merle-Smith (USA) topped the CPEDI3* FEI Para Team Test Grade III test aboard her and Susan Merle-Smith’s Guata, an 11-year-old KWPN mare by Vivaldi x Haarlem. Their test got better and better as they went, ultimately earning a nine and two eights in the final halt from the judging panel for an overall percentage of 69.559%.

For more information and results, visit www.globaldressagefestival.com.

Roxanne Trunnell and Dolton Make Triumphant Return to AGDF

Roxanne Trunnell and Dolton. ©susanjstickle.com.

Wellington, FL — February 22, 2021 — The 2022 Adequan® Global Dressage Festival (AGDF) continued with week 6 national competition from Friday, February 18, through Sunday, February 20, which included top competition of all levels at Equestrian Village.

On Friday, spectators were treated to the return of United States Paralympic Gold Medalist, Roxanne Trunnell, and her Paralympic mount Dolton, owned by Flintwoode Farms LLC and Karin Flint, to the show ring for the first time since their golden performance in Tokyo. They executed a beautiful test in the Para Equestrian Team TOC, and followed that up on Saturday with an equally splendid test in the Para Equestrian Individual TOC class, to come away with wins in both.

Dolton, a 10-year-old Hanoverian gelding by Danone I x Londonderry, received scores in Friday’s test of 82.678% from the judge at C Debby Savage (USA) and 84.642% from the judge at B Sandy Osborn (USA) for an overall score or 83.660%. In Saturday’s test, Dolton and Trunnell earned a score of 80.000% from the judge at C Kem Barbosa (USA) and 81.428% from the judge at B Debby Savage for an overall score of 80.714%, more than five points ahead of second place finisher Charlotte Merle-Smith (USA) who scored 75.293% with Guata.

“Dolton felt outstanding. He always is so relaxed on the Global show grounds that he gives me the feeling he really is enjoying what he does, and how the horse feels about his job is always a top priority for me,” commented Trunnell. “I think the best part of my tests were the serpentines. Dolton is such a big horse that the serpentine really allows him to swing through his body and bend, plus he gets to really show off that drool-worthy, sexy walk of his.”

Friday’s FEI Prix St. Georges class was won by Julie McKean (USA) with Fling For U, a 13-year-old Swedish Warmblood mare by Blue Hors Don Romantic x OO Seven, with a score of 73.823%. They garnered praise for their lateral work, notching scores of eight on both the half-pass to the left and to the right and were able to just edge out Vanessa Creech-Terauds (CAN) and Daniel L who scored 73.529%.

In Saturday’s FEI Prix St. Georges class, there were 11 competitors in the open section where Christopher Hickey (USA) rode to the win with 72.794% aboard Valentin, a 10-year-old Swedish Warmblood gelding by Dalwhinnie x Regazzoni. Their consistent marks across the test propelled them to the top spot, just ahead of Adrienne Lyle (USA) and Nexolia Feodoro, who scored 72.353%.

Seven riders contested the open section of the FEI Grand Prix class, but it was Eliane Cordia van Reesema (USA) who excelled from start to finish with Codiak. Codiak, a 13-year-old Rheinlander gelding by Cristallo 7 x Carabas, demonstrated exceptional passage and pirouettes for marks of eight, which boosted his score with Cordia van Reesema to a 74.239%. Second place went to Lisa Marriott (GBR) and Valucio DH Z, who finished with 69.347%.

Competition concluded on Sunday with another notable display from 2020 Olympic team silver medalist Adrienne Lyle who rode Fürst Dream, a stallion by Fürstenball OLD owned by Betsy Juliano LLC, to a remarkable score of 96.000% in the USEF Young Horse Test for 4 Year Old class. Judges Sandy Osborn (USA) and Kem Barbosa were impressed with the trot and canter rhythm reflecting suppleness and natural balance.

For more information and results, visit www.globaldressagefestival.com.

Roxanne Trunnell Breaks Paralympic Record in Stunning Night of Freestyle Displays

L-R: Rihards Snikus (LAT) silver, Roxanne Trunnell (USA) gold, Sara Morganti (ITA) bronze (FEI/Liz Gregg)

Roxanne Trunnell (USA) broke the nine-year-old Grade I Paralympic Freestyle record in a stunning Freestyle competition which also saw Sir Lee Pearson (GBR) take his third gold of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.

The highest scoring podium

Grade I was the only Grade to have three athletes with a score of over 80% on the podium. Roxanne Trunnell (USA) scored 86.927% on Dolton to break the previous record of 84.750% set by Sophie Christiansen (GBR) in London 2012.

“I just wanted a nice test. It felt good with the music the whole time,” Roxanne said. “It’s been really nice. Everyone is so happy and friendly it makes everyone in the barn happy. It’s just fun. Everyone will be excited when we get home.”

The ever-brilliant Rihards Snikus (LAT) took his second silver in Tokyo on King of the Dance with 82.087%, doubtless prompting more demands for his DJing skills when he gets back home. For Rihards, these two medals more than make up for his disappointment at the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. And third place went to Sara Morganti (ITA) on Royal Delight, with 81.100%.

Sir Lee makes it a golden 14

Sir Lee Pearson (GBR) became the most successful athlete in the entire competition by taking his third gold medal of Tokyo 2020, the 14th of his Paralympic career, in the Grade II Freestyle.

His relatively inexperienced and home-bred partner, Breezer, took him to a massive 82.447% to take the title ahead of Pepo Puch (AUT) who rode Sailor’s Blue to a score of 81.007%. Meanwhile, Lee’s young teammate, Georgia Wilson (GBR), added another brilliant bronze to her collection on Sakura with 76.754%, which is not a bad result for the reserve rider who was called to Tokyo as a last-minute replacement for Sophie Christiansen.

“Number 14, not that we’re counting,” laughed Lee. “I’m twice over the moon. I actually didn’t care if I medalled. That horse gave me his heart in there. He was so much braver than the team and individual test a few days ago. He was still nervous, and we had a tiny little spook when we entered but I said, ‘come on, we can do this’.”

Lee came to Tokyo with Breezer having had to retire from their selection event. “I’ve not managed to ride this Freestyle in a competition, so I’ve been nervous for days. He’s brilliant. I’m taking the best horse home. I didn’t think I could love him any more than I did before but he’s beautiful, amazing.”

Sanne’s HAEVNly gold

Sanne Voets (NED) stormed to victory in the Grade IV Freestyle with a massive personal best score of 82.085% to win her class. Riding Demantur N.O.P. to the stirring music of Dutch artists HAEVN, she finished comfortably ahead of silver medallist Louise Etzner Jakobbson (SWE) who scored 75.935% on Goldstrike B.J. Manon Claeys (BEL) took bronze on San Dior 2 with 75.680%.

Louise’s silver was even more remarkable given that she broke her leg falling off her bike just a couple of months ago, and only got back on a horse to ride two weeks ago during the horses’ quarantine in Aachen (GER).

Speaking after her ride, Sanne said: “I’m not sure I can find the right words. I was really focussed and normally when I first enter a test, I try to make eye contact with the judge. I never did that here; it was just me and my horse and the music. It was a bit like hypnosis. It felt powerful and soft and relaxed and confident. Sometimes when you ride a test, you’re thinking, ‘what do I do now?’ but it was like it just happened to me. It felt like we found that true harmony and it was the two of us and no one else.”

Michele’s golden double

Michele George (BEL) was dominant again in the Grade V Freestyle, defending her London 2012 and Rio 2016 titles with aplomb. She scored 80.590% on Best of 8 to pip Frank Hosmar (NED) to the title by just 0.350 of a point. Frank, riding Alphaville N.O.P., scored 80.240 to take the silver, while Regine Mispelkamp (GER) took bronze with 76.820 on Highlander Delights.

“I’m really blown away. The mare is just fantastic. What can I say? I’m a bit speechless because coming over here with a young horse and showing the world what she’s capable of is just genius. I knew she could, but I thought maybe it was a bit early to show everyone because at home she can work like a queen but at home is at home.”

Michele went into the arena just after Frank had posted his great score. “Once you’re riding into the arena, you don’t look at that,” she said. “I know he had a high score, but I thought the mare feels good, so I came into the arena and tried to make something even better. That’s the spirit.”

Tobias’s double delight

In the second highest winning score of the night, Tobias Thorning Jorgensen (DEN) rode Jolene Hill to his second gold of the Paralympic Games in the Grade III Freestyle. Together they scored a massive 84.347% to take the title ahead of Natasha Baker (GBR), who scored 77.614% on Keystone Daw Chorus. Anne Katrin Lubbe (NOR) took the bronze on La Costa Majlund with 76.477%.

A clearly delighted Tobias said after his ride: “I feel great. I left my head out here this time because I wanted to show I can do this. I just rode to the edge of being too much and I was probably closer to some mistakes today than I was yesterday, but I took the chance.

“I always had the dream of double gold, but I knew it would be hard. I would be happy if it was a silver or bronze, just to get two medals at my first Paralympics, but two golds is amazing.”

At the end of five days of stunning Para Dressage competition, the horses and athletes of Tokyo 2020 will now start their journeys home. They will remember a record-breaking week of drama and fierce competition which saw new champions crowned and titles re-won or defended.

Great Britain tops the Para Dressage table, with three golds, three silvers, and two bronzes, ahead of The Netherlands’ two golds, two silvers, and two bronzes. Belgium takes the third spot with two golds and two bronzes, followed by the USA in fourth position with two golds and a bronze.

The world’s best Para Dressage athletes will gather again in August 2022 at the FEI World Championships in Herning (DEN). Until then, the memories of this competition in Tokyo will be slow to fade. It’s been a dazzling, brilliant Paralympic Games.

by Rob Howell

Media contact:

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

Hitting the Right Note in Equestrian Para Dressage

Sanne Voets (NED). (FEI/Liz Gregg)

Equestrian Dressage and Para Dressage are considered the most artistic of the equestrian sports. But it is in the Freestyle tests, which are specially choreographed for each horse and performed to music, that the horse and athlete have a real opportunity to come into their own.

No one know this better than Dutch Para Dressage star Sanne Voets, who took individual gold here in Tokyo on Thursday.

“When the horse, rider, and music all come together in a perfect fit, that’s when the magic happens,” Voets said.

“It all starts with your choreography. And the first ingredient of good choreography is to know your horse very well, to know what your strong exercises are and what you are good at. Top sport is all about standing out and having the audacity to show the world what you’ve got. The Freestyle gives equestrian Dressage and Para Dressage athletes that opportunity.”

And Voets is not afraid to make a statement with her original Freestyle choreographies or her unconventional choice of music. Prior to the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio, Voets worked with critically acclaimed Dutch DJ Armin van Buuren for a chance to perform to his song “This Is What It Feels Like.” Together with her horse Demantur, Voets brought home the only equestrian gold for the Netherlands.

“The music adds an extra dimension to the choreography,” Voets explained. “You want to enter that arena feeling your very best. You want to feel focused. You want to feel strong and confident and that feeling can be affected by the music you choose.”

The 33-year-old is now going for more gold at the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo alongside her horse Demantur RS2 N.O.P., affectionately known as “Demmi”, with a new Freestyle routine, developed in collaboration with top Dutch freestyle producer Joost Peters, and one of the Netherlands’ most popular bands, HAEVN. Founded in 2015 by singer-songwriter Marijn van der Meer and film soundtrack composer Jorrit Kleijnen, HAEVN’s music has a unique sound that Voets believes will allow her to make her mark.

“HAEVN compose cinematic music that has a distinctive sound with their piano, string, and electronic sounds. The singer Marijn has a clear and warm voice and this really makes the sound of the band unique. I first heard them when I was in my car and the lyrics touched me deeply,” Voets said.

“’Where the Heart Is’ is a song about chasing a dream, paving your own path, and taking a leap of faith. I chose it because I see myself so much in this song. I also try to follow my own path by doing what I feel is best, even when it is not the generally accepted way. There is always some doubt: Do I dare to be different? Is this the right choice? Am I good enough? This song tells me to have faith.”

Voets, who was born with a condition which weakens her legs and affects her other joints, holds Team, Individual, and Freestyle gold medals at European and World level. She won gold in the Grade IV Individual Freestyle on the opening day of the Para Equestrian events, and is hoping to achieve a ‘triple-triple’ of golds in Tokyo.

“The relationship between the horse and athlete is essential for success. You cannot perform or act like you have harmony when that relationship is not there. Demmi has quite a personality and we have a deep connection. He is so special to me. He always reminds me of what really matters and is the reason I’m encouraged to go after my dream, to never let anything or anyone stop me, and also to do good. I heard someone say a few years ago that a good Freestyle is like a movie. It should tell a story. It should tell your story. And that is what this HAEVN-Freestyle really does.”

If there’s anyone who knows how to find that perfect fit and bring music, athlete, and horse together into a breathtaking Freestyle routine, it is British composer and producer Tom Hunt.

Based in London, Hunt is the man behind Charlotte Dujardin and Carl Hester’s Freestyle music, and composed the music for Dujardin’s bronze medal Freestyle at the Tokyo Olympic Games. He also worked with Great Britain’s Natasha Baker and Singapore’s Laurentia Tan on their routines for the Tokyo Paralympics.

“Usually, the process begins with a discussion with the athlete where we talk about the Freestyle and about preferences he or she might have,” Hunt explained.

“If the athlete is passionate about creating a really good Freestyle, then that feeds into how I work with him or her. Some athletes are very hands-on at every stage and are really passionate about getting every detail absolutely perfect.

“Before I even begin creating the demo, I need to see how big the horse is, what its paces are like, and how expressive it is. Then I look at the floor plan and how it has been crafted, so I can emphasise the strengths of the horse and have the music highlight those sections of the choreography. It is important to build on the dynamics of the music in order to really show off the horse’s paces.

“When creating Freestyle music, it is important to figure out how to fit the music to what the athlete aims to do and the story they want to tell, and to make the style work for them and the horse.”

However, when composing the music for Laurentia Tan, Hunt has had to take into account input from a number of different people. Tan, who is currently ranked number four in the world for her Grade in Para Dressage, is profoundly deaf.

“With Laurentia we’ve been working not just with a whole team of people who tell her what the music sounds like, but also with technology so she can feel the music,” Hunt said.

“The SUBPAC is a piece of technology that she wears like a back pack and it feeds back all the low frequencies of the music so she can feel its pull when she’s riding. The creation of Laurentia’s Freestyle music for Tokyo has been a longer process than others, and not something we could have done quickly. So it has been good to have had the time to work with her over the past year.”

While the Freestyle Test is where the Para Dressage athletes can really show off their musical tastes and artistry, they are also free to choose the background music for their Team Tests. Any style of music can be used in a Team Test and, as it is considered background music, it does not affect an athlete’s score.

The Tokyo 2020 Para Dressage Individual Freestyle Tests across all five Grades will take place on Monday, 30 August 2021 at the Baji Koen Equestrian Park.

Media contact:

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