WEG: Wentz and Hart Represent U.S. in Para-Equestrian Dressage Freestyles

The second day of freestyle competition for the FEI World Para Dressage Championships got under way early Saturday morning (Oct. 9) with the Grade II and Grade Ib riders.

Two riders from the Kentucky Equine Research U.S. Para-Equestrian Dressage Team competed Saturday, both in the Grade II division.

Jonathan Wentz was the first American to ride, guiding Kai Handt's 16-year-old Shire cross gelding, NTEC Richter Scale, to earn a score of 68.500% from the judges.

"That felt great," he said. "He was really round and really supple. He was really forward. We had a little boo-boo in the walk transition, but overall, the ride made me very happy."

Wentz and Richter have been together for about a year and have had a very successful show season. Wentz was thrilled to cap that experience off with his first trip to the World Equestrian Games.

"It has been an amazing experience," he said. "It's so great to be included with the other athletes. The scores weren't what we hoped for on this outing, but really, this is my coach's first time coaching a para-athlete and my first international show. But we were able to watch everyone and we'll have a quick learning curve because now we really know what to do. We'll definitely be in the hunt for medals in London."

The other American taking to the arena Saturday was Rebecca Hart aboard her own 19-year-old Hanoverian gelding, Norteassa, by Nobel Roi. The very experienced pair earned a score of 67.200%.

"It was fun riding that test," she said after her ride. "It was just awesome. It was the last time with this horse because he's retiring. We've been together for eight years now."

Hart and Norteassa have experience in international competition, having represented the United States at the 2008 Paralympics in Hong Kong.

"This is a much more intimate atmosphere than Hong Kong," Hart said. "In all honesty, there's no one [favorite] moment. Just being here and representing para-equestrian for the first time ever, and finally being included with all the other disciplines as an elite sport, is special."

Taking home the individual gold medal in the Grade II Freestyles was Dr. Angelika Trabert (GER), who rode Michaela Brähler's Hessan mare Ariva-Avanti to a score of 75.900%. The silver medal was awarded to Gert Bolmer (NED) aboard Triumph, his 14-year-old Belgain Warmblood gelding, with a score of 75.850%. Picking up the bronze medal for Great Britain were Jo Pitt and Robert and Hazel Pitt's Estralita, an 8-year-old gelding, with a score of 74.950%.

The Grade Ib riders also rode their freestyles Saturday, however no Americans competed in that division.

Lee Pearson (GBR), riding his own and David Pearson's Gentleman, showed once again why he is widely regarded as one of the top para-dressage riders in the world as he took home the gold medal with a score of 82.500%.

"My horse warmed up a dream," Pearson said. "But when I got in the ring he dropped a bit behind my leg. I had to ride every movement! I was a bit surprised when I saw the scores. I didn't think I rode that well."

Taking home the silver medal was the final rider of the day. Stinna Tange Kaastrup (DEN) rode Heidi Kaastrup's 14-year-old gelding Labbenhus Snoevs to receive a score of 77.000%. Katja Karjalianen (FIN) and her KWPN mare Rosie turned in a score of 72.850%. The pair was awarded the bronze medal.

The FEI World Para Dressage Championships wrap up today with the Grade IV freestyles in which the United States will be represented by four riders. Jennifer Baker, Robin Brueckmann, Mary Jordan, and Susan Treabess will be the final riders to compete for the States. The medals for all of the freestyles will be awarded at the conclusion of the Grade IV freestyles.--Erica Larson for USEF

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