(USPEA by Lindsay McCall) – Katy, TX – Once again the Houston Dressage Society (HDS) hosted an exceptional CPEDI3*Saturday. For United States individuals, it was the last international competition to qualify for the 2012 USEF Paralympics Selection Trials. Under Ring One at the Great Southwest Equestrian Center Para-Equestrians from the United States and Canada competed under the watchful eye of judges Kathy Amos-Jacob(FRA), Kristi Wysocki (USA), and Carlos Lopes (POR). The HDS Spring Classic CPEDI3* will continue through Sunday, April 29 and is sponsored by The COR Group. With the Team Test on Friday and the Individual Test completed on Saturday, Para-Dressage riders will be able to relax and enjoy their Freestyle Tests on Sunday.
In addition to the CPEDI3*, the HDS Spring Classic I & II CDI3*and CDI1*, sponsored by North Texas Equestrian Center, continues through the weekend in addition to the $10,000 HDS Dressage Derby. Earning the top score of the day and sweeping the Grade Ia division was Donna Ponessa (New Windsor, NY) and Dr. Michele Miles’ horse Silvano. In Grade Ib, Jonathan Wentz (Wylie, TX) showed two horses to consistent results. Canadian Lauren Barwick (Reddick, FL) once again grabbed the Grade II high score, while Wendy Fryke (Parker, CO) and Lateran claimed Grade III. In Grade IV Jennifer Baker (Loveland, OH) and Rondo Del Rey, owned by Kathy Jones, claimed the top position.
On Friday United States rider Donna Ponessa earned a 69.706% for her Team Test performance. Although she was happy with her ride Donna wanted more. Saturday morning became all about business and earning a 70%. She noted, “I knew after Friday’s test there were items I needed to work on including making his tempo more even and letting him carry himself without interfering.” Donna’s perseverance paid off when she earned a 74.585% on her Individual Test with Silvano. “Silvano is a very sensitive and obedient horse,” smiled Donna. “So if I change my balance or place too much weight on one seat bone Silvano feels that. So Saturday was all about being as a light as possible and it worked.”
Donna’s trainer Wes Dunham agreed, “I was ecstatic to see Donna knock down those scores like that. We took a look at Friday’s scores and comments and built on the positive comments and we took the items we didn’t like and focused on correcting those in the warm-up ring, it was amazing! I am really amazed at the competitive and tough side of Donna’s personality and it has been a great experience seeing her rewarded for her dedication to this sport.”
Wes continued, “This partnership is astounding. I had an inkling when we tried the horse a month ago and we realized we were right on with that impression that this horse and Donna would work well together. I am grateful for the guidance of Kai Handt in helping us to make that choice, Jonathan Wentz for allowing us to share this spectacular horse, and for Dr. Michele Miles who has generously let us borrow Silvano. In addition, we would not be here if it wasn’t for Sue and Kevin Niblo and Donna’s sponsors and support.”
On Sunday Donna will perform her first Freestyle with Silvano. “The Freestyle Test is my absolute favorite,” disclosed Ponessa. I look forward to the freestyle because I think it will showcase Silvano’s athleticism and elegance in the walk. I am also looking forward to getting to know Silvano more and enjoy riding him when the pressure is off.”
2012 has been a banner year for the United States Para-Equestrians. It has been a year of growth not only from the number of riders but the number of horses, spectators, sponsors, and support. Donna explained, “We are knocking on the door for earning a Team medal. In many disabled sports the Europeans seem to lead the pack. I think that people are now taking notice of the United States Team and we are definitely a force to be reckoned with. What is most important is receiving support even if it is just showing up to watch our discipline.”
Prior to the 2008 Beijing Paralympics Chef d’Equipe Missy Ransehousen was looking for an Assistant Coach for the United States Paralympics Team. Sharon Schneidman accepted the opportunity to “pay-it-forward” and support and coach the Para-Equestrian Team. She noted, “My husband Grant and I have had some of the most wonderful years competing in Dressage and Eventing. Over the years, so many people stepped forward to support Eventing and to be able to give back as a coach for the Para-Equestrian discipline has been rewarding.”
After Hong Kong Sharon was selected for the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games and will continue accompany the team to the 2012 London Paralympics. Sharon is also an accomplished rider competing through FEI Grand Prix Level. Her husband, Grant was part of the USET Three-Day team for 18 years and is both a USDF Gold and Silver Medal. When not traveling around the United States with the Para-Equestrian Team Sharon heads home to Elizabeth, CO where she and Grant run their dressage training service, Westmanton Stables LLC. With her location not far from Wendy Fryke, Sharon has helped Wendy develop as a high-level dressage rider and Para-Equestrian Team member.
Wendy Fryke (Parker, CO) and Lateran enhanced their scores from Friday’s Team Test finishing with a 65.833%.”Since the Saugerties CPEDI3* Lateran and I took a little time off and then started back in to work focusing on consistent connection, explained Fryke. “Under tutelage of Sharon Schneidman, Nicole Glusenkamp, and lessons with Grant Schneidman I have been using as many assets as possible. Currently I have been switching Lateran from a double bridle to a snaffle. I decided to ride in the snaffle for Saturday’s Individual Test because on Friday I was having a problem getting him to go forward on my aids. The snaffle made Lateran more forward, more consistent in his rhythm, but a little less consistent with his contact. The Para-Equestrian tests can be challenging for us because there are a lot of built-in walk transitions. In the able-bodied tests it’s more about going forward so I had to work on really finding those slower gaits and making them consistent. However, Lateran’s best gaits are his medium and extended gaits. While working at home I like to include technical requirements that keep him excited to work. The most important thing for me is to have a horse that keeps his enthusiasm, is a happy horse, and is a healthy horse.”
After the Houston CPEDI3* Wendy will work on additional lateral work to genuinely connect Lateran through the shoulder. She will also continue to work her way to her USDF Silver Medal showing through 4th Level this year.
Following Donna Ponessa’s win in Grade Ia was the talented Canadian rider Jody Schloss and Inspector Rebus. In preparation for London Schloss has traveled from New York, to Florida, and on to Texas with her trusty horse Inspector Rebus. As a top Para-Equestrian Schloss is looking forward to the chance of being selected to represent her country. Olympian Courtney King-Dye improved from Friday’s Team Test. With Andrea Hart’s Mecklenburger, Nicolai, Courtney earned her qualifying scores for the 2012 Paralympics Selection Trials.
Grade Ib Para-Equestrian Jonathan Wentz (Wylie, TX) is also looking forward to competing at the 2012 Selection Trials. Over the past few years Jonathan has accomplished many goals. As a 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games U.S. Team member, the 2011 USEF Para-Equestrian Dressage National Champion, and ranked among the 10th in the world, Jonathan continues to achieve the highest accolades in his sport. Wentz noted, “Without the support I have received from my family, Kai Handt, Rachel Zent, North Texas Equestrian Center, and generous owners like Dr. Michele Miles, I would not have been able to accomplish these dreams. I look forward to Gladstone and I am excited for the United States.”
Grade II Canadian Lauren Barwick and Four-Star Parelli Professional continued to top her division. Following for second was Kim Jones (Georgetown, SC) andMadoc Dylan, owned by Nancy Hinz of Yellow Rose Dressage. Behind Jones followed Sydney Collier and Nicolai, owned by Andrea Hart, and Barbara Adside aboard NTEC Manchada, owned by Kai Handt. Kim Jones remarked, “I want to thank Nancy Hinz for letting me borrow her Welsh Palomino. I also want to thank the my coaches Missy Ransehousen, Sharon Schneideman, and Walter Zettle. Lastly, I would like to thank Lori Northrup and Rob and Kathy Marshall who made contributions to me for my journey.
In Grade IV, Jennifer Baker (Loveland, OH) and Rondo Del Rey, owned by Kathy Jones, increased their scores and solidified their relationship. Baker commented, “I was really happy with my partnership with him during the Individual Test. It has been 10 days and today I figured out how to make our partnership more solid. Part of the change includes not being so nervous and trusting him. Rondo is a great horse that has excellent high-level technical movements, and a wonderful attitude. I want to thank Kathleen Jones for loaning me Rondo, Susan Shiba who is the trainer of Rondo, and the entire horse show. I also would like to thank Hope Hand for getting me to come back to the show ring and to my boyfriend who sold multiple items so I could travel to Texas.”
When Baker is not showing she works at an equine facility that specializes in equine rehab. Baker enjoys bringing back sport horses in dressage, show jumping, and hunters from injuries such as suspensory problems. Finishing the Grade IV division was Iana Gonzalez. This was Iana’s first horse show as a Para-Equestrian. “I am so grateful for my supporter Raul Armendariz who has provided both of these horses. He believed in me as a rider and I cannot thank him enough for his generosity.
Sunday, April 28 will be the final day and Freestyle Test competition for the Houston Dressage Society Spring Classic I & II CPEDI3* sponsored by The COR Group. United States Para-Equestrians that have earned their qualifying score for the 2012 USEF Paralympics Selection Trials will head to Gladstone, New Jersey for the Selection Trials and USEF Para-Equestrian Dressage National Championship scheduled for June 10-13, 2012.
Photo Courtesy of USPEA by Lindsay McCall – Donna Ponessa and Silvano
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