Gladstone, NJ- The level of competition was extremely high Monday, as six combinations scored over 70% in the National Para-Equestrian Championships which are being held in conjunction with the USEF Para-Equestrian Dressage Paralympic Selection Trials. So with both a national title and spots to compete in London on the line, all competitors put forth their best efforts. FEI Team Tests were ridden by all 24 combinations in their respective grade, with Donna Ponessa and Western Rose jumping out to an early lead. Ponessa was the final rider of the day with Wesley Dunham's Western Rose earning a score of 73.725%. The nine-year-old Oldenburg mare demonstrated a solid walk gait, which Ponessa showcased by riding a very accurate 1a Team Test.
The New Windsor, NY resident was very pleased with her horse's effort today but she expects nothing less of the talented mare.
"Rosie, she's just a really good special horse. She'll give it all she has, she's a good girl," said Ponessa, who hopes to make slight improvements in her Individual Test tomorrow. "I just want to work on my consistency and relax a bit."
Ponessa also stands fifth in the National Championship with Vinceremos Therapeutic Riding Center's PG Ganda.
Riding in her first Selection Trial, Ponessa knows that there is a long way to go before the U.S. teams begins Paralympic competition, which will run August 30 - September 4. "You can't look that far ahead. You just have to ride each footfall."
Lying in second and third positions is Jonathan Wentz with Silvano and NTEC Richter Scale respectively.
Wentz (Richardson, TX), a 1b rider, has only been riding Dr. Michele Miles' 13-year-old KWPN gelding, Silvano, a short time but is already gaining solid results. Today, the former Grand Prix show jumper presented an impressive walk gait helping the pair earn an average of 72.727%.
With NTEC Richter Scale, Wentz has a more seasoned partnership having represented the U.S. at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. They scored a 72.5% in Monday's Team Test.
"Richter Scale is my rock, he's just so consistent." Said Wentz of his longtime partner but he had equal praise for Silvano who he is still learning the intricacies of the ride on. "[Silvano's] gaits are insane, he has one of the best walks I've seen and the walk is so important in 1b," said Wentz "It's a whole new contact I have to learn."
Ponessa finished in first and second place in the FEI Grade 1a Team Test, with Wentz taking the top two spots in the 1b Team Test. In Grade II competition Rebecca Hart (Unionville, PA) claimed top honors in Monday's test with Jessica Ransehousen's Lord Ludger on a score of 71.825%. Wendy Fryke (Parker, CO) won in Grade III competition on a score of 67.469% with her own and Michael Fryke's Lateran. The Grade IV Team Test was won by Mary Jordan (Wells, ME) and Deecie Denison's Sebastian on a 68.438%.
Competition gets underway Tuesday at 8am at the Pine Meadow property of the USET Foundation Headquarters.
For results, photos and news visit here!