U.S riders punch their ticket for the Paralympics in Rio

By Nancy Jaffer
January 24, 2016

Rebecca Hart and Schroeter’s Romani topped the standings in Para-Dressage competition held at the Adquan Global Dressage Festival. (Photo by Lindsay McCall)
While everyone in the North was complaining about the monster blizzard, Wellington, Fla., had its own share of bad weather this weekend. Classes at the Winter Equestrian Festival and the Adequan Global Dressage Festival were called off Friday due to a torrential storm–with the exception of the Para-Dressage FEI 3-star competition, which was held in the Van Kampen covered arena as rain pounded the roof.

It was a crucial test, because victory by the U.S. would enable the country to take part in this summer’s Paralympic Games, which will be held following the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

While it’s hard enough under favorable conditions to ride with that kind of pressure, first the rain, and then Saturday’s high winds, made the task even more difficult as the Para classes that were the final qualifier for Rio continued.

As if that weren’t sufficiently difficult, the team’s high-scorer, Rebecca Hart, faced another challenge. While she and her horse, Schroeter’s Romani, were in the International Arena performing their Grade II test, a car accident down the street from the AGDF was so bad a medi-vac helicopter had to be called to the scene. Can you imagine riding a dressage test while a helicopter was flying over the arena and then landing?

But it didn’t faze Becca or her mount.

“She didn’t even notice it. She handled it beautifully. She trotted into the ring like a complete professional and really carried me through the entire test,” said Becca of Romani.

Although she has scored higher in the past, Becca noted, “For me, it was a very special test. When we originally got her, she could be slightly reactive. Just to know that she trusts me to that extent now was a very special moment for me. It was wonderful for the qualifying for Rio. She could have totally used it as an excuse, but she went in and did her job.”

Although Becca’s mark of 73.048 percent was the highest on Saturday, she emphasized that she wasn’t in it alone.

“I had a fantastic group of ladies that were on the team with me. It was nice to be able to share that experience with them.There was a lot of pressure, but there also was a lot of camaraderie there. We just kind of went and handled the weather and the ring and the wind. We knew we needed to do our job.”

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someonePrint this pageShare on LinkedInPin on PinterestShare on Google+