U.S. Paralympic Equestrian Team Faces Challenges Greater Than Their Physical Ones - Funding Needed For the Trip to Hong Kong

The Equestrian Paralympic Team got a good start in its fundraising campaign during the Lamplight CDI*** when Stephen Cooper, co-owner of Lamplight Equestrian Center in Wayne, Illinois, host of the CDI, made the first donation. Cooper made his feelings quite clear regarding the Paralympic riders when he said, "I just love having the Para equestrians at Lamplight and I hope we can keep them coming back!”

When Jessica Ransehousen spoke to the crowd during Saturday evening’s Freestyle portion of the Selection Trials, she made a plea for support. So Cooper, on behalf of Lamplight, immediately put up a $5,000 matching funds challenge to help fund the trip to Hong Kong. Cooper hopes that by offering this challenge for matching funds the American dressage community will give help where it is needed and deserved. This is a start to help them reach a goal of $50,000 needed to supplement the funds already provided by the USOC.

Though earning a spot on the U.S. team is difficult enough, coming up with the money to actually compete at the Paralympics is even more challenging. "Taking a team is very expensive. You have the five riders and five horses and then you need a veterinarian and a coach. But, we also need personal caregivers for a few riders who are in wheelchairs. They need help on and off the horses and with some other tasks in their lives. There are a lot of additional costs," said Pam Lane, the USEF's International High Performance Director for Para-Equestrian and Vaulting.

"While we do receive some funding from the USOC, it is not enough to adequately cover the costs of preparing and sending the team and support staff to Hong Kong for the Paralympics. We are encouraging people to please help our efforts by making a contribution."

The Para Equestrian competition of the Paralympic Games is for riders with disabilities. The horses and riders who qualified this past weekend at the Paralympic Selection Trials at Lamplight will go on to compete in the 2008 Paralympic Games in Hong Kong in September.

Eight riders qualified for the final selection trials and are in the running for the team. Some of them qualified with more than one horse.

U.S. Equestrian Federation has announced the five riders who will represent the U.S. at the 2008 Paralympics, but the campaign to raise funds to get those riders to Hong Kong has already begun. The selections follow on the heels of the USEF National Para Equestrian Championships and the USEF Selection Trials for the 2008 U.S. Paralympic Team-Equestrian, which were held during the Lamplight CDI***.Team has been announced:

The combinations are as follows (listed alphabetically):
Robin Brueckmann, of Summerfield, North Carolina with Radetzky
Barbara Grassmyer, of Placerville, California with Mibis
Rebecca Hart, of Erie, Pennsylvania, with Norteassa
Keith Newerla, of King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, with Walk on the Moon
Lynn Seidemann, of Coppell, Texas, with Toltein

Considering that the Olympics had historically honored the amateur athlete, the Paralympians most certainly deserve support. "There's not really an opportunity for them to be trainers. So, they can't really earn a living with horses. They are truly, truly amateurs," Lane said.

The Paralympians are also a tremendously dedicated group of equestrians. The time and effort they must put into their riding far surpasses that of their able-bodied counterparts. "Nothing is easy for them," Lane said. "If you are in a wheelchair and you go to the barn, it takes more time to ride and you need all this help."

Most Paralympians also have careers. Hence, participating in the 2008 Paralympics will require a long break from work. Lane said that between the quarantine time in Aachen, the travel time and the Games themselves, riders will need to be away from home and jobs for at least a month. "They're gone a long time," she said.

Please send your contribution to the USET Foundation earmarked for Para-Equestrian.
USET Foundation - PO Box 355 - Gladstone, NJ 07934, www.uset.org or call 908-234-1251. Please specify Para-equestrian when making your contribution.

For more information and how you can become a part of this effort contact Pam Lane
International High Performance Director, ParaEquestrian & Vaulting
United States Equestrian Federation, Inc.
Rt 512, P.O. Box 83 - Gladstone, NJ 07934
Phone: (908) 326-1153
Fax: (908) 234-9417