Mill Spring, N.C. – The U.S. Para-Equestrian Team presented by Deloitte wrapped up the team portion of competition at the FEI World Equestrian Games™ (WEG) Tryon 2018 on Friday. Rebecca Hart and Roxanne Trunnell performed the Team Tests in their respective grades, which were added to Thursday’s team scores for an overall result of 214.940%. The U.S. placed fifth out of 14 nations, and although the U.S. did not qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics through their participation in the WEG, they posted their best team result in a world championship competition. Their effort shows the progression of the para-equestrian dressage program in the U.S. Future opportunities to qualify a team or individuals for Tokyo exist through the FEI Para-Equestrian Team Ranking Allocation List and the Para-Equestrian Regional Team Ranking Allocation List over the next two years.
“We’re not just going to bounce up [to the top] in an instant. It doesn’t work like that in sport. You have to follow your progression and implement new systems. The plans that I have built and implemented have worked as we have improved,” said US Equestrian Head of Para-Equestrian Coach Development and High Performance Consultant Michel Assouline. “We have managed to be at the top at the moment in Grade III and Grade I, which is nice because we know we have access to those medals. We have a great group of riders and more lurking in the background, so I’m very excited about the future. I’m a big believer in organization. I want to improve the strategy and the systems we have in place, and there are good coaches working by my side. I have other trade secrets and ideas to put in place for the future, and those will start being implemented soon after the [WEG].”
Chef d’Equipe Kai Handt shared similar thoughts, “We have a really good future coming up. It was a very tough team competition, not many points [separated us]. I think the team came together really well. We had a couple of bobbles today here and there, but with a little more experience and more showing, I think we can be quite competitive by Tokyo. We improved upon our team result [from 2014], had our first medal at a World Equestrian Games, and we qualified all four riders to the Freestyle, which has never been done before, so the team is really moving up. When I started as chef d’equipe, I promised to get them a medal; it took four years to do it, but they got a medal. We came through with it, the plan worked out, and it’s on an upward trend. The riders and the coaches understand what it takes to be competitive at this magnitude of a competition.”
Following Wednesday’s bronze medal win in the Grade IV FEI Individual Test, Hart (Wellington, Fla.) found the perfect balance of preparation that carried into the arena on Thursday. She and El Corona Texel, owned by Rowan O’Riley, had a minor back step during the initial halt to begin the test. However, Hart stayed relaxed, which allowed her to maintain the nine-year-old KWPN gelding’s focus. As the test continued, “Tex” increased his energy and power. This provided the means to make up points, ending with an overall score of 72.676%.
“I was really happy with the test . . . overall, he stayed right there with me. He can be a sensitive, spooky horse, and he handled himself beautifully in there,” said Hart. “We improved from [Wednesday]. I’m super excited that this was a personal best for the Team Test at the championship level. This is our first championship together, so I am pleased that we are able to keep the consistency, and I think we have an upward trend going into the future.”
Roxanne Trunnell (Rowlett, Texas) and Dolton, Kate Shoemaker’s six-year-old Hanoverian gelding, competed in the afternoon session. They completed an accurate test for an overall score of 72.464%. She credits the smooth test to the advice she received pre-ride from her trainer Andrea Woodard.
“The stretch down made me smile. We have been working really hard on that, and he’s doing it so well. I talked with my trainer and how to make [this test] more accurate and get the halt squared up. She told me that [Dolton] needed to be more up with his head and he’ll square
Para-equestrian dressage competition concludes on Saturday with the Freestyle in each Grade beginning at 9:30 a.m. ET. All U.S. Para-Equestrian Dressage Team presented by Deloitte team members have qualified to compete in their respective grades. Watch them live via the USA Para-Dressage Facebook page.
Stay up to date on the U.S. Para-Equestrian Dressage Team presented by Deloitte at WEG by following USA Para-Dressage on Facebook and US Equestrian on Twitter and Instagram, featuring a daily Instagram Story. Use #USAParaDressage and #Tryon2018.
On what makes them a great pair:
Hart: “He’s absolutely fantastic. He’s one of the kindest, most talented horses I have had the privilege to sit on. He’s quite particular about his people. He’s a little standoffish in the barn, but once he trusts you, he’s the biggest cuddle bug ever, and will look to you for support. From the first moment I met him, I actually fell on him . . . and he’s like ‘ok, I got you’, and he caught me, and we kept getting to know each other over the past year. Now I can lead him with a scooter; he’ll follow me everywhere if I tell him he’s ok. He’s a pleasure.”
On what Chef d'Equipe Kai Handt attributes to their improvement:
Handt: “It’s a culmination of a lot of things. Time management changed when I started. We have a complete new management. We have [US Equestrian Director of Sport] Will Connell who is very pro para. We have [Director of Para-Equestrian] Laureen Johnson who has done an excellent job being our team leader. We hired Michele Assouline who is very experienced para-coach and in charge of coach development. That’s probably the most important thing is all our coaches understand how to train the athletes at home. The United States is so big; we don’t have the advantage like England, Germany, and Denmark where there is a central training center. When I started in para sport, we had zero CPEDIs and now we have four, so we really pushed it a lot and have support. It takes a village to make this work, and the village is coming together now.”
The USEF International High Performance Programs are generously supported by the USET Foundation, USOC, and USEF Sponsors and Members.