USA Para-Dressage Riders Dominate at Paralympic Qualifier

Rebecca Hart and Romani. Photos (C) Lindsay Y. McCall.

Rebecca Hart Earns High Point Rider with Margaret McIntosh in Reserve

Wellington, FL – January 11, 2016 – The final day of competition at the $10,000 CPEDI3* in Wellington, Florida, took place on Sunday with the Para-Equestrian Dressage Freestyle Tests. Equestrians in Grade Ia, Ib, II, III, and IV completed a spectacular weekend at the first CPEDI3* of The 2016 Para Equestrian Dressage Tour. Riders from the USA and Canada competed in The Stadium at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center, home of the Adequan® Global Dressage Festival (AGDF), for the first time since being a part of the Global Dressage show. The $10,000 in prize money was also an exciting reward for top performing riders. The $10,000 CPEDI3* was presented by Mission Control, Mane Stream, courtesy of Rowan O’Riley, Adequan®, and Nutrena. After three days of intense competition Grade II Paralympian Rebecca Hart (USA) took home the High Point Rider Award with her mount Schroeter’s Romani. Following for Reserve Champion High Point Rider was Grade Ia equestrian Margaret McIntosh (USA) and her own Rio Rio. In Grade Ib Sydney Collier and Wes Dunham’s Western Rose took the overall percentage, while rider Annie Peavy and Lancelot Warrior dominated Grade III. Not only did the USA individuals have strong performances, but the USA Team riders achieved superior scores, aiming them for the 2016 Paralympics in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. Led by Chef d’Equipe Kai Handt, the USA Team for the January 8-10 CPEDI3* included Grade II Paralympian Rebecca Hart from the United States and Schroeter’s Romani, owned by Rebecca Hart in conjunction with Margaret Duprey, Cherry Knoll Farm, Barbara Summer, and Bill and Sandy Kimmel; 2014 World Equestrian Games athlete Angela Peavy and Lancelot Warrior, owned by Rebecca Reno, in Grade III; Kate Shoemaker and Solitaer 40 in Grade III; and 2014 World Equestrian Games athlete Roxanne Trunnell and NTEC Royal Dancer. From the final day of freestyle scores and the leading percentages over the weekend, the FEI ground jury, including President Kristi Wysocki (USA), Carlos Lopes (POR), and Marco Orsini (GER), agreed that the USA riders are putting their best foot forward in the ring.

FEI President of the Ground Jury Kristi Wysocki agreed. “I got involved in this sport four years ago and it’s been really exciting for me to watch each of these riders grow up in age and in their riding. They earned their place in the ring this week. They proved themselves this weekend and that was exciting to see. It is a world class arena and a very daunting arena and they all came in and owned their eight minutes in there; that was exciting to see. With a couple weeks to work on precision, size, geometry, and lines of travel, some 7s could move up to 8s and some of those low 70s could be even higher.”

With the Rio Paralympics approaching it is important for the athletes to not only produce their best tests but to produce them in the same atmosphere that they will experience at a Games. U.S. Chef d’Equipe Kai Handt stated, “This was a great opportunity for the riders to finally show in the big arena because it preps the riders for future competitions at this type of venue. The only thing missing is the large number of spectators that we will experience when we walk into the arena at the Paralympics.”

In January 2014, Kai Handt became the U.S. Para-Dressage Chef d’Equipe. Prior to his new title Handt coached talented Para-Dressage athlete Jonathan Wentz from teenager to highest scoring U.S. Paralympic athlete. Handt has been a part of the Para-Dressage program for many years and has watched the program grow exponentially. He was proud of the Team and the individuals that showed at the $10,000 CPEDI3*. Handt commented, “The horses and riders did extremely well. They were a little bit nervous the first day but our scores improved each day and by freestyle time everyone did their very best. Now we just want to keep the momentum.”

Handt continued, “The USA changed a lot since spring of last year. We changed our qualifying procedures, our rules and much more to get where we are now – producing better and more competitive athletes. It’s really panning out now and we are hoping we kind of crest by the time we go to the Paralympics. If everyone does the same performance they did this week in two weeks, and work on the little details, I think we are on the right path to where we want to go. We currently moved up on the world ranking list and if we keep going I hope we are in the top three by the end. Everyone knows what their homework is and they are self-critical enough that they are going to push hard and get even better in two weeks.”

Grade II USA Team rider and High Point Rider Rebecca Hart will be doing just that this next week. Hart noted, “Romani has a great walk and that is one of her strong points. We are now riding without stirrups and that has been an adjustment but it’s going very well. For next week we are going to work on keeping the energy but not slipping in any canter work in our walk trot test. To have the progression from when I bought Romani from our very first show at Global to where we are now feels really good. We have come full circle. I couldn’t have done this without Todd Flettrich, Margaret Duprey of Cherry Knoll Farm, Barbara Summer, and Bill and Sandy Kimmel. I also want to thank Thomas Baur, Rebecca Reno of Mission Control, Rowan O’Riley of Mane Stream, and Global. Without these final two qualifying shows we would have been in a tight spot for the Paralympic Games. It was also a big honor to be able to ride in the limelight in the international ring. It’s a nice step forward for the whole sport of Para-Dressage.”

The support of sponsors like Mission Control and Mane Stream are helping to attract international Para-Dressage athletes to the United States. Rebecca Reno of Mission Control was happy to sponsor the CPEDI3* event. “If you asked me why I wanted to sponsor these events the easy answer would be to say that it’s because my daughter (Angela Peavy) rides, but that would not be the true reason,” laughed Reno. “Annie went as an individual to the World Equestrian Games in 2014 and while preparing for that I got to see the determination and desire from many other athletes that I see from my own daughter. When Equestrian Sport Productions allowed us to be a part of the Global Dressage Festival this year it was too good of an opportunity to pass up. We just want to provide the same experience you would have in Europe. Now riders can come to Florida and get that same experience here complete with prize money and additional shows in one place. You can come to Wellington and get more than one show and an international experience with world-class judges and a beautiful show facility. The athletes work hard, the horses work hard, and they all deserve to be rewarded for their efforts.”

Mane Stream’s representative, Rowan O’Riley of Mane Stream, a therapeutic and adaptive riding program in New Jersey for both children and adults, explained, “It’s important for Mane Stream to support Para-Dressage competitions because it’s an aspiration for all riders to see what hard work, skill, and quality training can produce in an international show arena.”

Margaret McIntosh and Rio Rio
Margaret McIntosh and Rio Rio

The top level competition venue provided Grade Ia, Margaret McIntosh and her horse Rio Rio, the framework for a paramount week. McIntosh was the Reserve High Point Rider overall. Macintosh noted, “Rio is typically a very relaxed horse both on the ground and in the show arena and I was really delighted today to have a little bit more zip going on. It’s a little unbelievable to be the high point rider this week. I had a really tough time at the National Championships a few months ago and my coach Missy Ransehousen, Jessica Ransehousen, with help from Clive Milkins created a powerhouse of knowledge and they picked us both up by the scruff of the neck and put us together and sent us out there.”

Teammates Roxanne Trunnell in Grade Ia, Kate Shoemaker in Grade III, and Annie Peavy also in Grade III agreed with the positive outcome from the unique venue over the weekend. Trunnell said, “I think it was good to be able to show like we were the big guys out there.” Shoemaker agreed, “I think it was a wonderful opportunity for our horses and significant in enabling us to get the experience we need so when we go to international competitions in Europe or the Paralympic Games, our horses are more prepared and as riders we are more prepared because we know better how our horses will react. I was really happy how my horses handled the trip and the environment here. They came 2700 miles from Idaho on Wednesday, got here, rode once, and went in the arena and showed. That’s how you go to big shows. That’s what you have to do and I was extraordinarily pleased with how he did.”

Annie Peavy concurred: “It’s always a great experience when you feel like you’re on a more even level with able-bodied riders. It felt like a European CPEDI. Competing in an environment like this always helps to conquer show nerves so you are ready when you go to competitions like this in Europe, WEG, or the Paralympic Games. It helps you to feel more confident.”

Although she wasn’t a team member during this CPEDI3*, Collier navigated two horses to superb scores in Grade Ib. Collier took home the overall in Grade Ib with Wes Dunham’s Western Rose. Collier was a member of the 2014 WEG team and is preparing three horses this year as her potential Paralympic partner.

Riders will have another chance to get the valuable feedback from FEI judges and their necessary qualification scores for Rio. The second Para-Dressage Tour $10,000 CPEDI3* is scheduled for January 21-24, 2016 in the Van Kampen Arena at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center.

The Adequan® Global Dressage Festival is the world’s largest international and national dressage circuit featuring seven CDIs, including four CDI-Ws, one 4* and one 5*, the only non-championship CDIO Nations’ Cup in the Western Hemisphere, as well as weekly U.S. National events. The AGDF offers more than $650,000 in prize money for the seven international competitions, making it one of the richest circuits in the world. The Stadium at Palm Beach International Equestrian Center facility includes the Van Kampen covered arena (made possible by Kimberly and Frederic Boyer and family) and four outdoor arenas with world-class footing, 200 permanent stalls, and a VIP seating area. For more information, please visit www.globaldressagefestival.com.

By: Lindsay Y. McCall

To view an online version of this press release with more photos, please visit: http://uspea.org/category/recent-uspea-press-news/.

About United States Para-Equestrian Association:

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

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

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

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

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

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