Wellington, FL - The United States was well-represented at the CPEDI3* presented by Mane Stream courtesy of Rowan O'Riley, Mission Control, Adequan®, and Nutrena, at the Adequan® Global Dressage Festival (AGDF) grounds at Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC) thanks to a spectacular showcase of talent from Para-Dressage athletes from all areas of the country. The United States finished atop the team phase of the competition, earned by consistent rides from Roxanne Trunnell, Kate Shoemaker, Rebecca Hart, and Angela Peavy. Rebecca Hart (USA) finished the competition as the highest scoring rider, never receiving below a score of 73.095% for each of her three rides aboard Schroeter's Romani. Competition continues at the Adequan® Global Dressage Festival this week, beginning on Thursday, January. The next CPEDI 3* at AGDF will begin on Friday, January 22.
Team USA Chef d'Equipe Kai Handt was very pleased with the results seen across the board for his team of riders throughout the three days of competition. Handt noted that he feels each of his riders are heading in the right direction as they continue fine-tuning their riding and precision moving into the spring season.
"I think this was a great opportunity for the team to show in the big arena at this facility, which obviously preps both the horses and riders for future competitions at this type of venue," commented Handt. "I think our riders were a bit nervous the first day, but the scores just got better and better each day, and by the freestyle portion I think everyone was on their best game. Everyone did a great job today."
"Right now we just want to continue with our momentum. This has been a two-and-a-half year project getting this team to where it is. We've changed a lot, including rules and qualifications, to get to the point where we are now, producing more competitive athletes. It's really panning out for us and we're hoping that this team will be peaking by the time we're heading to the Paralympic Games this summer," he continued.
Rebecca Hart has been the backbone of the Para-Dressage team for a number of years and showcased her consistency aboard Schroeter's Romani throughout the CPEDI3*. The duo will focus on continuing to gain experience without stirrups, a relatively new adjustment for Hart and Schroeter's Romani. The combination impressed on each day of competition, offering a sneak peek of what is to come for Team USA.
"I'd like to thank the amazing sponsors that have helped to put together these two shows in January, which will serve as our last qualifying events. We would have been in a tight spot for the Paralympic Games without them," noted Hart. "I think it was a huge honor for athletes to be put in the limelight in the Global International Ring, which hasn't always been the case for Para-Dressage in the U.S. and I think it's a great step forward for the whole sport."
"I think it was good to be able to show like we were the big guys out there," added Trunnell, who competed NTEC Royal Dancer, a 2005 Westphalian gelding owned by Julia Handt, in the FEI Para-Dressage 1a division throughout the weekend.
All of the team riders repeated a similar sentiment, stating that competition in large venue atmospheres is what Team USA will need before beginning preparation for the Paralympic Games selections. Angela Peavy, who represented the U.S. as an individual rider at the 2014 FEI World Equestrian Games (WEG) in Caen, France, elaborated on the importance of gaining such valuable competition experience.
"It's always a great experience when you feel like you're on a more even level with able-bodied riders and it felt like a European CPEDI. Competing in an environment like this always helps to conquer show nerves when you go to competitions like this in Europe, WEG, or the Paralympic Games. It helps you to feel more confident," elaborated Peavy.
Rowan O'Riley of Mane Stream and Rebecca Reno of Mission Control were both on hand to discuss their motivation for sponsorship at such an event, a cause near and dear to both of their hearts.
"The easy answer would be to say that it's because my daughter (Angela Peavy) rides, but that would not be the true reason. These individuals are amazing athletes and when Equestrian Sport Productions allowed us to be part of the Adequan® Global Dressage Festival this year, it was too good of an opportunity to pass up. Our goal will always be to provide the same experience that you can get in Europe here at this facility," explained Reno. "For me, sponsoring was a no-brainer. We know that the athletes work tremendously hard, the horses work hard, and they all deserve to be at competitions like this. It's truly fun to be a part of."
Mane Stream, a therapeutic and adaptive riding program in New Jersey for both children and adults, was proud to be be a leading sponsor of the event. Mane Stream's representative, Rowan O'Riley, explained, "It's important for Mane Stream to support Para-Dressage competitions because it's an aspiration for all riders to see what hard work, skill, and quality training can produce in an international show arena."
Many of the team riders traveled at great lengths to be a part of the first CPEDI3* at AGDF this season. Kate Shoemaker and her mounts Dachstein and Solitaer 40, both made the long 2,700-mile trek from Eagle, Idaho, to be a part of the competition.
"We got here on Wednesday and rode once. We just went into the arena and showed and that's how you go to big shows. It's just what you do and I was incredibly happy to perform the way we did," she noted.
Margaret McIntosh, who earned reserve high point honors behind Rebecca Hart, competed as an individual throughout the competition and was pleased with the progress of her nine-year-old mare aptly named, Rio Rio. The duo earned scores of 72.754%, 72.899%, and 73.917% respectively, to finish one of their best career competitions together. "She typically is very relaxed on the ground and in the show arena, but I was really delighted today to have a little bit more zip going on," she laughed. "I believe that the atmosphere here contributed a lot at the beginning of the competition, but it served as a great opportunity for people to learn how to deal with that added atmosphere that you find more often in Europe."
The Adequan® Global Dressage Festival is proud to host and support the dreams of Para-Dressage athletes from across North America. Both competition and facility management look forward to hosting Para-Dressage competitions in the future at the PBIEC venue. "Thank you to the riders, owners, grooms officials, and sponsors for a wonderful week of competition. I think without the sponsors we could not have done what we accomplished this week and what we're looking forward to doing it again in two weeks time," said Thomas Baur, Director of Sport for the Adequan® Global Dressage Festival.
Kristi Wysocki, President of the FEI Ground Jury for this week's CPEDI3*, was also impressed with the riding of both team and individual riders at the first CPEDI 3* of the season, commenting on the progress she has seen within the Team USA program over the past four years. "I got involved in this sport four years ago when some of these riders were just getting involved as well. I think that they've earned their place in the arena this week and they proved that," she explained. "It was exciting to see because it is a world-class arena and also a very daunting one at that. They all came in and owned their 8-minutes and I think with a couple of weeks to work on precision, sevens will move up to eights, and those low mid-70 scores will be even higher. It's very exciting."
CPEDI3* competition will continue at AGDF on Friday, January 22, and will conclude on Sunday, January 24. The Adequan® Global Dressage Festival will begin this week with a CDI-W competition. For more information on AGDF and to see a full list of results, as well as a weekly schedule, please visit www.globaldressagefestival.com.