Hartpury, England- Rebecca Hart and Schroeter's Romani continue to succeed on their whirlwind European tour, proving nothing will stand in their way on the road to the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. The duo gave it their all to finish third Friday in the Grade II Freestyle at the CPEDI3* Hartpury Festival of Dressage in England with a score of 73.95 percent. Hart will conclude her successful visit to England with top ribbons in each test: a team test score of 72.706 percent for the win on the opening day, and the individual test score of 71.409 percent earning her a strong second as the first to ride down the center line.
Hart narrowly missed the blue on the final day for the Freestyle, which was won by two-time Para-Olympic gold medalist Natasha Baker with a score of 75.600 percent. "It is very exciting to end our European tour with such great results, more than I ever could have hoped for," Hart described. "To hear our national anthem played the opening day was a dream that I have always had, come true. To have it played in England, at Hartpury, made it that much more special. It is the first time I have ever heard it in European competition, and it is such a huge honor to have my horse rise to the occasion for me. It was really nice for me to give back to the people who have supported me; it was nice to be able to share that moment with them. There has been a really nice progression to have everything come into fruition from January during the CPEDI in Wellington to now."
Hart and Romani recently broke their personal records, riding to their first European scores over 70 percent at the CPEDI3* Überherrn 2015. Hart just came off of a trio of top finishes during the Mulhouse CPEDI3* in France two weeks prior to her exceptional rides in Germany. She admitted that she is feeling more confident than ever before with Schroeter's Romani, the international competition, as well as the venues and atmosphere.
"I found it very interesting that Becca, over the three competitions, got better and better. The more challenging the competitions and the better the horses, the better she performed and she earned higher scores," trainer Todd Flettrich said. "Their success is accredited to both of them performing as a team. Romani is a fantastic horse, she has a wonderful demeanor with quality gaits. They have overcome their weaknesses, and the feeling that Becca has with the mare truly shows, therefore they shine. I think she really stood out among all those other horses in England with their harmony and their rapport."
The Hartpury Festival of Dressage marked the final leg of Hart and Romani's European campaign, and the duo will return to the United States to continue competing on the road to Rio. Flettrich commented, "I am proud of Becca and the mare, both of them are fantastic. To have won in Great Britain, or anywhere, against a gold medalist is a wonderful feat. We were the only other anthem played during the awards ceremony on the opening day. The first day is the most difficult day because of your nerves and settling into the environment. For me, to win the first day is the most important. I was extremely proud. I wasn't proud just because she won. Becca made all the corrections we talked about to improve the test. Our goal is Rio, we still have room for improvement, but she is getting better and better every day-it is a journey."
Hart would like to thank her generous sponsors, donors and owners who helped her finance the European-tour. She gives all credit to those supporters, especially Margaret Duprey and Cherry Knoll Farm, Sycamore Station Equine Division, Barbara Summer, the Ruffolos, and Will and Sandy Kimmel, all part-owners of Romani, attributing her success at the events, at an international competition of such high-caliber and with a horse that understands Hart's rare progressive genetic disease, Familial Spastic Paraplegia (FSP), would not be possible without them. "I want to give a big thank you to Todd [Flettrich] for holding my hand through everything, as well as Hannah Hassinger for always making Romani look the best she can," Hart concluded.
Hart's name is a familiar one in the dressage sphere, earning the title of National U.S. Paralympic Champion in 2006, 2008, 2009, and 2010. She competed last year at the World Equestrian Games for the United States Equestrian Team, and has also shown in two Paralympics for the USA. She now has her sights set on the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. Hart returns to the United States on Tuesday, where she and Romani will be based out of Wellington, Fla. They will prepare for the Nationals at the end of Septemeber in Texas and then return to Florida for the final two qualifiers for Rio in January.
For more information on Rebecca Hart and Cherry Knoll Farm, please visit www.cherryknollfarminc.com.