Grass Lake, Mich. – The 2016 USEF Para-Equestrian Dressage National Championships sponsored by Deloitte and the Selection Event for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games began Friday with competitors performing the FEI Team Test, the first of three tests in the competition. In the National Division, the field of five is led by Grade Ib athlete Laurietta Oakleaf with Niekele fan Busenitz. Currently topping the High Performance Division is Grade Ia athlete Roxanne Trunnell and Royal Dancer. Friday’s Team Test will account for 40% of the overall championship totals. Saturday will feature the Individual Test, which contribute another 40% towards the competitors overall scores. The remaining 20% will be earned in Sunday’s Freestyle Test.
High Performance Division
Trunnell (Rowlett, Texas) and Julia Handt’s 2005 Westphalian gelding, Royal Dancer, earned the highest score of the day across all Grades with a 72.754%. Trunnell entered the arena with confidence and performed a fluid test highlighted by solid medium walks.
Following closely behind in second were Kate Shoemaker (Peoria, Ariz.) and Solitaer 40, Craig Kate and Denna Shoemaker’s 2007 Hanoverian stallion, on a score of 72.193% in the Grade III Team Test. The pair presented a lovely picture and earned high marks for its medium and working trot work.
Finishing third overall with a score of 71.667% in the Grade Ib Team Test was Sydney Collier (Ann Arbor, Mich.) and her own Wentworth, a 2003 Hanoverian gelding.
Oakleaf (Malvern, Pa.) took a commanding lead in the National Division with a score of 68.200%, nearly five percentage points ahead of the rest of the field. Riding her own and Laura McGinnis’ 2004 Friesian stallion, Niekele fan Busenitz or ‘Nikki’, Oakleaf produced an energetic and accurate test on day one of competition.
“Today we focused on what we have been working on at home, which is to relax and encourage Nikki to lengthen his neck, which is not always easy since he is a Friesian,” said Oakleaf. “Our free walks were really good and our geometry is getting better. Tomorrow we will work a bit more on our circles and bending. This whole thing [competing at the National Championships] is an honor for me. I wouldn’t be here without the generous contributions of all my sponsors and supporters.”
Sitting in second place overall is a relative newcomer to the sport, Riley Garrett (Chester Springs, Pa.). Garrett, a Grade II athlete, rode Kai Handt’s 2002 Warmblood mare, Cappi, in her first National Championship appearance to a score of 63.971%.
Mary Jordan (Wells, Maine) and Rubicon 75 round out the top three in close contention on the overall leaderboard with Garrett on a score of 63.611% in the Grade IV Team Test.
U.S. Paralympic Dressage Team selection rankings will be based on 50% of a combination’s overall performance in the Selection Event and 50% on the combined overall score from its best two CPEDI3* events taking place January 1, 2015 – May 16, 2016. The selection procedures also include discretionary criteria. Of the 11 athletes competing this weekend, nine will look to secure a position on the four-member 2016 U.S. Paralympic Dressage Team. All nominations to the 2016 U.S. Paralympic Dressage Team are subject to approval by the United States Olympic Committee and the USEF. Para-dressage competition at the Paralympic Games takes place September 11-16, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Visit horseshowoffice.com for class schedules, ride times, and results.
The USEF International High Performance Programs are generously supported by the USET Foundation, USOC, and USEF Sponsors and Members.