Wellington, FL - Competition at the second CPEDI 3* of the season at the Adequan® Global Dressage Festival (AGDF) concluded with Team USA maintaining their control of the leaderboard, winning their second consecutive team CPEDI 3* victory at Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC). This week's CPEDI 3*, presented by Mane Stream courtesy of Rowan O'Riley, Mission Control, Adequan®, and Nutrena, hosted competitors from the United States and Canada as they prepare for the 2016 Paralympic Games.
Team USA continued their dominance and earned their second team victory in CPEDI 3* competition at AGDF this week, as Roxanne Trunnell, Margaret McIntosh, Rebecca Hart and Annie Peavy each contributed to the superb overall performance by Team USA.
Roxanne Trunnell and NTEC Royal Dancer, owned by Julia Handt, led Team USA in the FEI Para Dressage Grade 1a competition, scoring a 71.449% in team competition, followed by a score of 69.27% in individual competition hosted on Saturday. Margaret McIntosh and her own Rio Rio also represented Team USA in FEI Para-Dressage Grade 1a competition, receiving a 69.275% in team competition and a 68.478% for the individual portion of the week. Angela Peavy, the youngest member of Team USA, earned a 68.816% and 69.106% aboard Lancelot Warrior, owned by Heather Blitz and Rebecca Reno. Team leader Rebecca Hart and Schroeter's Romani, who have showcased their incredible consistency through the two weeks of competition, earned a 72.108% on Friday morning, followed by a 73.048% in individual competition the following day.
Rebecca Hart earned her high point rider accolades for the second week in a row, as she added a score of 75.250% in the FEI Para Freestyle Grade II test to her weekend tally, making her a strong candidate for selection in the coming months to represent Team USA in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
"I was very happy with my freestyle today. It's the second time we've gone through it, and we have new music for her. We hit all of the music points the way that I wanted to and for the entire weekend I just am thrilled with our relationship and how the trust has built from where we were two years ago to where we are now," commented Hart. "It's been a remarkable improvement just in our relationship. Todd Flettrich, my trainer, has really helped us create that."
"We're going to look to get a little bit more power, harmony, and flow over the next few months, but also just keep doing what we're doing. The motto that we have is, 'Same job, different sandbox,'" she continued. "We're going to keep the change of no stirrups. It's been huge for us. I had a huge leg spasm coming down the centerline and I felt like I couldn't use my body at all, but she took over and had my back."
Kai Handt, U.S. Para-Equestrian Dressage Chef d'Equipe, noted the positive feedback from the panel of judges throughout the week of competition that recognized the improvements seen across the board from each of the team riders.
"I think this week has shown that our team can show their horses under all circumstances. I think our top six horses that we have competing right now we're really not fazed by anything this weekend," noted Handt. "I think typically we'd like some of the scores a point or two higher, but with the circumstances, they each really rode all of the horses. The horses and athletes were consistent and I think the team comes together really well. They all work together and support each other."
The week was full of unpredictable weather, which ultimately proved to benefit the team, according to a number of the riders and Handt, as it provided an opportunity for the combinations to experience adversity in the ring, a quality each team ride will need to be comfortable with before looking towards the Paralympic Games.
"The wild weather this weekend was definitely to Rio's advantage," noted McIntosh, who's mare Rio Rio can be a bit too settled in the ring. "She's just so relaxed that sometimes she needs that atmosphere going on to take it to the next level for a really good test. I felt like today was a culmination of all of that. She felt great in the ring and she was awake, paying attention. Thanks to Missy and Jessica Ransehousen for all of their hard work with her."
This is the second team competition for Hart, Peavy, and Trunnell this season, as each of the three represented Team USA in the first CPEDI 3* hosted at AGDF two weeks ago. Peavy, who has made steady progress with her mount Lancelot Warrior, will focus on maintaining and enhancing the partnership between the two over the course of the next few months before the tedious selection process begins.
"The freestyle is something we fixed since the last show. The movements went better with the music, and I was really happy about that," commented Trunnell. "Just being able to ride Royal has solidified our relationship, and we're going to keep working on that."
"My horse and I have a much better connection now than what we had last summer in Europe and even at the end of the year in Texas. We're growing together and he gives me confidence when I need it and I can now give him confidence when he needs it," said Peavy. "I think what we need is to keep going down the centerline and improving on what the judges are critiquing and growing together."
Sydney Collier, a staple for Team USA, finished a superb weekend collecting personal bests aboard her new mount Western Rose. Collier, who is preparing to make a run at the U.S. Para-Equestrian team with one of her three mounts, feels the development of Western Rose, owned by Wesley Dunham, is truly exciting.
"We haven't had a whole lot of time yet to work together on our partnership, but every day that I get to work with her, I feel so lucky. I think she really enjoys being a Para horse," said Collier. "I feel very lucky to be working with such a talented partner."
"I have three horses that I'm riding every day now and of course I have different goals with each of them. I have a lot of things that I'd like to work on with Rosie since we've been together for the shortest period of time and I'm looking forward to building our partnership more and more. The differences that we've made in the past two weeks, I've been continually impressed with how she steps up to the plate," elaborated Collier.
What was once a struggle for Team USA is no more, as the scores for each of the team representatives as well as Collier were incredibly consistent throughout the weekend. Handt noted that unofficially the U.S. Para-Dressage team is currently ranked fourth in the world and that should be a major confidence boost looking into the next few months.
"I think we have the consistency piece down. I think we're getting consistently to the scores they should ride. The only thing we can improve at this point are the little things and riding from a seven to an eight or an eight to a nine are just minor adjustments," noted Handt. "They're riding correctly, performing the movements correctly, and are understanding what is being asked of the test. The key with para-dressage is precision, especially with the lower grades. I think we'll work on the preparations to fine tune the rides now before selection trials."
During the awards ceremony, Mark Bellissimo, managing partner of the Wellington Equestrian Partners, announced that the organization would give $10,000 to both Team USA and Team Canada in an effort to help them on their journey towards Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Paralympic Games.
"It is truly inspiring to watch these athletes continue to do what they love every day and witness firsthand their ability to overcome adversity. We are hopeful that our donation can provide some additional support to these great athletes from both the U.S. and Canadian Para-Equestrian teams as they pursue their passion and look to represent their respective countries in Paralympic competition later this summer," noted Bellissimo. "We are looking forward to continuing and expanding our relationship with the Para-Equestrian community here at PBIEC and AGDF for years to come."
"It will help us a lot. Money is obviously a big struggle in this business, and this will be a huge help. It will offset some of the financial burden of actually traveling to the Games," noted Handt.
"The donation that we received today was completely out of the blue, but absolutely incredible for this program," said Canadian Chef d'Equipe, Elizabeth Robinson. "We appreciate the fact that it was for both teams, and it just makes it so special. That $10,000 will help us tremendously. We have a lot of issues right now because we have to find a horse for Ashley, we have to fly around everywhere all over the world to compete. There's no competition in Canada, and we have to come here. We will be spending the money very wisely, but it will also give our riders a chance to have help from the federation."
Ashley Gowanlock was the highest placing Canadian rider throughout the competition, and commented on her three final rides aboard Ferdonia 2, owned by Lauren Barwick, who will now officially be retired from competition.
"This was Fergie's last international competition. It was icing on the cake for us and really the final hurrah. Today she really put her dancing shoes on for the last time. She knew it and went in and did her best. It was so fun, and we had a great time," noted Gowanlock. "She's the most willing and sweetest horse in the world. She just always picked up the slack and it was always a 'I have you, and you have me' mentality which got us so far."
Gowanlock will look for a new mount as the selection season heats up, and it will be important to find the right mount that can handle the competition atmosphere of an electric international ring.
"It will be solidifying the relationship with that new partner and getting down the centerline as many times as possible," she explained. "When you're in the big atmosphere of Rio, hopefully if I'm selected, you know who's with you, what's underneath of you and what you can switch on down the centerline. That's your five minutes of glory that you work so hard for."
Linda Dietz, President of the Board of Directors for Mane Stream, said, "It's important to us to support this show because this is what we do. We offer equine-assisted physical, occupational and speech therapy. We're one of the oldest therapeutic riding centers in the country, and we've been around for nearly 42 years. We think that it is inspirational for our riders, and we would love to see some of our riders on this team as well. We couldn't have done this without the help of Rowan O'Riley."
Rebecca Reno, representative for Mission Control, walked away from the competition impressed with the determination and perseverance of the Para-Dressage riders this week.
"Our athletes are tough and don't complain. They rode in the covered (arena), in the wind, in the rain and there was no complaining from a single rider. I know that everyone works so hard at home, but wow," commented Reno. "That is a mental attitude. That is, 'I'm going to get on and ride my horse and not let what's going on impact the outcome,' and I think that's why they're so successful. We've been so pleased and even though the weather wasn't the best, this solidified for us why this has been so amazing."
Sophie Ghedin (USA) concluded a banner week of competition in her first CPEDI 3* aboard her own Remy Martin G by winning the first two classes in the FEI Para-Dressage Grade IV division on Friday and Saturday. Ghedin, who has owned Remy for nearly 10 years, is looking forward to gaining more experience with the Para-Dressage tests and confirming the Intermediaire I movements, dispersed through the FEI Para Grade IV tests.
"I'm so thrilled with our performance today, and I couldn't have been more impressed with the other riders. The weather and wind was a bit tricky as my horse already has nerves in the competition ring, but I thought we handled it beautifully and I couldn't have asked for more from him," said Ghedin. "I thought our extensions were great and were really a highlight for me today because we've been working on consistency. I felt like we are moving in the right direction."
Competition at AGDF continues on Wednesday, January 27, with AGDF 3 CDI-W, presented by the U.S. PRE Association. To see a full list of results and complete seasonal schedule, please visit www.globaldressagefestival.com.
Photo Credit: ©SusanJStickle.
About the Adequan Global Dressage Festival:
The Adequan Global Dressage Festival (AGDF) is one of the world's largest international and national dressage circuits featuring 7 FEI Dressage events, including a 5* and the only FEI Nations' Cup Series CDIO in the Western Hemisphere. The AGDF offers more than $700,000 in prize money for the seven international competitions, making it one of the richest circuits in the world. The Stadium at Palm Beach International Equestrian Center facility includes the Van Kampen covered arena (made possible by Kimberly and Frederic Boyer and family) and four outdoor arenas with world-class footing, 200 permanent stalls, and a VIP seating area.