June 5, 2014 -- The USEF Para-Equestrian Dressage National Championship came to a close on Thursday at the USET Foundation Headquarters in Gladstone, N.J., with Rebecca Hart claiming her sixth National Title in a competition that was widely regarded as the most competitive the sport has ever seen in the United States.
The day began under overcast and rainy skies, ultimately clearing at the lunch break to finish out the 2014 event with much more pleasant weather. All 24 entries performed their Freestyles, to earn the remaining 20% of their championship score, in front of the Ground Jury of Adrienne Pot, David Schmutz, and Kristi Wysocki.
"The caliber of riding has gone through the roof," said Wysocki of the 2014 National Champion field. "It was very exciting to judge because our riders are so good."
Hart (Unionville, Pa.) and her own Schroeter's Romani, who she has only been riding since November of 2013 after purchasing the mare in Europe, closed out the week scoring 76.917 for her Freestyle to finish on a championship score of 74.642. The two-time Paralympian rode the 11-year-old Danish Warmblood to her familiar "Classical Gas" melody, increasing the level of difficulty by adding lateral moments.
"When I first rode her, I knew she was very special," said the Grade II rider of Schroeter's Romani. "She was really willing to work with me, and her body and my body worked right away, and mentally we were right in sync."
Hart, who has enjoyed seeing the sport of para-equestrian dressage grow in the United States,believes that all the riders in the program are inspiring each other to reach new competitive heights.
"I think that pressure is always there," said Hart of her quest to capture her sixth National Championship. "To see the growth (in the sport in the U.S.) from where it was when I first started is amazing. The pressure is always there, but that is a good thing."
Earning the USEF Para-Equestrian Dressage National Reserve Championship were Margaret McIntosh and Rio Rio on a score off 71.582. The former eventer and her own eight-year-old Rheindlander mare performed an up-tempo Freestyle set to music from "The King and I" to score 73.500 in the final Grade 1A test of the week.
"I came here with very few expectations and I'm very satisfied with my horse," said an excited McIntosh. "She is a little green, but she was great all week and I'm very happy."
Finishing the championship in third place were Roxanne Trunnell (Rowlett, Texas) and her own 19-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare, Nice Touch, on a total of 71.582, after winning the Grade 1A Freestyle with a score of 74.
In Grade IV competition, Susan Treabess (Winters, Calif.) and Kathryn Hill's nine-year-old PRE stallion, Kamiakin, completed a sweep of their division, winning the Freestyle with a score of 73.500 and winning the Grade IV National Championship on 71.128. Angela Peavy (Avon, Conn.) was the overall winner of Grade III competition, finishing on an overall total of 70.442 with Rebecca Reno's 12-year-old Hanoverian gelding, Lancelot Warrior. Peavy also won Thursday's Freestyle with her other horse, Rebecca Reno's 8-year-old Trakehner gelding, Ozzy Cooper, on a score of 74.333. Hart was the overall victor in the Grade II Championship and Freestyle with Schroeter's Romani. In Grade 1B, Sydney Collier (Ann Arbor, Mich.) won the overall competition with Patricia Mclean Mendenhall's six-year-old Mecklenburg gelding, NTEC Cuplee, on a total of 71.389. They also won the Freestyle on a score of 74.167. McIntosh won the overall Grade 1A championship, while Trunnell won the Freestyle.
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