Tag Archives: Para-Equestrian

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

Great Britain Defy the Odds to Take Spectacular Paralympic Team Title

L to R: Rixt van der Horst – Findsley, Sanne Voets – Demantur, Frank Hosmar – Alphavile (NED) Silver medalists; Lee Pearson – Breezer, Sophie Wells – Don Cara M, Natasha Baker – Keystone Dawn Chorus (GBR) Gold medalists; Kate Shoemaker – Solitaer 40, Roxanne Trunnell – Dolton, Rebecca Hart – El Corona Texel (USA) Bronze medallists. (FEI/Liz Gregg)

Suspense and pure grit were on display as Great Britain claimed the Tokyo 2020 Para Dressage Team gold medal, continuing their seemingly unbreakable hold on the title which started in Atlanta 1996. The trio of Sir Lee Pearson (Grade II), Natasha Baker (Grade III), and Sophie Wells (Grade V) scored 229.905 to finish just 0.656 ahead of The Netherlands’ 229.249. And in another momentous shift in the sport, USA took the bronze medal with 224.352, making this their first Paralympic Team podium finish, and the first time the podium hasn’t been made up of all European teams!

How it works

There are three athletes per team. Each Grade competes separately in its own Team Test, with each horse and athlete combination performing a series of pre-determined movements, which differ by Grade. The combined results of each of the teams’ three athletes determine the overall score and the team with the most points wins gold. The competition was run over two days, starting with the athletes from Grades I, II, and III performing on Saturday, leaving Grades IV and V to seal the deal.

Here’s how the day unfolded

At the beginning of the day, the competition was shaping up to be a showdown between the three podium winners, with Great Britain having the slight advantage over the USA, with both countries having two tests already completed.

The Grade V Team test was won by Belgium’s Michele George on Best of 8. She scored 77.047% to put her country into medal contention too.

A crucial score of 75.651% for Sophie Wells (GBR) proved to be a massive boost for her country’s chances of winning, while Frank Hosmar (GBR) on Alphaville N.O.P. posted 74.814% to keep things neck and neck between the two countries.

At the start of the Grade IV Team Test, the British had completed all their rides, leaving the USA and The Netherlands with the knowledge of how much their last two athletes would have to score to beat them.

First up was Kate Shoemaker (USA) on Solitaer 40. She scored 71.825% to put the USA in silver medal position.

Sanne Voets then entered the arena on Demantur N.O.P. and knew she needed to score 78.136% to beat Great Britain. Four minutes later she left, and her score was announced, a massive personal best of 78.200%. However, between the calculation of what was needed to win, and Sanne’s test, Sophie Wells’ score was confirmed slightly higher than the provisional score given earlier, thus handing Great Britain the closest of wins. It could not have been any closer; it could not have been more historic.

Speaking after their medal ceremony, Natasha Baker tried to sum up how the team felt. “I don’t think any of us expected that in a million, trillion, gazillion years to be honest. We’re all so immensely proud of everything our horses have done in the last few days.”

“We had no expectation that we could achieve that,” Sophie Wells added. “We genuinely thought it was impossible in the most realistic way. We all had horses that have never done this or been against anyone else. The Dutch are so strong and secure on their horses and we’re not.”

“We haven’t even got any championship horses on this team,” said Lee Pearson.

Team Leader Georgia Sharples paid tribute to the team, saying: “I just think these guys are undefeated Paralympic champions but in a whole new context. You’ve heard about the inexperienced horsepower, but never underestimate these guys and what a job they did out there on that field of play.”

The Netherlands were equally enthused by their silver, and the closeness of the competition.

“We’ve been working towards this for five years,” said Sanne Voets, “and this is where you want to perform at your best and if you can succeed at that you can’t be disappointed.

“There was so much pressure. When we saw the order to go and I realised I was the last rider of the three countries who were expected to win, I knew I would know the score needed for team gold.”

And despite coming into the Games as hot favourites for the title, there was delight and relief with bronze for the USA as well, especially Rebecca Hart, who has competed at four Games now.

“I don’t have words right now,” she said. “It was such an amazing competition and so close. A real nail-biter to the very end. I am so incredibly blessed and happy to be standing here with these two amazing riders. To finally, after so many years, be able to stand on that podium as a country, it’s a lifelong dream come true.”

After the drama of the Team competition, the Para Dressage competition at Tokyo 2020 comes to an end when the top eight individual riders in each Grade take to the arena to dance in the ever-popular Freestyle competition. The five medals will come thick and fast in what will doubtless be another fascinating, exciting, and potentially historic end to a brilliant Paralympic Games for Para Dressage.

by Rob Howell

Media contact:

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

And the Team Medal Chase Is On

Natasha Baker (GBR) with Keystone Dawn Chorus. (FEI/Liz Gregg)

With day one of the Para Dressage Team competition complete, the Tokyo 2020 medal winners remain impossible to call.

On current standings any combination of The Netherlands, Great Britain, USA, Belgium, and Denmark could take a place on the podium, and in any order.

All Team riders from Canada and Singapore have now competed, leaving Canada at the top of the leader board with a combined score of 211.699, ahead of Singapore with 200.792.

How it works

There are three athletes per team. Each Grade competes separately in its own Team Test, with each horse and athlete combination performing a series of pre-determined movements, which differ by Grade.  The combined results of each of the teams’ three athletes will determine the overall score and the team with the most points wins gold.

Great Britain’s best start

The day started well for Sir Lee Pearson (GBR) who won the Grade II Team Test on Breezer with 77.636%.

“I am over the moon with that lovely score. Breezer doesn’t like the Olympic arena and he was quite frightened in there. He’s a sensitive soul, but I’m so proud of him because I held his hand and he trusted me and I could be sitting here with a different story.

“He’s sensitive, but that sensitivity, when it’s on side, makes him fabulous.”

Pepo Puch (AUT) came second in the Test on Sailor’s Blue with 74.909%, while Katrine Kristensen (DEN) earned her team a valuable 72.515% on Welldone Dallas.

Roxanne throws down an 80 plus challenge

Roxanne Trunnell (USA) laid down the day’s only 80 plus score in the Grade I Team Test, riding Dolton to 80.321%. The noise of fire engines attending a nearby incident added pressure during her Test, but the pair rose above it to perform calmly and brilliantly.

Second place went to Sara Morganti (ITA) with an impressive 79.286% on Royal Delight, ahead of Michael Murphy (IRL) on Cleverboy, with 75.179%. That last result was especially pleasing for the young Irish rider, coming the day after he suffered an equipment failure in the Grade I Individual Test which left him in last place.

“He felt brilliant again,” Roxanne said after her Test. “He was a little tense, but we worked through it.”

Referring to the disturbance outside, she added, “That’s what made him tense up a little. I don’t think you can prepare. It just happens and you go with it.

“It means a lot to ride for the USA after such a weird year. Everyone is going to remember this Paralympics.”

Baker builds as Thorning Jorgensen leads

Tobias Thorning Jorgensen (DEN) gave his country a real shot at a medal with a stunning 79.559% in the Grade III Team Test, on Jolene Hill.

But also building her team’s score was Natasha Baker (GBR) who posted 76.618% on Keystone Dawn Chorus, just ahead of Rixt van der Horst (NED) on Findsley N.O.P. with 76.235%.

“It was intense today,” said Tobias. “I’ve done something today, so I have a little bit of pain, so that was just Jolene carrying me around. I’m very grateful to her, she went even better than yesterday.

“This is a great start and I hope we can be a medal contender or at least be there, so if anyone makes a mistake, we can take it. I just love the Team competition because we go down here as a family and be there for each other.”

How things stand, and what happens next

Based on the scores at this halfway point in the competition, the gold medal is still up for grabs between the USA, Great Britain, and The Netherlands. However, strong performances from the two Danish riders, and with Belgium’s two remaining riders still to go, mean those two countries could still snatch a medal.

It will all come down to the Grade IV and V Tests. As the Grade V athletes go first, all eyes will be on Kate Shoemaker (USA) who will determine her team’s final score, as well as on Frank Hosmar (NED), who will want to build on his teammate Rixt’s performance.

Individual Grade IV bronze medallist Manon Claeys (BEL) and Grade V Individual Test gold medallist Michele George (BEL) will complete Belgium’s competition, while Grade V Individual Test silver medallist Sophie Wells (GBR) could produce her country’s winning score.

But in a dramatic finish, Grade IV Individual Test gold medallist Sanne Voets (NED) could find herself riding to seal victory for her country. As the last of the likely winners to ride, she will have a good idea of the score needed to get the gold. Adding to the pressure is her chance of becoming only the third Para Dressage athlete to secure the triple, triple of consecutive European, World, and Paralympic gold medals.

Sanne insists that she doesn’t play the numbers game, but her fans and followers of Para Dressage will know that this will be one of the highest stakes ride she will ever perform.

Results here.

by Rob Howell

Media contact:

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