The WEG Para-Dressage competition wrapped up today with the freestyles. I was delighted to see that Roxanne Trunnell and Nice Touch made it through to the Grade Ia freestyle this morning by finishing eighth yesterday in the individual test with an impressive score of 69.435%. I had been given to understand that only the top seven would move onto the freestyle, but the start lists today revealed that eight Grade Ia and nine Grade Ib competitors got to dance for the judges today. The Para rules use a formula that allows the top third of the total field to start in the freestyle, so I am assuming that’s the reason there were varying numbers of competitors in each grade today.
Rebecca Hart and Schroeter’s Romani were the second pair in the ring for the Grade II freestyle this morning. I really enjoyed her Celtic music by David Arkenstone. It was bright, lively and suited her horse. As with her other tests, Rebecca’s ride had plenty of impulsion and expression. Toward the end of the freestyle Schroeter’s Romani seemed to become a bit overwhelmed by the atmosphere. She was obedient, but some of the harmony was lost, which would have cost Rebecca some points. Her score of 65.4% put her in seventh place.
The Grade Ia freestyle followed a bit later in the morning, and Roxanne Trunnell was first in the ring. Nice Touch has an excellent walk and there were many lovely moments in the ride. Unfortunately, Roxanne failed to show the required 20-meter of medium walk on center line, which was very costly. She received a zero for the movement, and was also penalized in the artistic marks for the omission. Her final score of 62.4% left her in seventh place. Had she not had missed that one movement, Roxanne would have scored considerably higher.
At the 2010 WEG in Lexington, the U.S. Para-Dressage team finished seventh. While the team finished in 11th place here in Normandy, the actual scores reflect a more optimistic picture looking ahead to the future. The U.S. team’s scores overall were higher at this WEG, and the team total (407.042) represents a rise of around 2.25% (398.066). My observation from the media tribune was that the caliber of competition is improving across the board in Para-Dressage. The horses that are earning medals have very good basic gaits, and they are being ridden in a way that would make them winners in able-bodied dressage anywhere in the world.
I think it’s also worth noting that the nations on the podium in dressage two days ago (Germany gold, Great Britain silver, the Netherlands bronze) are the same three nations that won the team Para medals. Canada’s Para- Dressage team coach Andrea Taylor told me yesterday that she believed the Canadian team’s time competing in Europe has been instrumental in helping athletes like Lauren Barwick (who won individual Grade II bronze and freestyle silver this week) prepare to compete at the WEG. Of course money is always a deciding factor when a team looks to its next major championship; but if the resources are there it may be time for the US to include Europe in its travel plans as we look ahead to the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro two years from now.