Tag Archives: Para-Equestrian

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

How Do You Communicate with a Para Dressage Horse?

Laurentia Tan (SGP) (FEI/Liz Gregg)

The unique bond between a horse and human, as well as the refined communication between the two, are important factors for success in elite equestrian sports. But what does this mean exactly for Para Dressage athletes competing at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games?

While able-bodied Dressage athletes use a combination of hand, leg, and weight signals to communicate with their horses, some Para Dressage athletes require the use of compensating aids to make up for the physical or sensory limitation resulting from their disabilities.

“Walking the way that I do is normal for me and so when I learned to ride, I also learnt in a way that was normal for me,” said five time Paralympic gold medallist Natasha Baker (GBR).

“As I have minimal feeling from my hips down, my legs just hang when I’m on a horse, and they naturally follow the movement of the horse. When you see my legs moving, that’s not me. It’s a completely involuntary movement.

“This is the reason why I have to train my horses to different aids and am reliant on my voice. I train my horses to the smallest of noises or words so they know exactly what I’m asking. It can be a simple sound so they know that I want to go more forward or a command like ‘trot’ under my voice, and they know exactly what I mean.”

While there is a broad range of movement that is standard for able-bodied Dressage athletes, Para Equestrians have to find and develop their own style of communication with their horse in order to compensate for their unique disabilities.

Where necessary, athletes are allowed to use a variety of special equipment and aids which include specially designed saddles that assist the athlete with balance and support. Also permitted are the use of elastic bands to keep feet in stirrups, whips in each hand, and adapted reins.

In the case of Laurentia Tan from Singapore, who developed cerebral palsy and profound deafness after birth, she relies on people to tell her when the music begins and ends and has a greater dependency on feeling in order to communicate with her horse.

“I can ride different horses, but I must have my own customised looped reins, which are important partly because they are customised to the way I hold them,” Tan explained.

“But the reins, which are the connection between my hands and the horse’s mouth, are like a telephone line which make my conversation with my horse soft, steady, and ‘elastic.’  This contact is different depending on the horse I ride and is absolutely essential for me to bring out their best performance.

“I am also sensitive to the feeling through my seat, which facilitates the conversation between me and my horse. I can execute a good square halt through my seat. I can feel when my horse does a perfect straight square halt under me and when to give a correction if one leg is out of place.”

As other Para Dressage athletes will attest, learning to interpret their horses’ body language is one of the keys to a successful sporting relationship. But training a horse to adapt and respond to the use of compensating aids also plays an important role in the development of the horse and athlete connection.

“Before a horse is ridden by a Para Athlete, it is first trained by an able-bodied rider with classic training aids and then retrained to adapt to the athlete’s disability,” Team USA’s Head of Para Equestrian Coach Development and High Performance Michel Assouline explained.

“The horse is trained to what the person does not have. So if an athlete does not have the full use their legs, for example, the horse will be trained to receive cues and signals with a series of taps given through a compensating aid, instead of the legs. An athlete can also learn to use their voice and seat to communicate with their horse.

“For athletes who are unable to use their legs, a tap becomes like a conductor’s baton, which signals to the horse when they should move.

“An able-bodied trainer will usually begin this process and will train the horse by not using their legs, but with the tapping. So by the time the athlete takes over, the horse is already aware of what these cues represent. On average, it takes around six months to a year for the horse to be truly confident and trustworthy.”

The FEI Para Equestrian Committee was created in April 2006 to ensure that the needs and requirements of Para Equestrians are well represented in the work of the International Federation.

“As living beings with thoughts and feelings of their own, horses are extremely sensitive to the specific needs of an athlete’s disability, and are highly perceptive to verbal and non-verbal cues,” Chair of the FEI Para Equestrian Committee Amanda Bond said.

“While horses have a natural ability to adapt, and seem to have a sixth sense for knowing what is required of them, it is the compensating aids which allow Para Equestrian athletes to effectively communicate with their horses.

“The FEI Para Dressage rules have been established to ensure that athletes have the equipment they require to compete on a level playing field, while keeping competition fair and safe. These are important principles to abide by if we are to ensure the continued growth and development of Para Equestrian sport.”

Media contact:

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

Two New Paralympic Equestrian Champions Crowned in Tokyo

L to R: Rihards Snikus – King of the Dance (LAT) silver, Roxanne Trunnel – Dolton (USA) gold, and Sara Morganti – Royal Delight (ITA) bronze. (FEI/Liz Gregg)

The second day of Para Dressage competition at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games saw the remaining two Grades, I and III, battle for the Individual Test titles and the important qualification slots for the upcoming Freestyle to Music test.

A twist of fate would have it that both victors were new to the top spot of the Paralympic podium, a feat which is easier said than done, given the longevity of some Para Equestrian careers and the experienced athletes they faced in the impressive Baji Koen arena.

Roxanne rocks in Tokyo classic

An imperious performance from Roxanne Trunnell (USA) secured her first ever Para Dressage global title at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. Currently World No.1 across all five Grades, Roxanne won the Grade I Individual Test with a massive score of 81.464% with her mount, Dolton.

The silver medal went to Rihards Snikus (LAT), a keen DJ known as DJ Richy Rich to his friends, who was first into the arena and laid down a challenging score of 80.179% on King of the Dance. Reigning FEI World Equestrian Games champion Sara Morganti (ITA), took bronze on Royal Delight with 76.964%. It is a medal that is especially sweet for her, as her horse failed the vet inspection at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.

Speaking after her Test and medal ceremony, Roxanne said, “Dolton felt like he was really with me and was really a good boy. He surprised me with how calm he has been. It’s been wonderful at the Games. Everyone is so nice and helpful.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg for Dolton. He’s so young and he’ll be able to do so much more. It means a lot to me as well. It was very nice up there. We had our own little group of people that looked happy.”

As the World No. 1, Roxanne holds two World Records for the highest scores in a Freestyle Test (89.522%) and in Grade I Team Test (84.702%). Roxanne came to these Games with huge expectations placed on her shoulders. She remained, however, unfazed. “I don’t think about pressure – that’s all just noise to me,” she added. “It’s just me and Dolton doing our own thing. He is loving all the attention; it’s fun. He’s a goofy young horse; he’s temperamental but also easy to get along with.”

Tobias has golden debut

As debut Games go, it’s fair to say that Tobias Thorning Jorgensen (DEN) is having a good one. In his first ever ride in a Paralympic Games arena, he won the Grade III Individual Test with a score of 78.971%, on Jolene Hill.

In doing so, he dethroned two-time Grade III Paralympic Champion, Natasha Baker (GBR), who came second on Keystone Dawn Chorus, with 76.265%. Bronze went to current World Champion Rixt van der Horst (NED) on Findsley N.O.P. with 75.765%.

“It was amazing, it really was,” Tobias said, beaming after his test.

“I was so focussed all the ride but on the last turn I just had this feeling it was great. I was so happy I just smiled.

“I knew that Rixt and Natasha would be my biggest opponents and are always coming to take the medals, but I also knew that, if I find my best, I could take the medal. I knew I had to do that.

“Jolene is a mare. If I don’t ask her first, she just gives me the finger and says, ‘You can do something else.’ In my warm-up, I ask her, ‘Is this OK?’ and then in the arena she is there for me. If I ask her correctly, she will go through fire for me.”

Following the second day of competition and the completion of the Individual Test, Great Britain still tops the leaderboard, adding a silver to their tally today with one gold, two silver, and a bronze, followed by the Netherlands, Belgium, USA, and Denmark, who have picked up a gold medal over the past two days.

All results here.

by Rob Howell

Media contact:

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

Once a Champion, Always a Champion

L to R: Pepo Puch (AUT) silver, Lee Pearson (GBR) gold, and Georgia Wilson (GBR) bronze. (FEI/Liz Gregg)

They came, they saw, they conquered. Some of the world’s most experienced and decorated Para Dressage athletes took to the stunning Baji Koen arena for the first competitions and medals of the Equestrian Events at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.

Emotions were running high, as were temperatures, but everyone kept their cool for the first individual medals up for grabs in Grades II, IV, and V – and the all-important qualification for the top eight ranked athletes in each Grade earning their spot in the Individual Freestyle to Music test which takes place on Monday 30 August.

Sir Lee Pearson, the world’s most decorated equestrian Paralympian, does it again…

In an emotion packed first day of competition, Pearson (GBR) collected his 12th Paralympic gold medal at his sixth Paralympic appearance since 2000 at the Baji Koen Equestrian Park, winning the Grade II Individual Test.

Lee rode his home-reared Breezer to the title with a score of 76.265% to finish ahead of Pepo Puch (AUT), who rode Sailor’s Blue to score 73.441%. These two highly experienced athletes are used to tussling for the top spot, with Pepo claiming Individual gold in Rio ahead of Pearson and vice versa for the Freestyle medals.

Georgia Wilson (GBR) picked up a fairy tale of a bronze medal on Sakura, with 72.765%. She was the team’s reserve rider and was called to the Paralympic Games just two weeks ago, when her teammate Sophie Christiansen was forced to withdraw due to a veterinary issue with her horse.

Speaking after his ride, Lee said, “I am very, very emotional. I cried on the second X on hold in the arena. It’s been such a long journey. Breezer is a horse who I’ve had since he was born. I am also a dad myself now, and that has also made me more emotional.

“I didn’t think having a home-bred horse would give this a little extra meaning, but it has. I saw him at hours old in a field and to complete that test, which at my last test event I did not complete, that added to the emotion.”

Sanne gets the missing gold

There was more emotion on display when Sanne Voets (NED) won the Grade IV Individual Test, the one gold medal missing from her collection of European, World, and Paralympic titles.

Sanne scored 76.585% on Demantur N.O.P, which was the highest score of the day, while Rodolpho Riskalla (BRA) took the silver medal on Don Henrico with 74.659%. Belgium’s Manon Claeys marked her Paralympic debut with a bronze medal, scoring 72.853% on San Dior 2.

“I think my face pretty much told it,” said Sanne. “I’m just over the moon with him. He still amazes me every day and he travelled here well. When you enter the stable and you see he’s happy, relaxed, and at ease, you realise again that’s what is most important.

“Of course, you’re here to perform at your very best and you want to win medals, but there’s always one thing more important than the result, and that’s just your horse being happy.

“But when you are sitting on a horse like that, there’s no way you cannot smile and not enjoy your test.”

Seventh heaven for Michele George

The last medal of the night went to Michele George, in just her seventh competition with Best of 8. She scored 76.524% to finish ahead of Sophie Wells (GBR) who rode her reserve horse, Don Cara .M to an impressive 74.405% in his first ever overseas competition. Frank Hosmar (NED) took the bronze on Alphaville N.O.P., with 73.405%.

Michele wore the gloves and boots she wore at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games at which she won the Grade V Freestyle, with a silver in the Individual Test, on the late FBW Rainman.

“I’m really proud of my mare and I enjoyed the ride,” she said. “And this is for me the most important thing, that I could come home and say I’ve done everything I could. She had a beautiful performance, and she gave her best. Best of 8 gave her best!

“She did great half passes and I think she had a very nice extended canter as well. So it’s amazing. I can’t find the right words to express how impressive it was for me. It is a once in a lifetime experience.”

More medals up for grabs

At the end of day one of the competition, Great Britain top the Para Dressage medal table with one gold, one silver, and a bronze, with The Netherlands and Belgium close behind on one gold and a bronze each.

There are a total of 11 sets of medals being contested at the Para Equestrian Events of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games across the five Grades – five Individual, five Freestyle to Music, and one overall team medal.

Results here.

by Rob Howell

Media contact:

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

Team GB Olympic Medallists to Parade at London International Horse Show

In a tribute to the outstanding achievements of the British equestrian athletes at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, The London International Horse Show will welcome the Team GB Olympic and Paralympic Equestrian heroes in a celebratory parade, which will take place during the afternoon performance on Friday 17 December.

Leading the way will be Individual Show Jumping gold medallist, Ben Maher, who adds a Tokyo medal to his Team gold at the London Olympics in 2012. Maher will be joined by the gold medal-winning Eventing team of Oliver Townend, Laura Collett, and Tom McEwen. After a fantastic performance across all three phases, the team secured Great Britain’s first Eventing Team title for 49 years. 30-year-old McEwen then went on to claim the Individual silver medal with a foot-perfect performance aboard Toledo De Kerser.

Despite an inexperienced team of horses heading to Tokyo for the Dressage, the British team, comprising Charlotte Dujardin, Charlotte Fry, and Carl Hester, surpassed all expectations to come away with a Team bronze medal. Dujardin, riding the stunning chestnut Gio, followed up with an Individual bronze to add to her already impressive medal tally, which now includes three golds, one silver, and two bronzes. In doing so, Dujardin rewrote history to briefly become Britain’s all-time most decorated female Olympian – a feat she now shares with Cycling’s Laura Kenny, after Kenny’s triumphs a few days later.

Joining their Olympic counterparts will be Team GB’s Paralympic stars, who will be in action in Tokyo from Thursday 26-30 August. The team includes four defending Paralympic champions, including 11-time Paralympic champion Lee Pearson, eight-time gold medallist Sophie Christiansen, five-time gold medallist Natasha Baker, and two-time gold medallist Sophie Wells.

The London International Horse Show – this year taking place at ExCeL London from 16-20 December 2021 – will provide an opportunity for the athletes to celebrate in front of a crowd, something they were unable to experience in Tokyo. For fans, it will be a chance to hail the exceptional performances put on during the Games, proving Great Britain to be at the forefront of the sport, with some of the best horses and riders in the world.

More information about The London International Horse Show, including how to buy tickets to be part of this exclusive Olympic celebration, can be found here.

The London International Horse Show
www.londonhorseshow.com
Niki McEwen / nmcewen@revolutionworld.com

Wide Open Field Awaits Para Equestrian at Paralympic Games in Tokyo

Photo: FEI/Liz Gregg.

With a mix of debutant and experienced athletes set to take centre stage at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, the Para Equestrian field is wide open.

In all, there are 78 Para Equestrian athletes from 27 nations confirmed in the list of definite entries published by the FEI. Among them, one of the sport’s most enduring athletes, a strong contender for a ‘triple-triple’, and a Para Equestrian legend going for a record number of medals.

Tokyo will be the seventh appearance at a Paralympic Games for 60-year-old Jens Lasse Dokkan (NOR), who is the only athlete to have competed at every Paralympics edition since Atlanta 1996, when Para Dressage was introduced. Currently ranked World No. 5 in the FEI Para Dressage World Individual Ranking for Grade I, Dokkan goes into Tokyo with his mount Aladdin, following top three finishes in all his competition participations from 2019 to 2021.

As the current reigning World and European champion, Sanne Voets (NED) has her sights set high for Tokyo. The 34-year-old is looking to win the team, individual, and freestyle competitions in Tokyo to give her the elusive triple-triple of golds at European, World, and Paralympic level, a feat last achieved by Great Britain’s Sir Lee Pearson. Voets will be going for gold alongside her horse Demantur “Demmi” with a freestyle routine, developed in collaboration with top Dutch freestyle producer Joost Peters, and one of her country’s most popular bands, HAEVN.

Known as the Godfather of Para Dressage, Lee Pearson is himself looking to add to his medal tally of 14 Paralympic medals – which includes 11 golds – the highest of any Paralympic Equestrian. One of the most recognisable faces in Para Equestrian, Pearson made his debut at the 2000 Paralympic Games in Sydney, where he won gold medals in the individual, freestyle, and team. He won another three golds in Athens 2004 and then Beijing 2008, before a team gold, individual silver, and freestyle bronze in London 2012. At the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, Pearson brought home a freestyle gold medal and an individual silver.

While Great Britain’s Para Dressage team has enjoyed unrivalled success at every Paralympics since Atlanta, this year in Tokyo, the USA are the hot favourites for team gold.

Lee Pearson will be reunited with his Rio 2016 teammates Sophie Christiansen, Natasha Baker, and Sophie Wells in Tokyo to defend Great Britain’s team title.

The US charge is led by Roxanne Trunnell, who is currently the highest ranked Para Dressage athlete in Grade I and in the FEI Para Dressage World Individual Ranking. Trunnell has won at every outing in the first half of 2021 and together with her horse Dolton, they have swept the Grade I classes at key 3* international events in the USA. Trunnell also served up a world record score of 89.522% for an FEI Para Dressage Freestyle Test. Trunnell will be joined by three-time Paralympian Rebecca Hart, as well as Beatrice De Lavalette and Kate Shoemaker, who will be making their Paralympic debut in Tokyo.

Current World and European champions the Netherlands are also desperate to make it a hat trick at the Paralympics. The team includes the hugely experienced European champion Frank Hosmar, back-to-back World champion Rixt van der Horst, and Sanne Voets.

“This year marks the 25th anniversary of Para Dressage’s debut at the Paralympic Games in Atlanta,” FEI Para Equestrian Committee Chair Amanda Bond said.

“And while they will be a very different Paralympics to what we’ve been used to, these Games are an opportunity to bring Para Equestrian to the forefront. Equestrian sport is unique, with its hallmark being the close connection between athlete and horse. This relationship is all the more special in Para Dressage as the two athletes really become one.

“I know I speak on behalf of the whole community when I say how thrilled we are to have this opportunity following some challenging times. The Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games are a triumph over adversity. I send my deepest and most heartfelt gratitude to all those who have contributed to making the Olympic and Paralympic Games happen, and to the people of Japan for welcoming the international sporting community to what has been billed the Games of Hope.”

Although equestrian fans will see some old sporting rivalries play out, there are a number of athletes who will be making their debut appearance in Tokyo.

One of these athletes is 26-year-old Sho Inaba, an emerging talent on the Japanese Para Equestrian scene, who will be competing with his horse Exclusive. Inaba competed at the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games™ in Tryon (USA) where he finished 14th in the individual test for his Grade. He has shown that he has what it takes to reach the podium, winning individual and freestyle medals at international competitions held in Gotemba (JPN) in 2019.

Currently ranked World No.1 in Grade III, Tobias Thorning Joergensen (DEN) was the breakthrough star of the 2019 FEI Para Dressage European Championship in Rotterdam (NED), winning gold medals in the individual and freestyle tests with his horse Joelene Hill, as well as team bronze. Joergensen is following in the footsteps of his mother Line Thorning Jorgensen, who represented Denmark in Para Dressage at the 2004, 2008, and 2012 Paralympic Games.

Belgium’s Kevin Van Ham will make his debut following his impressive first major appearance at the 2019 FEI Para Dressage European Championship, where he placed fifth in the individual and freestyle competitions. Ranked World No. 7 in Grade V, Van Ham will be confident going into the Paralympics having topped the podium at the 3* international event in Grote-Brogel (BEL) in the individual and freestyle tests in June 2021.

Following the final selection, athletes will soon be making their way to Aachen (GER) for final training sessions and quarantine before continuing to Tokyo.

Quick link: Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games

Media contacts:

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

Double World Record Day for Trunnell and Dolton at Tryon Summer Dressage 1&2 CPEDI 3*

Roxie Trunnell and Dolton ©Lindsay McCall, USPEA.

Mill Spring, NC – June 20, 2021 – The final day of Perrigo Tryon Summer Dressage CPEDI 3* competition hosted Freestyle tests in Tryon Stadium, capping three days of international competition and the final U.S. Olympic Observation Event before the naming of the Adequan® U.S. Para Dressage Olympic Team. Most notably, Roxanne “Roxie” Trunnell produced a second consecutive personal best and new world record for Para Dressage, bringing home a score of 89.522%.

Trunnell and Dolton, the 2012 Hanoverian gelding (Danone x Lady x Londonderry) owned by Karin Flint and Flintwoode Farms LLC, had just shattered their own previously held world record score of 83.334% with an 84.702% in Saturday night’s team test for Grade I, but blew the competition – and the Ground Jury – away with her Freestyle performance Sunday morning. Scoring 89.522%, Trunnell and Dolton claimed the weekend’s championship title as well as the world record score. Syd Collier and All In One, the 2009 Hanoverian gelding (Abanos x Dauphina x Dauphin) owned by Going for Gold LLC and Katie Robicheaux, gave strong performances of their own, scoring 74.145% to claim second in Freestyle competition. In third, Deborah Stanitski and her own Skovlunds de Nice, the 2006 Danish Warmblood mare (De Noir 3 x Miss Kiki x Diamond), collected a score of 65.845%.

“He kept getting better and better every day!” Trunnell recapped. “It feels really good [to have earned two world records in a row]. His [Dolton’s] mom is really happy with him!” Coming into Tryon Stadium Sunday morning with a personal best in her pocket, Trunnell shared that she prepared by “just keeping it calm, and hanging out with [my dog] Yoda in my tack room. We’ve been working really hard on his Freestyle. I felt pretty good about it!”

Chef d’Équipe Michel Assouline was overcome by the performances produced by the Adequan® U.S. Para Dressage Team, and shed tears after Trunnell’s stunning performance in the rain in Tryon Stadium.

“I think we have a horse-and-rider combination that is taking us to a different timeline… a Twilight Zone is the phrase [I keep coming to]! She’s leading the team into other dimensions where we haven’t been before! And the world is watching us. It’s an absolutely wonderful feeling,” he emphasized. “She beat the London 2012 record now, which is absolutely fabulous.”

Assouline is thrilled with the team as a whole, noting that each rider’s plans to build their performances throughout the weekend were executed smoothly and to good results. “I’m very pleased [with the team]. They all wanted to start very conservatively so as to not start with any hiccups or failures, and we are trying to increase everything [carefully] and not peak too early. Our goal was to do that, and the mission was accomplished.”

Kate Shoemaker and Solitaer 40 improved all weekend in Grade IV competition, producing a 77.375% in their Freestyle performance to earn Reserve Champion in Perrigo CPEDI 3* competition. Shoemaker and the 2007 Hanoverian stallion (Sandro Hit x Dynastie x De Niro) owned by Kate, Craig, and Deena Shoemaker rode a brand new Freestyle test, and she was thrilled to hit all her markers in her first outing: “I feel so, so proud of my horse. We were riding a brand new Freestyle with brand new music. It was our first time going through it and we hit our markers. That comes down to Sully being so rideable for me today, and the music also just felt so good. It made it easy to ride to, and I loved it!”

Though waiting for the Olympic Team to be announced is now what feels like an eternity away, Shoemaker is proud of her weekend’s performances and grateful for the support of the entire Para Dressage community, she emphasized.

“There were a lot of people and a lot of work that went into getting here this weekend. It may look like one partnership in the arena, but of course, we all know there are trainers, grooms, and countless people that are behind us,” she continued. “I’m just so appreciative, especially to Perrigo, Adequan, and Tryon who made this show possible. We have to wait for the team to be announced, because of course, the selectors need to make the best decision for the team going forward into Tokyo. We really hope that we’re what they’re looking for, so that we have the opportunity to show what we can do in the Paralympics.”

Rebecca Hart (USA) collected her third win of the week in Grade III competition, topping the day aboard El Corona Texel, the 2009 Dutch Warmblood gelding (Wynton x Urieta Texel x Goodtimes) owned by Rowan O’Riley, on a score of 76.934%. In second, Charlotte Merle-Smith (USA) and her own Guata, the 2011 Dutch Warmblood mare (Vivaldi x Zuata x Haarlem), earned a 72.311%, while Ignacio Trevino Fuerte (MEX) rode to third place and a score of 62.822% with Delegada X, the 2002 PRE mare (Airoso XXVI x Lusitana x Farruco XIII) owned by Beatrice De Lavalette.

Continuing her fortunate weekend, Hart rode her mount, El Corona Texel, to a new Freestyle test choreographed by Marlene Whittaker. Despite it being the debut of this new test, she and her mount performed to a top score. “We actually hit all of our marks the way I wanted to, so that was nice!” Hart exclaimed.

Fortune 500, Hart’s second mount throughout this weekend’s competition, did not compete in the Freestyle portion of competition. Hart wanted to show El Corona Texel not only because he is a more familiar mount, but because “he’s just so much fun,” she said, elated. She was ecstatic to be able to carry their energy from the warmup ring, through the tunnel, and into the arena. “That was a really nice feeling to have him with me in the ring and have him listen. When I challenged him a little bit, he rose to the occasion.”

Hart emphasized her gratitude for the officials, volunteers, and staff who are assisting with the weekend’s competition. “It’s so special to have a venue that can kind of replicate the situations we will have in Tokyo and all the people that are doing long days in the rain and the heat make this so special.” After a successful weekend, she will be awaiting U.S. team decisions in hopes of competing in Tokyo.

Local athlete from Spartanburg, SC, Emma Jameson (USA), made her debut in Grade III under the lights in Tryon Stadium Friday night in CPEDI 1* competition with Cortesana LA, the 2007 PRE mare (Kabileno XV x Insolencia x Insolente) owned by Misha Marshall. The duo earned a personal best score of 61.071% in their first ride under the lights.

“It was absolutely incredible!” Jameson reported of her experience riding the Para Novice Test B Grade III CPEDI 1*. “Cortesana LA was absolutely amazing. I couldn’t ask for a better dance partner than her. I had never shown under the lights, so it was a new experience for me and I can’t wait to do it again. It was incredible.”

Having previously competed at the Grade IV level, Jameson is exploring her relationship with “Tessie” in a new way, she revealed. “We’re really working on our partnership, especially in Grade III because I just got reclassified a few days ago at Grade III. We’re looking at those tests and trying to figure out how to incorporate those movements and make sure that my right leg can support those movements as well.”

Next on Jameson’s competition bucket list is to move up to the CPEDI 3* level, before one day being named to the U.S. Paralympic Team, she shared. “This week has been a dream come true. I love coming here and watching people like Roxanne Trunnell, Becca Hart, and Kate Shoemaker, because I’ve watched them since the World Equestrian Games in 2018. Watching them and what they can do is what made me really fall in love with Dressage and Para Dressage. It made me realize that I could do that too, now. It’s an amazing feeling to have. Moving forward, our plans are to move up to the CPEDI 3*. One day, I hope to be named to that Paralympic Team!”

Jameson concluded that she had many people in the Carolinas region to thank, including the therapeutic riding programs that have kept her in the saddle since she was just two years old. “I want to give a huge thank you to not only Ashley Parsons, my trainer, and Misha Marshall, Cortesana LA’s owner, but to HALTER, which is a therapeutic riding program in Spartanburg, South Carolina,” she concluded. “I got started there when I was two years old. I want to thank TROT, another therapeutic riding program in North Carolina, that took me on as well and helped me advance to this level. It’s been a huge experience. I don’t think when we got started with therapeutic riding that we ever imagined it would lead to riding on an international stage. It’s been an absolute dream come true!”

Grade V saw Cynthia Screnci (USA) and Sir Chipoli, the 2007 Dutch Warmblood gelding (Sir Donnerhall x Vivaluciene TKS x Carabas) co-owned by Chris Von Martels and Select Equine International, earn another win, scoring 73.242% in their Freestyle test. Cayla Van Der Walt (RSA) claimed reserve with Daturo II, the the 2006 Andalusian gelding (Mirlito XI x Datura x Pestillo) owned in partnership with Christine Heathman.

Grade II resulted in another win for Beatrice De Lavalette (USA), who received a score of 73.845% with Clarc, the 2007 Dutch Warmblood gelding (Dreamcatcher x Miss Sinclair) owned by Elizabeth and Nicolas De Lavalette. Laurietta Oakleaf (USA) and Comte du Baccara C, the 2007 Dutch Warmblood gelding (Johnson TN x Baccara x H Ulrich) owned by Laurietta Oakleaf and Tammi Nowicki, combined for a score of 66.278% and second place.

For more info and results, visit www.Tryon.com.