Thanks to the efforts of dedicated dressage members of the New England Dressage Association (NEDA), as well as dressage communities and enthusiasts all across the country, the United States is preparing to send a para-equestrian team to the 2012 London Paralympics.
The quest for a United States *Para-Equestrian team that could compete in London began over a year ago, has not only been a fantastic journey for para-equestrians but has also been a strengthening of equestrian sports in America.
“A year ago the chances of sending a para-equestrian team to London was slim because our riders needed to have international success at CPEDI competitions and there are few CPEDI events outside of Europe. The United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) asked NEDA to run a CPEDI at our Fall Festival, which was a critical step in the push to develop an American team,” said Beth Jenkins, Show Manager of the NEDA Fall Festival.
Jenkins added that the first 2011 North American CPEDI was held in California last March and that following the two shows, a United States Para-Equestrian Team was born. “The riders went on to CPEDI events in Mexico and Australia, there riding borrowed horses, and then recently they competed in Florida, earning a berth in London” Jenkins said. “During the NEDA Fall Festival, we really saw a unity in our group as so many people came together to do things like help find mounting ramps and pre-scout the show grounds making doorways and bathrooms accessible to the wheelchair competitors.”
NEDA members are thrilled that a United States Para-Equestrian Team has become a reality, and they are equally thrilled that NEDA’s Fall Festival played a critical role in launching them. “I must say working with these folks was the best experience I have had working a NEDA event. So humbling and rewarding for me! I am glad I was a part of something so special!” said NEDA Board Member Karin Swanfeldt.
Linda Mendenhall, also a NEDA Board Member, agreed with Swanfeldt. “This is why it is such an honor to be a part of NEDA! It meant taking a financial risk, but it was the best thing to do for the greater good of our sport. Go NEDA! ” Mendenhall said.
The last Team London Paralympic ranking event in the United States was held recently at the prestigious Jim Brandon Equestrian in Wellington, Florida, and the United States Team for both weeks were comprised of Mary Jordan (Grade IV) of Wells, ME aboard Sebastian, Dale Dedrick (Grade II) from Ann Arbor, MI on Bonifatius, Rebecca Hart (Grade II) of Erie, PA aboard Lord Ludger and Jonathan Wentz (Grade Ib) who began week one with NTEC Richter Scale and week two with NTEC Jabriel. Chef D'Equipe of the United States, Missy Ransehousen was pleased with the progress that the United States Team and Individuals had over the two weeks.
“To think that we had a part in helping the United States Para-Equestrian Team come to fruition is very exciting,” Jenkins said. “I know everyone at NEDA is proud of our para-equestrian riders and we wish them the best of luck as they prepare for London.”
NEDA is the largest single chapter of the America Dressage Organization offering its members top quality educational, competitive and scholarship opportunities, as well as participation in team competitions, exhibitions and social events.
*Note: Para-Equestrian teams are graded using a system separating disabled riders into different classes based on the severity of their disabilities. A recognized FEI and Paralympic sport.