Lexington, KY - It was a chilly morning at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, but the sun quickly warmed the air as the Grade III and Grade Ia Para-Equestrian athletes were ready to wow the crowds with their individual freestyle tests. This was the first group of freestyle tests for the Para-Dressage riders, with the individual and team tests having been performed earlier in the week.
The Grade III riders were the first to ride of the day and the Kentucky Equine Research U.S. Para-Equestrian Dressage Team had two riders competing in that grade. The first to ride for the U.S. was by Erin Alberda of Woodinville, IL, who rode her own Delectari. Delectari is a 12-year-old Swedish Warmblood gelding by Kronprinz.
Alberda rode quietly and smoothly, and coupled with expressive gaits from Delectari, the pair received a solid score of 65.100% from the judges. That would leave them in 9th individually after their final test of the competition.
"I love riding my freestyle!" Alberda said after her ride. "The music is just so fun and I think he has a lot of fun riding to it. We made mistakes, but it's good to go and have a freestyle that's a little more light hearted in this type of competition."
Alberda, who started out riding in hunters and jumpers before the onset of her disability, has been instrumental in bringing Delectari along to be competitive at the top level of her sport.
"I've had him for about two and a half years," she said. "We bought him as a fairly green horse. He was going about Training Level when we got him. With the help of my trainer, we brought him up to be competing at this level. So hopefully he's got a bright future ahead of him as well."
The other American competing in the Grade III Freestyle today was Wendy Fryke of Parker, CO. Fryke rode her and Michael Fryke's 13-year-old German Riding Pony bred Westphalian stallion Lateran, by Lukas. The pair turned in a flashy test to earn a score of 65.600% from the judges, putting them into eighth at the end of the day.
This is the first major international competition for the pair, and Fryke is very pleased with how Lateran, who stands just 14.2 hands, has handled the atmosphere.
"This is the first time we've ever done anything of this caliber," she said. "In the ten months I've had him, we've gone from learning to ride him at home, to learning to ride him at smaller shows, and then coming to the World Games. I'm really pleased with the fortitude that he's shown. He really feeds off the energy of the people, so I think as the crowds increase, he gets a little more pumped up."
Fryke is also well versed in the different disciplines of riding, and is still looking forward to trying those she hasn't yet experienced.
"I started in a hunter/jumper barn, and then I moved to doing low level eventing," she said. "The eventing dressage brought me to this program. I've never done saddle seat, and I've never sat on a reining horse, but never say never!"
Taking home the Gold in the Grade III Freestyles is Hennelore Brenner (GER) aboard her Hanoverian mare, Women of the World. The Pair received a score of 79.200%. In the Silver medal position is Annika Lykke Dalskov (DEN) with a score of 75.400%. Dalskov rode Kaj Olesen's Trakehner stallion Preussen Wind, who is a half brother to the great Moorlands Totilas. Finally, KWPN gelding Applewoon Odorado, and Sharon Jarvis (AUS) took home the Bronze with a score of 74.700%.
The Grade Ia riders also performed their Freestyle tests today. The Kentucky Equine Research U.S. Para-Equestrian Dressage team was represented by two riders in the Grade Ia Freestyle Final.
First in the ring for the United States was Kim Decker of Centreville, VA and Paul and Donna Decker's Dasher's Destiny, a 16-year-old Hanoverian gelding by Diwan. Dasher's Destiny marched boldly and consistently around the arena under Decker's guidance. The pair impressed the judges to receive a score of 64.300%, putting them in 11th place after the final day of competition for the Grade Ia grade.
"I loved just getting to do it," she said. "I didn't make any mistakes. I like listening to the music.
Decker, a former hunter/jumper rider, has only been riding her horse for a few years, but they have come a long way together. An experienced dressage horse, Dasher's Destiny was just what Decker was looking for.
"I've only had him for two or three years," said Decker. "But he's great. He's a sweetie. I found him on the internet...on Dreamhorse.com. He does everything that I ask of him. He's just sweet and lovable. He's very attentive to me. He the perfect match."
Laura Goldman of Highland Heights, OH rode Trudy Phillips' adorable skewbald Carlingford JD in the Grade Ia class. Carlingford JD, an 11-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding, was right at home in the arena and his even temperament even allowed Goldman to add some trot work to her freestyle. Unfortunately, Goldman lost both her stirrups and missed a movement, so the score she received was a 63.550%; still solid enough for a 12th place finish.
"I just kept going," Goldman said of losing her irons. "I didn't fall off and that was my goal! I'm just glad I stayed on. I did what I could."
Although Goldman is competing at the World Equestrian Games, she has been only riding dressage for less than a year.
"I'm really pretty new at this," she said. "I started in maybe May really working. Before I just did therapeutic riding."
Taking home the individual Gold Medal in the Grade Ia Freestyle is Emma Sheardown (GBR) and her own Purdy's Dream with a whopping score of 78.550%. Sophie Christansen, also of Great Britain, was awarded the Silver medal for her ride on Rivaldo of Berkeley (by Rubenstein I), which scored 77.850%. Completing the British sweep of the individual medals was Anne Dunham aboard Sally-Ann Brown's Teddy with a score of 74.800%.
Photo: Laura Goldman and Carlingford JD. Photo by Shannon Brinkman for USEF.