September 17, 2011--The top Para-Equestrian Dressage competitors in the U.S. produced quality performances on the third and final day of the 2011 USEF Para-Equestrian Dressage National Championships. With the standings incredibly close after the first two days of competition, the top spot was up for the taking as riders across the five different grades vied to be crowned the National Champion. All para-equestrian riders performed the Individual Championship Test in their respective grade (athletes are graded based on the severity of their disability). These scores counted for the remaining 40% of the Championship score (Friday's Team Test counted for 40%; the Freestyle performed Saturday was worth 20% of the cumulative score).
Jonathan Wentz and NTEC Richter Scale emerged with the top-placing score after executing a smooth test in Grade 1b competition. Wentz (Richardson, TX) and Kai Handt's consistent gelding demonstrated a powerful medium trot and solid transitions to earn a 71.812% in the Individual Championship Test. Wentz knew he would need to produce a flawless test to claim the National Championship.
"Going into to today we knew one mistake would cost us the competition," he said. "So the goal was no mistakes."
The 20-year-old was able to do just that as he finished with a Championship score of 71.531. Wentz, who has been riding NTEC Richter Scale for two years, including representing the U.S. at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, has had his sights set on representing the U.S. at the London Paralympics since he was 12 years old. He believes this weekend's performance has set him up perfectly to achieve this goal.
"This weekend was great in preparing me for the pressure of next year," Wentz said.
Finishing just .3 points behind Wentz in the Championship was Dale Dedrick and her own Bonifatus. Dedrick (Ann Arbor, MI) demonstrated an accurate Grade II Individual Test which was highlighted by stellar turns on the haunches and lovely tours in both the walk and trot, earning them a 72.063%.
The pair finished on an overall Championship score of 71.223. This was the first Para-Equestrian National Championship for Dedrick and only the eighth horse show for her 13-year-old gelding. Dedrick was thrilled with how Bonifatus handled the competition and improved throughout the weekend.
"The tests got better each day as the horse got more accustomed to the horse show," she said. "He settled more each day. We've had great rides." On collecting Reserve Champion honors the former Grand Prix competitor continued, "I hoped I'd do well, I just never thought I'd do this well."
Rebecca Hart (Eerie, PA) rode Jessica Ransehousen's Lord Ludger to third place in the 2011 USEF Para-Equestrian Dressage National Championships, finishing with a score of 67.89 after scoring 68.492% in Sunday's Grade II Individual Test. The 2010 National Champion is forming a new partnership with the lovely gelding after the retirement of Norteassa (her mount at the 2008 Paralympics and 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games).
"I was really, really happy with him. It's a new partnership," Hart said. "I'm really happy with how it went; we learned what we have to work on."
The future of Para-Equestrian Dressage looks bright as both Hart and Wentz are under 28 years old and already have vast Championship experience. For Wentz, being crowned 2011 National Champion was especially meaningful as he has watched Hart, his teammate on the Kentucky Equine Research U.S. Para-Equestrian Dressage Team at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, collect the honor on numerous occasions.
"This is great. I grew up watching Becca, so this is really amazing."
Competition in the Saugerties CPEDI3* which ran in conjunction with the 2011 USEF Para-Equestrian Dressage National Championships also came to a close Sunday with the Individual Championship Tests in each grade. In Grade 1a competition, Canada's Jody Schloss and Inspector Rebus took top honors with a score of 68.417%. Wentz and NTEC Richter not only topped the National Championship but also swept the Grade 1b competition after posting a 71.812% in the Individual Test; they also won the Team and Freestyle Tests. Reserve National Champion Dale Dedrick topped Sunday's Grade II competition.
Saturday's Freestyle winner in Grade III, Erin Alberda and Pavalina, proved victorious again today scoring 67.056% in their Individual Championship Test. Ireland's James Dwyer had a clean sweep of the Grade IV CPEDI competition after posting a 69.624% today with Orlando.
The U.S. took a step forward in qualifying for the 2012 Paralympic Games in London by collecting the winners spoils in the FEI Team Competition at the Saugerties CPEDI3*. The U.S. team composed of Wentz, Hart, Mary Jordan riding Sebastian, and Wendy Fryke and Lateran, topped Canada.