Paralympic Equestrian Dressage gets Underway at 2016 Rio Paralympics

Photo: Lindsay Y. McCall

Sunday, September 11 began the Paralympic Equestrian Dressage competition at the 2016 Rio Paralympics. Grade III classification riders were first to ride the team test, which included United States team member Angela “Annie” Peavy from Avon, CT, riding Becky Reno and Heather Blitz’s Lancelot Warrior. Peavy was last to go in the class and rode a very strong test finishing with a 68.974%, placing them 6th in the class and leaving them in a top position to contest an individual medal.

Annie’s coach Heather Blitz said, “Our much anticipated start in the games has gone well. Annie rode with a clear, competitive and winning attitude and had one of her best tests ever. We hope to make the individual round on Wednesday just as good but with a touch more power. All of our horses are well and the facility has been quite nice!” Leading the Grade III’s was Norway’s Ann Catherin Lubbe on Donatello with a 72.237%, following her was the Netherland’s Sanne Voets on Demantur with a 70.316%.

The afternoon session belonged to the Grade IB riders. United States rider Sydney Collier of Ann Arbor, MI, the youngest Paralympic Equestrian, made her debut with Wesley Dunham’s Western Rose. The relatively new partnership put forth a consistent test, earning a 66.440%, to finish inside the group’s top 10. 

Sydney’s trainer, Dunham commented, “I was pleased with the accuracy of her test, however looking forward to the individual test we will be showing more impulsion to allow this pair to really shine.” Leading the Grade IB’s was Great Britain’s individual rider Lee Pearson on Zion with the highest score of the day, a 75.280%. Following Pearson was his rival from the London Paralympics, Pepo Puch riding Fontainenoir, with a score of 74.000%.

Photo: Lindsay Y. McCall

Margaret “Gigi” McIntosh from Reading, PA, made her Paralympic team and major championship debut at in the Grade IA division with her aptly named mare Rio Rio. The pair acquitted themselves well, finishing on a 68.087% for 19th place. Roxanne Trunnell of Rowlett, Texas, also made her Paralympic debut representing the United States as an individual with Rachel Zent and Julia Handt’s Royal Dancer and scoring a 69.348% for 14th place. 

Roxanne commented, “Royal felt amazing during the test. I couldn’t help but smile during it. He was so forward and marching in his walk and I was thrilled with his freewalk. I’ve been working on letting the reins go more which is a weird feeling for me since with my previous mount Touché you always had to keep hold of her, but I’m getting better about it. Overall it was a fantastic first Paralympic showing. I couldn’t bring cookies with me but I snagged him some apples and I was sure to give him one after that lovely test.” 

Winning the Grade IA individual test was Great Britain’s Sophie Christiansen riding Athene Lindebjerg to a 77.522%. Her teammate Anne Dunham followed her into second place on Ljt Lucas Normark with a score of 73.975%.

The Grade IV division, which did not have any representation from the United States, was won by Belgium’s Michele George with her 2012 Paralympic gold medal partner Fbw Rainman on a score of 75.286%. The second place finisher was Great Britain team member Sophie Wells riding Valerius to a 74.405%. 

Photo: Lindsay Y. McCall

On the third day of Para Dressage competition, the United States finally got to see their anchor rider, Rebecca Hart of Wellington, FL head down the centerline to ride the Grade II team test. Hart did not disappoint and rode Margaret Duprey and Cherry Knoll Farm’s Schroeter’s Romani to USA’s highest placing of 5th and highest percentage of 69.914%. Winning the class was Great Britain’s Natasha Baker riding Cabral to a score of 71.882%. Following in a close second was the Netherland’s Demi Vermeulen riding Burberry for a score of 71.824%. 

In the afternoon session, the Grade III division competed for medals riding the individual championship test. United States team member Peavy rode Lancelot Warrior to an 8th place finish on a score of 68.585%. 

Annie stated, “I have to first mention my horse Lance, he never fails to help me. I entered the arena today with confidence. I am pleased with our relationship and want to thank my support group, which is big, my parents, Heather Blitz, Alex Philpin, my fellow teammates and our team chef, Kai Handt. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the wonderful support the entire team received from the United States Equestrian Federation it is an honor to ride for the United States.”

Winning the individual gold was Norway’s Lubbe riding Donatello with a score of 72.878%. Earning silver was Denmark’s Susanne Sunesen riding Que Faire to a score of 72.171% Rounding out the medal podium was Louise Etzner Jakobsson and Zernard winning bronze with a score of 70.366%.

Photo: Lindsay Y. McCall

The competition continued Wednesday with the Grade IB division riding their individual championship test for a chance at a medal. Collier and Western Rose improved on their team test placing, ending up 7th with a 67.665%.

Collier commented, “I am so happy and proud of my ride today. I can’t stop smiling. My mare Rosie was a superstar and we had a top 7 finish. Seeing my name up on the jumbotron made me so emotional and I can’t wait to see what amazing things I have coming up in my future. Overall it’s just an honor to be here in Rio competing with the best of the best and representing our country.”

Winning the gold medal in Grade IB was Austria’s Puch riding Fontainenoir to a score of 75.103%. In silver medal position was Great Britain’s Pearson riding Zion for a score of 74.103%. In the bronze medal position was Denmark’s Stinna Kaastrup riding Smarties to a score of 73.897%.

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