Lexington, KY - The second day of freestyle competition for the FEI World Para Dressage Championships got underway early this morning with the Grade II and Grade Ib riders. Like in yesterday's competition, the riders all came to win and rode their hearts out to try to claim one of the coveted medals from the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.
Only two riders from the Kentucky Equine Research U.S. Para-Equestrian Dressage Team competed today, both in the Grade II division.
Jonathan Wentz was the first American to ride today. He guided Kai Handt's 16-year-old Shire cross gelding NTEC Richter Scale to a clean and workman-like test to earn a score of 68.500% from the judges.
"That felt great," he said. "He was really round and really supple. He was really forward. We had a little boo-boo in the walk transition, but overall, the ride made me very happy."
Wentz and Richter have been together for about a year and have had a very successful show season. Wentz was thrilled to cap that experience off with his first trip to the World Equestrian Games.
"It has been an amazing experience," he said. "It's so great to be included with the other athletes. The scores weren't what we hoped for on this outing, but really, this is my coach's first time coaching a para-athlete and my first international show. But we were able to watch everyone and we'll have a quick learning curve because now we really know what to do. We'll definitely be in the hunt for medals in London."
The other American taking to the arena today was Rebecca Hart aboard her own 19-year-old Hanoverian gelding, Norteassa, by Nobel Roi. The very experienced pair performed a lovely test to earn a score of 67.200%.
"It was fun riding that test," she said after her ride. "It was just awesome. It was the last time with this horse because he's retiring. We've been together for eight years now."
Hart and Norteassa have a lot of experience in international competition, having represented the United States at the 2008 Paralympics in Hong Kong.
"This is a much more intimate atmosphere than Hong Kong," Hart said. "In all honesty, there's no one [favorite] moment. Just being here and representing para-equestrian for the first time ever, and finally being included with all the other disciplines as an elite sport is special."
Taking home the individual Gold medal in the Grade II Freestyles was Dr. Angelika Trabert (GER), who rode Michaela Brähler's Hessan mare Ariva-Avanti to a brilliant score of 75.900%. The Silver medal was awarded to Gert Bolmer (NED) aboard Triumph, his 14-year-old Belgain Warmblood gelding. The pair performed a lovely test to pick up a score of 75.850%. Picking up the Bronze medal for Great Britain were Jo Pitt and Robert and Hazel Pitt's Estralita. Estrelita, an 8-year-old gelding, had a smooth and solid test to earn a score of 74.950%.
The Grade Ib riders also rode their freestyles today, however no Americans competed in that division.
Lee Pearson (GBR) showed once again why he is widely regarded as one of the top para-dressage riders in the world as he took home the Gold Medal with a massive score of 82.500%. Riding his own and David Pearson's Gentleman, Pearson treated the spectators to a brilliant freestyle.
"My horse warmed up a dream," Pearson said. "But when I got in the ring he dropped a bit behind my leg. I had to ride every movement! I was a bit surprised when I saw the scores. I didn't think I rode that well."
Taking home the Silver medal was the final rider of the day. Stinna Tange Kaastrup (DEN) rode Heidi Kaastrup's 14-year-old gelding Labbenhus Snoevs brilliantly to receive a score of 77.000%. Katja Karjalianen (FIN) and her KWPN mare Rosie turned in a smooth and steady test to earn a score of 72.850%. The pair was awarded the Bronze medal.
The FEI World Para Dressage Championships wrap up tomorrow with the Grade IV freestyles where the U.S. will be represented by four riders. Jennifer Baker, Robin Brueckmann, Mary Jordan and Susan Treabess will be the final riders to compete for the U.S. The medals for all of the freestyles will be awarded at the conclusion of the Grade IV freestyles.
Photos: Jonathan Wentz, earlier in the week; Rebecca Hart, earlier in the week. Photos by Shannon Brinkman for USEF.