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Six Countries Send Riders With Disabilities to First Inner Vision Championships

HUNTINGTON, NY – July 29, 2002 – Riding borrowed horses they had schooled just five times, 24 inter-national dressage riders with various physical disabilities competed in the first Inner Vision Championships (IVC) for riders with disabilities on July 12–13 at Willow Tree Farm at Caumsett State Historic Park in Huntington, NY.

The Inner Vision Championships were organized by the National Disability Sports Alliance (NDSA) and Pal-O-Mine Equestrian, Inc.

“This championship was a great first effort,” said Denise I. Avolio, chairman of the IVC organizing committee. “It was good for everyone to come to the United States and see we have quality horses and quality riders in our programs for disabled riders. I’ve done competitions for disabled riders for 10 years, and I am always thrilled by the skills and abilities of these riders. They are outstanding.”

Riders from Canada, Germany, Great Britain, Israel, Japan, and the United States competed in team and individual events at the IVC, which is approved and recognized by the International Paralympic Equestrian Committee (I.P.E.C.). Although the dressage tests at the IVC are written specifically for riders with disabilities, they include movements equal to USA Equestrian fourth level tests for sighted, able-bodied riders.

The only concession to the riders with vision handicaps is the use of "living letters," trained volunteers who call out their assigned letter so that the riders are able to visualize where they are in the dressage arena.

According to I.P.E.C. rules, riders are categorized in Grades I-IV according to their disabilities to ensure fair competition. For instance, a visually impaired but able-bodied rider might compete against a sighted rider with multiple sclerosis.

With 179.911 points, the USA South team took first place. Second was Canada East with 170.229 points. Canada West came in third with 167.622 points, and USA North was fourth with 161.710.

German rider Anne Schricker, who is almost totally blind, and U.S. rider Barbara Grassmyer, who has Apert’s Syndrome, were named individual champions in their divisions. Schricker rode Pacific Lion, owned by Missy Ransehousen, Unionville, PA, to the top score of 71.249 in the Blind and Visually Handicapped Division. Uri Basha of Israel was reserve champion in the Blind and Visually Handicapped Division.

Grassmyer of Placerville, Calif., rode Bally Shannon, owned by Trudy Phillips, Chadds Ford, PA, to the championship in the National Division, where Kathy Groves of Winter Garden, Fla., was reserve. The National Division consisted of sighted riders, competing on their own horses who have other physical disabilities.

Schricker also took top honors in the compulsory Freestyle to Music aboard Pacific Lion. In Freestyle to Music tests, riders and horses are practically dancing around the dressage arena as they perform programs that might be compared to gymnastics and figure-skating routines.

Horses were allotted to a grade of riders by a draw, but riders within the grade then had the option of selecting or rejecting a mount. Avolio said Schricker could listen to the sound of a potential mount’s hoofbeats to determine if the horse was suitable for her. Many of the visually impaired riders performed “hands-on” inspections of the pool of potential mounts.

“I was just in awe of their abilities,” said Avolio. “For instance, Anne could canter down the side of this 20- by 40-meter arena and stop just before coming to the end. She led the victory gallop at the end of competition.”

Avolio said the popularity of riding as a sport for the disabled is growing, but that international competitions wouldn’t be possible without the generosity of owners who donate their horses to be used in the competition.

“It is prohibitively expensive for riders to bring their own horses here, so we depend on the horse owners,” said Avolio. “But this element of riding a new horse at a high level competition is what makes the IVC so exciting and a true test of horsemanship.”

The IVC was held under the auspices of the National Disability Sports Alliance (NDSA), the national governing body for equestrian sport for riders with disabilities. NDSA is responsible for the development and selection of riders for national championship and international competitions, including the Paralympic Games, and provides training, competition and advocacy for riders with physical disabilities.

Pal-O-Mine Equestrian, Inc. is a therapeutic riding program located in Huntington, NY, that provides therapeutic, recreational and competitive horseback riding opportunities for people with physical, emotional and cognitive disabilities.

Both NDSA and Pal-O-Mine are 501(c)3 organizations. Donations and sponsorships are tax-deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law.

Those interested in sponsorship opportunities or other ways of supporting the Championships should contact Denise Avolio at (914) 949-8166 or or Lisa A. Gatti, competition manager, at (631) 427-6105 or

Following are the overall winners within their grades (score was determined by a combined score of their Individual Championships ride and their Musical Freestyle ride):

Grade I:

First: Judi Island, Canada East, riding Redford, Pal-O-Mine Equestrian, Huntington, NY
Second: Keith Newerla, USA North, riding On the Rocks, Lisa Zimmerman, Huntington, NY

Grade II:

First: Lauren Barwick, Canada East, riding Atticus, Pal-O-Mine Equestrian, Huntington, NY
Second: Darlene Wirth, Canada South, riding Chamineux, Linda Fritsch, South Bend, IN

Grade III:

First: Anne Schricker, Germany, riding Pacific Lion, Missy Ransehousen, Unionville, PA
Second: Jenni Rowe, Canada East, riding Lord Hobbitt, Linda Fritsch, South Bend, IN

Grade IV:

First: Robin Brueckmann, USA South, riding Follow Me, Kathryn Groves, Winter Garden, FL
Second: Kyomitsu Kakuta, Japan, riding Weston, Lisa Gatti, Huntington, NY

The website address for the Inner Vision Championships is

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