Greenwich, UK - The United States spent much of Monday on the edge of their seats as riders produced top class performances throughout the day at the 2012 Paralympic Games. American riders came within slim margins of vaulting themselves onto the medal podium as they earned their best scores of the week. Both Rebecca Hart and Jonathan Wentz rode their best tests of the Games to jump to the top of the leaderboard, then saw their totals eclipsed by the final rides in their divisions. Both finished their respective Freestyle Championships in fifth place.
Hart (Unionville, PA) entered the main arena on Monday morning with redemption on her mind. The Grade II competitor was determined to earn higher marks then she had in the Individual Test, a performance she had higher expectations for then her 11th place finish. In the Freestyle Test, 27-year-old Hart was able to get the effort she wanted out of Jessica Ransehousen's Lord Ludger. The Oldenburg gelding produced a flowing and active Freestyle, which had an added degree of difficulty by including lateral work to score 73.250%.
Hart was very pleased with her test and the final picture she left for the Ground Jury of Kjell Myhre, Sarah Rodger, Gudrun Hofinga, Freddy Leyman, and Anne Prain.
"It feels great; considering we had some problems in the Individual Championship Test," said Hart. "So it was nice to go in there and remedy some of those and just to leave that impression with the judges at the end of the competition was nice."
The pair performed to the music of "Classical Gas" which suited the rangy gelding very well. Hart also incorporated feedback she has received from the last two tests to up their scores today.
"We thought it [the music] suited the horse; it was calm enough but increased his performance by not getting him too excited," said Hart. "I know the Freestyle well, I love riding the Freestyle. We did take a look at what they [the judges] had to say and we did try to ride to that. The honest fact was that we needed to get the walk freer and more animated, so we tried to do that."
Dale Dedrick (Ann Arbor, MI) also represented the United States in Grade II competition, finishing in 10th place with her own Bonifatius. In Thursday's Team Test the 14-year-old Hanoverian gelding was quite unsettled in the Greenwich Park atmosphere. However competing in their third test on Monday the pair was the picture of quiet confidence.
They rode a fluid Freestyle set the music of "Kitten of the Keys" scoring 69.150%. Like her teammate Dedrick also increased the difficulty of the test by including lateral work.
"I was delighted. It's lovely music and it makes it easy for me to just relax and let the horse trot to the music," said Dedrick of her Freestyle. "I think he likes it too."
Great Britain's Natasha Baker scored her second Individual Gold medal of these Games with Cabral. Germany took Silver and Bronze respectively with Britta Napel and Aquilina 3 and Angelika Trabert and Ariva-Avanti .
Wentz (Richardson, TX) entered the main arena Monday afternoon with great determination riding Kai Handt's NTEC Richter Scale. The pair set the tone immediately with their bold entrance and kept their energy up in a test that included leg-yields and earned them a 73%. The music which was an homage to music from World War II movies perfectly suited the 18-year-Shire cross gelding.
Wentz was very pleased he was able to remedy some of the issues he experienced earlier in the week.
"The first couple days I dug myself some holes, with some rider errors. But today was absolutely the best performance I could have asked for from my horse," said Wentz. "The way my horse performed, the way I was able to learn from mistakes the first days to put in the test we had today, really makes me happy."
It was an emotional day for the Grade 1b competitor as it was his final appearance with NTEC Richter Scale, a horse that has carried him to his first World Championships, Paralympic Games and National Championship. These games turned out to be a fitting end to their storied career.
"My horse was out of this world today, he's been out of this world this entire time and it's been going great," Wentz paid tribute to not only NTEC Richter Scale but to all the horses at the Paralympic Games.
"The horses give us their all every day, especially with the Paralympic horses and the Paralympic riders it takes a special kind of horse to learn what's going on with the disabilities. So all the horses that are here this week are saints and they all deserve applause."
Pepo Puch of Austria claimed the Gold medal with Fine Feeling, while Finland's Katja Karjalainen and Rosie earned Silver and Great Britain's Lee Pearson and Gentleman won the Bronze medal.
Donna Ponessa (New Windsor, NY) will be the final U.S. competitor of the 2012 Paralympic Games tomorrow afternoon in Grade 1a competition.