Interview With United States Para-Equestrian Trainer Kai Handt


Thousand Oaks, CA - In every equestrian calendar as the summer starts to disappear many national championship competitions begin to occur.  This year included the 2010 USEF Pony Finals, the $100,000 2009-2010 The Chronicle of the Horse/USHJA International Hunter Derby Finals Presented by Dietrich Insurance, the Adequan FEI North American Junior and Young Rider Championships Presented by Gotham North, and each discipline's national championship.

Kai Handt owner and trainer of the North Texas Equestrian Center (NTEC) made his way around the country because of this year's success.  In every discipline that Handt rides and teaches there was a NTEC rider and horse winning.  In Para-Dressage Handt led his rider Jonathan Wentz to qualify for the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™.  I had the opportunity to speak with Handt about his experience internationally and his accomplishments in and out of the show ring are astounding.

Lindsay McCall: Thank you Kai for taking the time to speak with me today. Let's start from the beginning.  How did your equestrian career begin?

Kai Handt: I started riding in 1966 and I have been competing since 1969. I began riding in Kassel, Germany where I was trained in the traditional German system.  I received training in dressage, show jumping, and three-day eventing. I rode on many teams including the junior show jumping team and eventually focused more on dressage.  I had the opportunity to train under Hermann Schridde, Eugen Wahler, and Richard Krause.  I earned German gold, silver, and bronze medals before I was 18 years old and in 1981 I earned my Bereiter, FN license. (German National Equestrian Federation license). I then spent five years at the Prestiges Verein fuer Reitsport, which was one of Germany's most respected training facilities.  Then in 1985 I relocated to the United States and purchased the North Texas Equestrian Center in Wylie, Texas.

LM: Tell me about the NTEC.


KH:  I make many trips to Europe to purchase top horses for my riders.  We train young horses, specialize in retraining horses, and re-train problem horses.  The horses we purchase are specific to our riders needs.  Along with training and importing we are a boarding and lesson center.  We train riders from beginners to the Grand Prix level.  The facility has four barns that can accommodate 100 horses.  We have two covered arenas, a large outdoor arena, an outdoor standard dressage ring, and an outdoor jumping arena.  We have nice paddocks, a tackroom, storage lockers, and a tack shop on site. I have four great trainers including Christian Heineking, Shahram Aminzadeh, Allison Csaki, and Amanda Herrick Barrera.

LM: Let's talk about your accolades over the years.

KH: I have done well winning regional championships, national championships and even FEI awards.  Last year I earned many championship awards at the 2009 Dallas Dressage Club Year End Awards, 2009 Houston Dressage Society Year End Awards, 2009 Southwest Dressage Club (SWDC) and GAIG/USDF Region 9 Championships, United States Dressage Federation 2009 All Breeds National Awards Recipients, United States Dressage Federation 2009 Rider Award Recipients including Gold and Silver freestyle bar, and at the 2009 United States Equestrian Federation Silver Stirrup Awards. My horse NTEC Donar won the Grand Champion, 2009 FEI Dressage Horse of the Year and Champion of the Prix St Georges, Open Division.

This year I have been focusing on my show jumping grand prix mount River of Dreams and my dressage horse NTEC Donar.  So far we have done quite well.  At the beginning of August at Kentucky Summer we won fifth place in the grand prix.  I am looking forward to more of these wins.

LM: How did your juniors do this year?

KH: In dressage Julia Handt, my daughter, and Frambeau competed at the North American Junior and Young Rider Championship in Lexington, Kentucky, and was a Region 9 Young Rider team member along with Nathalie Martin and Royal, and Rachel Campbell and Wandango.  Julia also won a gold medal in dressage this year, which was exciting.  Anna Campbell and Mai competed at the USEF Dressage Seat Medal Finals in Wayne, Illinois and won the 2010 National Dressage Seat Equitation Medal Finals and was National Champion!  Twenty-one year old Rachel Campbell and 15-year-old Nathalie Martin were invited to compete in the 2010 USEF National Dressage Championships held in Gladstone, New Jersey, in August.  Rachel and her horse, Wandango, competed in their third USEF National Championship in the Young Rider division and finished 10th overall. Nathalie and mount, Royal, competed in their first national championship in the Junior Rider division finishing sixth overall.  In jumping Jordan Appel and Einstein competed at the North American Junior and Young Rider Championship as a Zone 7 Junior Rider individual competitor and was a competitor at the USEF National Junior Jumper Championships in Lexington, KY. At the USEF Pony Jumper Championships in Lexington Alexis Bowen and Kelly competed and brought home a Silver Medal for team competition and earned eighth place individually.

LM: Wow that's pretty impressive!


KH: Yes, we have been very excited.  For the last five years I have had children in the NAYRJC every year and have had multiple equitation winners and last year we even had two National Champions.

LM: Jonathan Wentz did very well this year at the 2010 USEF Para-Equestrian Para-Dressage National Championships and then qualified for WEG.  How did you become involved with Jonathan and sponsoring him?

KH:  Two years ago he came to me with a goal in mind.  He wanted to earn a spot on the Para-Dressage Team at WEG and even ride in the Olympics.  He began riding a horse at the barn for 6 months.  After a short time Jonathan proved that he was a hard working guy and we decided to find a horse for him.  We trained Richter for the discipline and then Jonathan began riding him and he has been doing well ever since.

LM: Tell me about what you are looking forward to in the future?

KH: I am looking forward to Jonathan competing at WEG.  Within NTEC I would like to increase our young rider program.  We have three riders that I will be finding horses for and one rider that just aged out.  Lastly, I am hoping to get my FEI horse, NTEC Donar, ready to qualify for the 2011 Pan Am Games.

LM: Thank you very much for your time. What's your next stop?

KH: Thank you!  I am off to Europe to look at some horses.

About the United States Para-Equestrian Association:

The USPEA includes every equestrian discipline that is practiced by athletes with physical disabilities.  Each rider or driver competes under the eighth discipline, The Para-Equestrian discipline, of the United States Equestrian Federation.  This year, at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™, the Para-Equestrian discipline will make history.  The USEF High Performance Para-Equestrian Dressage team will compete as an FEI sport for the first time at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ held in Lexington, KY.

The USPEA is a recognized affiliated of the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF).  The USPEA provides programs, clinics, and competition opportunities for athletes with physical disabilities. Riders compete under the USEF rules during their national competitions and FEI rules during international competition and many of the athletes compete at the highest level of their sport.

For more information about the USPEA or for donation opportunities, please contact Hope Hand, President of the USPEA, email Wheeler966@aol.com or by phone: (610)356-6481.

To view online information about the USPEA please visit http://www.USPEA.org.

Photo Credits: Kai Handt at 2010 USEF Para-Equestrian Para-Dressage National Championships in Lamplight, IL© 2010 Lindsay McCall/PMG.  
Christian Heineking and River Of Dreams by Kenneth Kraus
Kai Handt helping Para-Dressage rider Jonathan Wentz




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