Stadl-Paura, Austria – The Perrigo U.S. Para Dressage Team had a successful outing this past weekend at the CPEDI3* Stadl-Paura, Austria. The team of Rebecca Hart and Floratina, Fiona Howard and Jagger, and Kate Shoemaker and Colijn turned in excellent performances to finish in a close third place behind the teams from Italy and Austria. Even with the disadvantage of having only three team members and therefore no drop score, the U.S. team earned a final team score of 431.014%, just over five points behind Italy’s 436.787%.
In CPEDI competition, the first two tests, Para Grand Prix Test A and Para Grand Prix Test B, count toward the team score. All three U.S. combinations returned for Sunday’s individual freestyle tests.
Hart (Loxahatchee, Fla.) debuted a new partner in Floratina, a 2008 Hanoverian mare owned by Chloe Gasiorowski. The new pair looked like a seasoned combination as they completed masterful tests, posting the highest scores in all three classes to win the Grade III division. Hart said she just started working with Floratina three months ago, and their partnership is off to a promising start.
“Floratina was previously ridden by Lindsey Kellock, and my friend Lauren Sprieser connected us,” said Hart. “We did a trial ride and it just felt right. My amazing horse owner and sponsor Rowan O’Riley agreed that it was a great match and enabled me to have the ride on her.”
Hart said she went into Stadl-Paura with the goal of clean and confidence-boosting rides for “Flora.” Although the mare is a veteran competitor in dressage—she was part of Canada’s gold medal-winning team from the 2019 Pan American Games with Kellock—para dressage requires an additional set of skills.
“She just switched from able-bodied to para, and because I don’t ride like an able-bodied rider—I have no ability to use my legs—she has to adapt to new and different cues,” said Hart. “I am beyond thrilled with how quickly she has figured it out. To win in our first international competition together in Europe felt amazing.
“Riding at home and riding in the competition arena can be very different experiences,” Hart continued. “She was so with me and focused the entire test. She knows her job and she wants to help you. She is so consistent and cool in the ring, which is a huge strength when you’re riding for a team. You’re not just out there for yourself; you’re out there for your country, your teammates, and everyone who has helped you get there. You want to be able to deliver, and I feel like she can do that. I’m excited to get to know her even better.”
Like Hart, Shoemaker (Wellington, Fla.) is a veteran team athlete who debuted a new mount, Colijn, at Stadl-Paura. With Fiona Howard’s 2007 KWPN gelding, Shoemaker finished second in all three tests to finish second overall in the deep Grade IV division.
Howard (Boston, Mass.) teamed up with her own 2012 Westphalian gelding, Jagger, to post scores above 70% in all three tests and finish second in the Grade II division.
U.S. Para Dressage Chef d’Equipe Michel Assouline said the Stadl-Paura outing provided a strong development opportunity for the athletes and the new horses. The good scores and team results are an encouraging sign for the future of the program.
“It was really an experimental team because Becca and Kate had new horses,” said Assouline. “We knew that we wouldn’t be super competitive because we didn’t have our top horses there, but we actually did really well. The team came in third, which was pretty good because Italy and Austria had more or less their top horses there. It’s always nice to have new horses. I’m thrilled that both Kate and Becca did well for the first time out on these horses.”
Ultimately, the plan is for Howard to take the ride on Colijn after he’s had more show mileage, and Shoemaker will return to competing with Quiana, her silver-medal-winning mount from the 2022 FEI Para Dressage World Championship. The depth of equine talent is an exciting asset for the program during the lead-up to the 2024 Paralympics in Paris.
The team now has their sights set on the CPEDI3* in Budapest, Hungary, later this month as they continue their European tour.
Watch the CPEDI3* Stadl-Paura replay on ClipMyHorse.TV.
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