The sun has finally decided to stick around for longer than a few minutes between downpours, which means we can really enjoy the beautiful setting of the WEG Para-Dressage. The Prairie Racecourse is in a valley right in the heart of Caen, but it feels like we are in a lovely country setting. The stadium has no bad seats, and even though the spectator turn out has been modest this week, the freestyles – which get under way tomorrow morning – are sold out.
There are a number of reasons I enjoy the Para-Dressage experience, not least of which is the fact that this is one heck of a strong, hard working bunch of athletes. But what makes me really enjoy hanging around with the Para-Dressage athletes is that their team spirit is not limited by national borders. I needed to talk to Canadian Lauren Barwick this afternoon (because she won the bronze medal in the Grade II Individual today—go Canada!).
Lauren was sitting between a couple of other Canadians and several members of the US team. Para-Dressage is more like eventing than dressage in that respect. Everyone wants everyone to have a good day. There is certainly rivalry and competitive spirit, but the sense of rooting for one another is a rare blessing in equestrian sport—one that I always find with the Para-Equestrian crowd.
There are extensive U.S. Team results from the second team round and individual final, so I’ll save space by simply listing them here:
Sydney Collier and Willi Wesley: ninth place in Grade Ib – 68.103%
Rebecca Hart and Schroeter’s Romani: seventh place in Grade II – 67.486%
Angela Peavy and Ozzy Cooper (individual): 17th place in Grade III – 63.561%
Susan Treabess and Kamiakin: 16th place in Grade IV – 60.667%
Roxanne Trunnell and Nice Touch will perform their Grade Ia Individual test at 6:29 this evening, and fortunately for them the weather is looking just lovely: sunny but not hot, and a nice soft breeze.
For the first time in World Championship Para-Equestrian Dressage, there is a limit to the number of riders who will perform their freestyles tomorrow. Only the top seven placed individuals from each grade in the Individual test will proceed to the freestyle for the third and final set of Para-Dressage medals. Rebecca Hart will dance down centre line tomorrow morning, as the Grade II freestyle is scheduled to be the first to go. I’ll be here to cheer her on. I’m also hoping to get a chance to cheer on Roxanne Trunnell, who finished eighth in the team test two days ago. If she can improve on that result in her test tonight, she will also get to ride her freestyle.
The limit on the number of riders to proceed to the freestyle and the sold-out situation for tomorrow’s freestyles are signs that Para-Dressage is gaining momentum, both in terms of spectator interest and in the caliber of competition. I’m disappointed for the U.S. riders who will not have the opportunity to ride in the freestyle, but the U.S. team here in Normandy is a young one. I have no doubt that the experience gained here will be put to full use as these riders set their sights on the next big goal: Rio 2016.