August 31st, 2012 -- Donna Ponessa (West Windsor, N.Y.) had a long time to wait before she was able to make her debut at the 2012 Paralympic Games. But she made it worth the wait as she piloted Wes Dunham's Western Rose to a score of 70.235% in front of the Ground Jury of Kjell Myhre, Sarah Rodger, Gudrun Hofinga, Freddy Leyman and Anne Prain.
Riding in Grade 1a competition, Ponessa produced a steady, rhythmic test with the 9-year-old Oldenburg mare to earn fifth place. Western Rose is well known for her free walk and did not disappoint today producing high marks for the movement. Ponessa was also proud of her improved serpentine but knows what she will be working on in the coming days.
"Our free walks are our favorite part of the tests," said Ponessa. "I feel finally that she was listening and we got the serpentine down. I still feel I need to get more forward; more with her on our centerlines. If she doesn't have enough forward there is too much wiggle. I was so pleased when I hit A and I looked and I saw the bend of her neck and I could feel her body following."
Ponessa, a former wheelchair tennis player, was the sole U.S. representative on Friday and did her best to use the extra day to settle in to the competition.
"Having to wait yesterday allowed me to think of this more as home. I had a little bit of an advantage that I could just be a spectator yesterday, with that advantage to settle in and convince myself it was just another show," said Ponessa. "I have to admit today the wait was a little much; then I started to feel the pressure. I was trying to find busy things to do yet I didn't really have a lot of concentration because I was ready to do it."
Friday saw three Grades of competition with British riders again topping the Grade IV and 1a tests. Sophie Wells and Pinocchio were the best of Grade IV competition with 75.906% and Sophie Christiansen scored 83.765% to top Grade 1a competition by nearly ten points. Germany's Hannelore Brenner was able to make sure that the home team did not get a clean sweep of Team Test competition topping Grade III with Women of the World on a score of 75.741%.
At the half-way point of the Team Competition the U.S. lies seventh on a score of 209.694.Team medals will be determined at the end of the Individual Test held in each grade. U.S. riders Dale Dedrick and Rebecca Hart will perform their Individual Tests in Grade II Saturday morning and Jonathan Wentz will ride in afternoon Grade 1b competition. Ponessa performs her Individual Test Sunday.
Great Britain leads the team standings following the Team Test with a score of 234.353.
Individual medals will also be up for grabs for the top finishers in the Individual Tests in their respective grade.