Growing U.S. Para Dressage: Show Organizers and the Need for U.S. Para Dressage Judges

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Written by Holly Jacobson
Hanneke Gerritsen (NED) at the 2011 Dressage Affaire. (Photo © 2011 Lindsay McCall for USPEA)
Hanneke Gerritsen (NED) at the 2011 Dressage Affaire. (Photo © 2011 Lindsay McCall for USPEA)

"I take my heart out of my chest, put it on the table and put it back in after the ride because it's so amazing what these riders do - I'd give them all 10s." Hanneke Gerritsen
The growing presence of U.S. Para Dressage is evident with more venues running CPEDI3* in tandem with their CDIs, along with the rising number of entries that reflect new rider interest and talent. However, the cost of importing accredited FEI PE judges is an added burden for show organizers making the need for approved U.S. PE judges acute. To that end, USEF has scheduled an FEI PE Dressage Judges’ Course to be held March 9-11 2012 at The Dressage Affaire in Del Mar, CA led by FEI 5* judge Hanneke Gerritsen from the Netherlands.

The course will be for promotion to FEI 3* and 4* judge. To fulfill the FEI criteria, participants must be a Prix St. George judge (Able-Bodied) in their own country. It is also possible to ask to sit in. USEF is hoping to add a Para Steward segment as well. Info to be posted online shortly at: www.usef.org/newsletterLicensedOfficials/2012schedule.html

Widely acknowledged as a top authority on Para, Gerritsen judges worldwide and served as Technical Delegate for the 2010 World Equestrian Games, as well as for the upcoming 2012 Paralympics in London. She coached the Dutch Para-Equestrian Team from 2000 to 2004. In addition, she is a Grand Prix judge and a selector/trainer for new dressage judges at all levels. Speaking to the particular demands of scoring para dressage, she emphasizes the judges cannot be swayed by the disability factor.

"I take my heart out of my chest, put it on the table and put it back in after the ride because it's so amazing what these riders do - I'd give them all 10s."

Defining New Judges

Kristi Wysocki recently passed the FEI Para judging course in Mexico City to be approved as an FEI Para 3* judge. (photo: phelpsphotos.com)
Kristi Wysocki recently passed the FEI Para judging course in Mexico City to be approved as an FEI Para 3* judge. (photo: phelpsphotos.com)

"Para Dressage is the only discipline growing right now," believes S judge Kristi Wysocki, Elbert, CO. She recently passed the FEI Para judging course in Mexico City to be approved as an FEI Para 3* judge. For 2012, the rules are slightly altered with the star status replacing the past terminology: 2* (new), 3* (was Candidate), 4* (was International) and 5* (was Official). "You need a solid dressage background," advised Wysocki who found the course conducted by 5* judge Carlos Lopez of Portugal and Ann Prain from France outstanding but intensive. Part of her exam consisted of judging orally at the CPEDI3* competition. "Just like you have to ignore that it's Steffan Peters, you can't get too focused on the rider," she noted. But observing the nuts-and-bolts dedication of all the Para riders in Mexico hooked Wysocki. "These riders impressed me beyond belief with their courage and determination diving head first into international competition on borrowed horses. Not many dressage riders would do it. Imagine riding your freestyle on a horse you just met!" While she noted that this is a group used to problem solving and adapting, she found the spirit of camaraderie and shared ambition very refreshing.

Ultimately, for Wysocki, judging and riding dressage highlights the profound communication between horse and rider. "It's the part of horses I love the most. Its really interesting with Para how that communication goes on. Para solidifies for me the magic people can have with horses."

Streamlining the PE Judge Process
While any judge can judge a PE class below the CDI level, a clearer path of accreditation and promotions for U.S. National Para judges would benefit many judges who have expressed interest but contend with heavy schedules. As a large R judge, David Schmutz, Glendale, CA attended an IPEC clinic run by Anita Owen and came away amazed by what these riders can do. But also that the judging remains true to able-bodied dressage.

"Para still utilizes the training pyramid. Scoring reflects correct gaits, required movements, effectiveness of aids and the how horse goes," he says. Schmutz has volunteered in Europe and apprentice judged for free but stresses the need for courses such as the one in Del Mar to prepare for the exam.

The FEI has a well-defined, active way of approving PE judges and stewards through courses, clinics and forums. Worldwide 50-60 judges hold FEI 4* cards or above. The U.S. and Canada total 12 FEI 3* judges but not all are current. For PE National accredited judges an IPEC or PE refresher course now lasts five years, up from three. Applying for courses and all licensing for FEI goes through USEF.

Para Appeal For Show Organizers CDI to Local

Kim Keenan Stordahl organizer of The Dressage Affaire in Del Mar (photo: phelpsphotos.com)
Kim Keenan Stordahl organizer of The Dressage Affaire in Del Mar (photo: phelpsphotos.com)

Show organizer Kim Keenan-Stordahl of The Dressage Affaire in Del Mar heeded the call for CDI status in 2010, adding a CPEDI3*, which continued in 2011. Keenan admits she felt slightly apprehensive at first because it was an unknown but said working with the USPEA.org made it easy to get answers to questions.

“I was not at all familiar with Para Dressage but it felt right immediately to include it in the show. It does require additional consideration to manage it safely and well but I think it most definitely enhances our show." She concurs that Para attracts a new audience for dressage, making it less elitist (and dare say, boring). Headset commentary that can explain a rider’s physical challenge (not always readily apparent in the saddle), along with the test helps enlighten and broaden dressage’s audience appeal.

“It’s always been my mission to connect the Equestrian Community with the community at large and this accomplishes that and then some. It’s a perfect fit for Dressage Affaire.” It also creates a connection between the disciplines as both Para and able-bodied riders inspire each other.

Response from elite riders at Del Mar and at the CDI/CPEDI3* at NEDA/Saugerties, NY was overwhelmingly positive. Rider/trainer Mette Rosencranz was impressed and enthusiastic. "It’s great to have para here together with us and to see the Canadian and Mexican teams. We draw energy off each other!”

“The important thing is to find a safe way to blend the two competitions, not keep them separate,” says Keenan-Stordahl. Designated warm up times in the same area works. She tries to make sure that the competition feels important and special with great prizes and goes the extra distance to help the riders with whatever they might need. NEDA show organizer, Beth Jenkins at Saugerties, NY, designated four golf carts as rider shuttles from the stables to the rings or anywhere on the large show grounds and made sure riders had parking permits to get close to the barns, which the riders and their entourage much appreciated. Para should be embraced as a boon for the dressage community as a whole. It’s uplifting to root for the riders and powerful to see how horses transform mere mortals into picture of grace, elegance and skill in the sport.

By Popular Demand For Any Show
As the organizer of Dressage at Saratoga, Regina Cristo asks why not offer PE classes? “Any show can do it, it’s easy for smaller shows to add FEI TOC classes. It doesn't cost anything.” For local shows, to make PE classes more attractive to offer as Grades I through III use the 20 x 40 ring size, it can be as simple as moving a chain inside the larger ring to shorten the arena or scheduling with intro or quadrille classes.

For DAS, having a $1500 PE high point sponsor is huge to attract entries. Cristo has found that like the freestyles, PE attracts spectators and brings in people new to the sport. However, she stresses the need for PR to let people know. Put it in the local papers, advertise it, it interests people. “There are lots of people dealing with handicaps and it’s very encouraging to other people. There’s untapped support out there.”

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World Equestrian Games 2014

Thursday, April 17, 2014 - 15:13
USEF Communications Department
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Tuesday, March 4, 2014 - 10:50
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Thursday, February 27, 2014 - 13:30
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Thursday, April 10, 2014 - 10:20
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Sunday, April 6, 2014 - 16:20
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Thursday, March 27, 2014 - 12:31
USEF Communications Department
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Thursday, March 27, 2014 - 12:14
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Wednesday, April 9, 2014 - 11:32
Phelps Media Group, Inc. International
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Monday, April 7, 2014 - 09:19
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Tuesday, April 1, 2014 - 18:33
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Thursday, March 20, 2014 - 09:05
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Monday, April 14, 2014 - 18:31
Helen Murray
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Monday, April 14, 2014 - 10:12
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Wednesday, April 2, 2014 - 09:21
Ocala, FL - With a 6.7 lead in the final phase of the FEI Single Horse Combined Driving division, Suzy Stafford entered the final test, cones. With a ball down early on in the round, she had to keep the rest of them in place, while making the nearly impossible time limit. Stafford let our a deep breath after crossing the finish line with 2.73...
Friday, March 28, 2014 - 09:33
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Tuesday, March 25, 2014 - 10:33
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Show Jumping

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Thursday, April 17, 2014 - 15:06
FEI Communications
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Thursday, April 17, 2014 - 14:50
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Thursday, April 17, 2014 - 14:46
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Monday, April 14, 2014 - 11:09
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Monday, April 14, 2014 - 11:03
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Para Dressage

Wednesday, April 9, 2014 - 12:30
Written By: Lindsay McCall
USA Riders at the Golden State Dressage Classic CPEDI3* (Left to Right) Elizabeth Traband, Holly Bergay, Deborah Stanitski, Kate Shoemaker, Susan Treabess, Ashleigh Flores-Simmons, Chef d'Equipe Kai Handt, and up front is U.S. Air Force Veteran Derrick Perkins. Photo by John Stevenson. Rancho Murieta, California - The pressure was on at the Golden State Dressage Classic CPEDI3* for many U.S. para-dressage athletes looking to qualify for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. From April 4-6, 2014, riders from Grade Ia, II, III, and IV competed for top scores in the international arena at the Murieta Equestrian Center. The FEI ground jury included Alison King (HK) FEI 4*, David Schmutz (USA) FEI 4*, Kathy Amos-Jacob (FRA) FEI 4*. After a top showing just weeks prior at the Adequan Global...
Tuesday, March 18, 2014 - 16:11
USA Para-Dressage Team at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival CPEDI3* March 15, 2014. (Left to Right: Mary Jordan (Grade IV), Angelea Peavy (Grade III), Rebecca Hart (Grade II), Chef D'Equipe Kai Handt, and Roxanne Trunnell (Grade Ia). (All Photos: Lindsay McCall.) Wellington, Florida - Over three days, March 14-16, 2014, para-dressage athletes from the U.S. and Canada vied for multiple accolades at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival 10 CPEDI3* in Wellington, Florida. For the United States riders this CPEDI3* was the second to last opportunity located in the U.S. to qualify for the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ (WEG). For developing athletes this international show was an educational experience and a chance to gain remarks from the FEI Ground Jury. Those judges included Kj...
Sunday, March 16, 2014 - 11:35
Written By: Equine Canada
The Canadian Para-Equestrian Team, comprised of Ashley Gowanlock, Jody Schloss, chef d'équipe Elizabeth Quigg, Robyn Andrews and Lauren Barwick, won the overall team competition at Adequan Global Dressage Festival 10 CPEDI3*. (Photos: Lindsay McCall) Canadian Para-Dressage riders continued to post top scores during the second day of competition on their way to winning the overall team event at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival 10 CPEDI3*. The annual FEI competition is being held at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center, March 14-16, in Wellington, FL. Using the combined scores from the Team Test, held March 14, and the Individual Test, on March 15, Canadians Robyn Andrews, Lauren Barwick, Ashley Gowanlock and Jody Schloss won the team competition with a total of 418.803%, wh...
Thursday, March 13, 2014 - 08:33
Lexington, Ky. - The Adequan Global Dressage Festival 10 sponsored by Today's Equestrian & GF Enterprise LLC plays host to a CPEDI3* March 12-16. A total of 20 riders from Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. will compete in Team, Individual, and Freestyle tests in their respective grades in front of the judging panel of Kjell Myhre (NOR), Marc Urban (BEL), and Kristi Wysocki (USA) at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center in Wellington, Fla. The CPEDI3* will also serve as a qualifier for the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, as well as the 2014 USEF Para-Equestrian Dressage National Championship for the 14 U.S. competitors. The 2012 USEF Para-Equestrian Dressage National Champion Rebecca Hart (Unionville, Pa.) has a new partner in Schroeters Romani, her own 2002 Danish Warmb...
Thursday, March 13, 2014 - 06:21
Elizabeth Traband (USA) and Ucari, owned by Helene Bergstrom. (All Photos: by Lindsay McCall) Wellington, Florida - Para-Equestrian Dressage riders and their mounts stepped forward for the FEI Veterinary Inspection at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival 10 (AGDF) CPEDI3*. Athletes from the United States of America and Canada were part of the 24 horse/rider combinations. Earning the "Best Dressed Award" of the FEI Trot Up, sponsored and presented by Show Chic, was Deborah Stanitski of the USA. Pressure is on for these riders to perform their very best in front of FEI Para-Equestrian Dressage Ground Jury Kjell Myhre (NOR), Marc Urban (BEL), and Kristi Wysocki (USA) over the March 14-16 weekend. International competition begins at 10:00 a.m. in The Stadium on Friday, March 14, with the Te...
Wednesday, March 5, 2014 - 05:49
The USPEA invites you to join the US Para Dressage athletes for the 2014 Road to Normandy Kick Off Party on Thursday, March 13th after the jog. Meet some of the US Para Dressage Athletes vying for a spot on the 2014 US Para Dressage World Equestrian Games Team. Enjoy gourmet hors-d’oeuvres, 50/50 raffle, and door prizes in the Global Pavillion from 5:00pm - 7:00pm at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival at 13500 South Shore Blvd., Wellington Florida. A cash bar will be available. Follow extensive coverage of Para Dressage on DressageDaily.com HERE!
Tuesday, March 4, 2014 - 12:51
Written By: Lindsay McCall
Ellie Brimmer and London Swing at AGDF in Wellington, FL. (Photo: Lindsay Y McCall) Wellington, FL - With only a few weeks left before the Adequan Global Dressage Festival 10 CPEDI3* scheduled March 12-16, 2014, para-dressage athletes have been working hard preparing their mounts for competition. Over two weekends February 20-23 and February 28- March 2, multiple para-equestrian riders showcased their new partnerships at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival (AGDF) 7 and 8 in Wellington and at the Welcome Back to White Fences Show in Loxahatchee, FL February 20-23. U.S. riders included Rebecca Hart, Ellie Brimmer, Elle Woolley, Deborah Stanitski, Angela Peavy and Canadians Jody Schloss and Robyn Andrews. For many of those riders the weekend shows were the first time riders debuted their...
Monday, March 3, 2014 - 10:05
Written By: Holly Jacobson
Newcomers to the para-dressage ranks and veteran riders with newer horses have taken advantage to work their FEI Para-Equestrian tests and freestyles prior to the CPEDI3* to be held at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival March 13-16th, one of only two qualifiers for the selection trials for the 2014 Alltech/World Equestrian Games in Normandy, France. Top competitor Rebecca Hart turned heads at Welcome Back to White Fences February 20-23 with the debut of her new mare, Schroeters Romani, scoring a 77.57% in the FEI Para Grade II Individual test. “It takes a village,” says Hart who is a two-time Paralympian. Rebecca Hart on Schroeters Romani rides to 77.57% at Welcome Back to White Fences Show. “I am super excited about Romani. I’m honored and humbled to be able to get to ride this horse...
Saturday, February 1, 2014 - 11:32
Written By: Lindsay McCall
United States Para-Equestrian Athletes, Chef d' Equipe Kai Handt, trainers, and their support staff (Photo by Lindsay Y McCall) Wellington, FL- For one exciting evening their boots were left in the closet and their heels and ties appeared. On January 24, 2014, The United States Equestrian Team (USET) Foundation launched their $35 Million Campaign to Achieve Competitive Excellence at the "Soirée du Cheval" Gala. The event was held at The Pavilion at the International Polo Club Palm Beach and was a benefit for the United States Equestrian Teams headed to the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ in Normandy, France. Para-Dressage riders from across the country including riders from Northern California, Maine, and Texas flew to Wellington, Florida, in support of the U.S. Para-Dressage T...
Tuesday, January 21, 2014 - 13:33
Wellington, FL- January 19, 2014- United States Para-Equestrian Dressage athletes working towards competing at the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ in Normandy, France have only two U.S. CPEDI3* events left to qualify for the selection trials. The first event is the Adequan Global Dressage Festival CPEDI3* held March 12-16, 2014, at The Stadium in Wellington, FL. The second qualifying event is the Golden State Dressage CPEDI3* held April 3-6, 2014, at the Premiere Murieta Equestrian Center in Rancho Murieta, CA. The final event is the USEF Para-Equestrian Dressage National Championship/ Selection Trial for the World Equestrian Games. The National Championship/ Selection Trial is scheduled for June 2-5, 2014, in Gladstone, New Jersey. Adequan Global Dressage Festival 10 CDI-W/CDI...
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