Victoria, Australia - Seeking to qualify riders and, hopefully, a team to send to the 2012 London Paralympics. U.S. Para Dressage riders are racking up frequent flier miles traveling to earn FEI ranking points to be eligible. To that end, U.S. riders have traveled to Mexico and now the 2011 CPEDI3* at Werribee Park National Equestrian Centre, near Melbourne. PE rules differ in that riders can catch ride and horse-rider combinations only need be declared for selection and 5* competitions.
Four U.S. riders topped entries from across Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and China. Donna Ponessa, from New Windsor, NY, who competes in Grade 1a (the most impaired), has been the busiest as the only rider making both trips. Yesterday, she cracked 70 percent riding loaned mount Don Armani in the Team test.
“He has a super walk and really nice temperament. As para riders competing abroad, we owe great thanks to those horse owners who are willing to loan us their horses so that we can compete. Without the generosity of a couple I have never before met, my participation in this event would have been a mere dream,” says Donna. Ponessa travels in a wheelchair and is accompanied by her trainer, Wes Dunham.
Becca Hart, Grade II, from Unionville, PA and Erin Alberda, Grade III, from Woodinville, WA, shared the aptly named Southern Cross Tamaris to top both their divisions scoring 69.04 and 66.9, respectively in the Team test.
Mary Jordan Grade 1V from Wells, Maine definitely had the longest trek, gauging her entire trip took 27 hours. While trying several potential horses she commented that, “Nothing prepares you training-wise when your horse spooks at wallabies!” Jordan placed second out of 11 entries with a 64.2 riding a borrowed warmblood mare Northern Charmer.
Heading into the Individual Championship tests, Alberda said, “We are ready to improve upon our scores, and improve the partnerships with the incredible horses we have been lent.” The Team and Individual tests combine to count for the overall Team scores. The Saddleworld Dressage Festival incorporates the year-end Victorian Dressage Championships for horses and ponies, plus the Pacific League World Cup Dressage Final CDI-W, with more than 300 competitors to perform over 700 dressage tests over the four days of competition.