Riders With Disabilities Gain Valuable Experience at Belgium Championships
Kingston, RIOctober 28, 2002Three U.S. dressage riders
with physical disabilities competed at the Open Belgium Championships
on October 5-6, 2002 in Moorseles, Belgium. The riders all performed
well and gained valuable international experience.
assistance from the National Disability Sports Alliance (NDSA),
the U.S. riders -- Rebecca Hart of Erie, PA; Barbara Grassmyer
of Placerville, CA; and Kebbie Cannon of Mineral Springs, NC
traveled to Belgium where they faced stiff competition during
the two-day international event for riders with physical disabilities.
The event attracted more than 40 riders representing 13 countries.
Among the top equestrians competing at this event were Anne Sticker
of Germany riding her horse My Melodie FRH, and Ineke De Groot
of The Netherlands on her mount, Ivox.
ensure fair competition in an event such as this, riders are categorized
in Grades I-IV according to their disabilities and follow rules
set by the International Paralympic Equestrian Committee (IPEC).
Grade 1 is for those with the most severe disabilities; Grade
IV is for those with the least. The Individual Championship test
for each grade is similar to the grand prix for able-bodied equestrians
-- the highest level to achieve.
Grassmyer, riding a locally borrowed horse, Polonius, placed third
in her Grade III, Individual Championship class, with a score
of 64.13, and second in the Musical Freestyle with a score of
67.70, for a combined second place finish. Grassmyer has competed
for 10 years in national and international competition for riders
with disabilities. She has Aperts Syndrome, a genetic disorder
that causes fused fingers and toes and limited range of motion
in the joints. Her second place overall finish in Grade III was
a strong performance for her and helped to bring the U.S. team
the respect of being strong in the international field.
took a lot of heart for rider Rebecca "Becca" Hart to
ride an unfamiliar horse in her first international competition.
It also took a lot of courage for Hart to finish the round after
her mount, Java, spooked in the arena during her test.
got scared by a spectator in the stands at the start of Becca's
freestyle, so her ride did not go as well as we had hoped. But
she rode beautifully and handled herself well in a difficult situation,"
said Jerry Schwartz, National Team Coach for NDSAs equestrian
program and Head Coach for the U.S. Team in Belgium.
received a score of 54.92 and eighth place for her Musical Freestyle.
She took fifth place out of a total of 12 riders in the Grade
III Individual Championship with a score of 60.93 and finished
in the top six overall. Hart, 17 years old, has Spastic Familial
Paraplegia, a genetic disorder that causes her legs to be paralyzed.
riding King's Ransom, placed twelfth in both of her classes in
Grade IV. She received a score of 56.77 in the Individual Championship
and 58.88 in the Musical Freestyle. A member of the 2000 U.S.
Paralympic team in Sydney, Cannon has cerebral palsy.
was a great 'test event' for the U.S. team. It added to our overall
international experience and was a good opportunity for us to
prepare for next year's World Championships which will be held
at the same venue," said Denise Avolio, Equestrian Sports
Manager for the National Disability Sports Alliance and the U.S.
chef d'equipe for the international event. "This also gave
us the chance to make good contacts for next year, just in case
we can't take our own horses and have to borrow mounts again."
explained that it can be prohibitively expensive to ship horses
to foreign competitions, and most equestrians are further challenged
to compete on loaned horses in international championships. In
Belgium, all three U.S. competitors rode horses loaned by generous
owners. Riders from Australia, South Africa, Croatia, Slovakia
and Slovinia also rode borrowed horses.
element of riding a new horse at a high level competition makes
these events so exciting and a true test of horsemanship,"
Avolio said. "Unfortunately, sometimes the horse isn't so
cooperative, and riders, like Becca on Java, faced even stiffer
other U.S. riders competed in Holland and Portugal earlier this
year, the Belgium championship was, without doubt, good experience
for our team," Avolio added. "Now we can look ahead
to next years World Championships and to Athens for the
2004 Paralympics. Our group of U.S. riders are extremely talented
and competitive, and we feel that we will have a strong team at
both these upcoming major events.
NDSA is the national governing body for equestrian sport for riders
with disabilities. The non-profit organization is responsible
for the development and selection of riders for national championships
and international competitions, including the Paralympic Games,
and provides training, competition and advocacy for riders of
all levels with physical disabilities. For more information about
the NDSA and opportunities to support the programs, please contact
Denise Avolio at (914) 949-8166 or firstname.lastname@example.org