The United States Dressage Federation (USDF) announcement of the new Adequan®/USDF Para-Dressage Rider of the Year Awards, starting in the 2016 competition year, reflects the steady growth of the U.S. program steered by the United States Para-Equestrian Association (USPEA), the USEF affiliate in conjunction with USDF.
This year, for the first time Para-Dressage will be a part of the North American Junior and Young Rider Championships and while several Para riders have traveled overseas to compete as individuals in recent years, this summer three U.S. riders: Rebecca Hart, Paralympian (2008, 2012), two-time World Equestrian Games (2010, 2014), six-time USEF Para-Equestrian Dressage National Champion Grade II; Angela Peavy, World Equestrian Games (2014), USEF Para-Equestrian Dressage National Champion Grade III and newcomer Deborah Stanitski are riding as a team to further gain international mileage and ranking.
The significance of inclusion in the Adequan®/USDF awards roster cannot be understated. This serves to promote the parallel message that mirrors the FEI’s inclusion of Para-Dressage at the World Equestrian Games level, where it is viewed as simply another facet of sport.
"This is very exciting for Para-dressage in the United States. Not only will it give recognition to the riders, but it will bring awareness to the sport overall. I hope that it helps facilitate more riders, owners, trainers and coaches getting involved,” says Susan Treabess of Winters, CA, who competed as a member of Team USA at the debut of Para-Dressage at the 2010 World Equestrian Games (WEG) and again at the 2014 WEG in Normandy. “Thank you so much to the people at USDF and USEF who made this happen as well as Allyn Mann and Adequan® for their generous support of U.S. Para-dressage throughout the years."
Dale Dedrick of Ann Arbor, MI, represented the U.S. at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London and believes these awards will encourage more riders at all levels to show locally both for their own benefit and experience but also to increase our pool of riders. “This is a big step forward and should have a major impact on Para participation at local USEF/USDF competitions,” notes Dedrick who competed able-bodied up to Grand Prix before a stroke and Lupus diagnosis.
“Previously, although competing and paying membership fees, most riders focused more on being Para riders than dressage competitors in the competition category of Para. Having these Adequan® sponsored awards means Para riders are effectively ‘mainstreamed,’ and makes dressage an inclusive sport. It’s a needed and welcome change of paradigm.”
“At Luitpold Animal Health, the makers of Adequan® (Polysulfated Glycosaminoglycan), we have supported the Dressage community for the past ten years aligning ourselves with the United States Dressage Federation and the year-end awards,” stated Allyn Mann, Director of the Animal Health Division. “How wonderful for Para-Dressage to receive a long awaited opportunity to be included in these awards. I have personally been involved with a number of the Para athletes and am constantly amazed by their commitment and dedication to the sport. It is exciting that for the first time this year, Para-Dressage will be part of the Adequan® North American Junior Young Rider Championships. The future is bright for this sport and we are excited to be on the journey with so many wonderful people and their amazing horses.”
Champions and reserve champions at each grade level Ia, Ib, II, III, and IV, will receive a plaque, to be awarded annually, at the Salute Gala and Annual Awards Banquet during the Adequan®/USDF Annual Convention. The top three finishers in each grade level will also be recognized in the yearbook issue of USDF Connection.
For Utah-based rider, Lara Oles who is aiming for the 2016 Paralympic Games in Brail, the awards are a tangible way to further Para awareness. “I want to personally thank USDF and Adequan® for creating end-of-year recognition awards for Para-Dressage. These awards are exciting in so many ways: they will help spread the word about Para-Dressage to the rest of the horse community; help legitimize Para sport in the United States as it is in Europe; and help encourage disabled riders like me who face many challenges in our quest to be competitive in the sport of dressage.“
Building bridges between Para-Dressage and able-bodied has long the passion of USPEA President Hope Hand who welcomes the recognition as another positive step forward. "The USPEA is excited to help promote the new Adequan®/USDF Para-Dressage Rider of the Year Awards. USPEA encourages everyone to compete, volunteer, and support show management for providing more opportunities for Para-Dressage."
Horses transform all riders but Para-Dressage truly demonstrates an added dimension of communication and trust between horse and rider. In the competition arena, only ability is judged. Changing our perception of limits is very motivating and powerful. Beyond any plaque, these awards are meaningful in celebrating not only our shared love of the horse and sport but the strength and richness found in diversity. Thank you USDF and Adequan® for acknowledging the dedication and determination of all riders equally.