Saugerties, NY - A blast of autumn greeted riders on the second day of 2011 USEF Para-Equestrian Dressage National Championships as temperatures dropped to near 40 degrees overnight. The cool weather did not stop the best Para-Equestrian competitors in the U.S. from achieving strong scores in their Freestyles. Competitors from the five different grades (athletes are graded based on the severity of their disability) of Para-Equestrian Dressage are vying for the National Championship title.
Jonathan Wentz, a member of the Kentucky Equine Research U.S. Para-Equestrian Dressage Team at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, heads the field in the National Championship with his WEG partner, NTEC Richter Scale.
Wentz (Richardson, TX), who has two rides in the Grade 1b division, used the experience he gained last year in Kentucky. He rode his coach Kai Handt's NTEC Richter Scale to a score of 71.515% in Friday's Team Test, which counts for 40% of the overall score, and produced an eye-catching Freestyle today to score 71%. Wentz will try to maintain his lead tomorrow's finale, the Individual Test.
Wentz found that his experience at last year's WEG has served him well: "You know what the judges are looking for," he said. "At WEG I learned how to fight for it and read the judges' sheets and work on what they were looking for."
In the Freestyle test which counts for 20% of the cumulative score, Wentz demonstrated smooth transitions and increased the degree of difficulty within the test by riding shoulder-in and intricate figures. The free-flowing test was only hampered by a bobble in the walk.
"Richter was great, he performed absolutely how I was hoping he would. The mistake was mine in the free walk."
Close on Wentz's heels in the National Championship is former Orthopedic Surgeon Dale Dedrick. Dedrick, of Ann Arbor, MI, scored a 70.079% in the Team Test and rode her own Bonifatus to a 71.833% in the Freestyle in the Grade II division. 2011 marks the first year Dedrick has contested this Championship but she defied her experience with today's performance. Her freestyle included half-pass and simple changes across the centerline.
Dedrick is very excited with her performance in both the Team and Freestyle test, as she had never considered coming to the USEF Para-Equestrian Dressage National Championships prior to this year.
"I'm stunned. This is the first time I even thought about it." Dedrick is enjoying her inaugural National Championships. "The facility is great, the competition is great. Everyone has been so nice. I'm so glad we came."
Occupying third place in these Championships is the reigning Champion from 2010, Rebecca Hart. This year Hart rides Lord Ludger in Grade II, the pair scored 65.317% on Friday and posted the joint highest score (along with Dedrick) of all the Freestyles today a 71.833%.
International competition is also taking place in Grades 1a-IV as these Championships are held in concurrently with Saugerties CPEDI3*. In Grade 1a competition Donna Ponessa has topped both the Team and Freestyle Tests. On Friday she scored 66.765% on Otto and topped the Freestyle on Western Rose with a 68.5%. The scores Wentz and NTEC Richter have produced to lead the National Championship have also been the highest in the Grade 1b division. In Grade II competition, Dedrick topped the Team Test and rode to an equal 71.833% with Hart in the Freestyle. However, Hart will collect the blue ribbon for Saturday's test as the tie is broken by collective marks, for which the 2010 National Champion scored higher.
Teammates on the Kentucky Equine Research U.S. Para-Equestrian Dressage Team at the 2010 WEG, Wendy Fryke and Erin Alberda have topped the two Grade III Tests. Fryke rode Lateran to top honors on Friday scoring 66.728%, while Alberda and Pavalina won the Freestyle with a 69.333%. Ireland's James Dwyer and Orlando have been victorious in both Grade IV tests scoring 69.271% and 73.667% in the Team Test and Freestyle respectively.
Heading into the third and final day of the USEF Para-Equestrian Dressage National Championships all is to play for as the horse-and-rider combinations will contest the Individual Championship Test in their respective Grade which will account for the remaining 40% of their cumulative score.
For more information and results from the NEDA Fall Festival, visit http://neda.org/FallFestival-Home.html.
For more information on the USEF Para-Equestrian Program, visit http://usef.org/_IFrames/breedsDisciplines/discipline/allpara.aspx.