Rebecca Hart, Unionville, PA, and Jessica Raneshousen’s veteran Lord Ludger were the highest placed team at the US Paralympic Selection Trials held in Gladstone, NJ in June. Hart will represent the US at her second consecutive Paralympic Games, to follow the Olympics in London.
Rebecca Hart, Unionville, PA, topped the Dressage Parlympic Selection Trials in June and earned a chance to represent the U.S. at her second consecutive Paralympic Games, to be held August 30-September 4 at Greenwich Park, following the London Olympics.
The 2012 USEF National Para-Equestrian Championships held in conjunction with the USEF Para-Equestrian Dressage Paralympic Selection Trials came down to the slimmest of margins June 13 as riders performed their Freestyle tests at the Pine Meadow location of the USET Foundation in Gladstone, NJ. Heading to the final test of the championships, which counted for 20 percent of the final score, only a few marks separated the top three riders. Rebecca Hart, Jonathan Wentz and Donna Ponessa all produced their highest scores of the competition in the Freestyle and less than a half of a percentage point would separate them in the final standings.
Hart produced the highest score of the National Championship, a 75.917%, to claim her fifth USEF National Para-Equestrian Championship title. The 26-year-old performed an extremely polished and stylish Grade II Freestyle with Jessica Ransehousen's veteran Lord Ludger accented by a high degree of difficulty.
Hart has spent the last year getting to know the Holsteiner gelding and believes that their enhanced partnership paid dividends at the trials.
“He has really become my horse, which is a really special feeling because he’s so talented and so caring, that I really, really enjoy him not only as a horse but as a partner out there in the ring,” Said Hart. “I feel now that he is finally looking to me, whereas before he would do what I asked but not really do it for me. And now he is really in there for me and doing it with me. That's nice to have the progression from being a little intimidated to now doing it together.”
Heading into Wednesday’s final test, Hart felt the pressure as there was no breathing room between the top three.
“It was close, so [the pressure] was pretty high and it's not over till it's over.”
Hart is now poised to represent the U.S. at her second consecutive Paralympic Games after topping the Selection Trials. However, she is not going to get overly excited until she is actually in competition.
“It feels good, kind of a weight off the shoulders. But I'm going to hold off until we're actually trotting down centerline in London.”
The 2011 USEF National Para-Equestrian Champions, Jonathan Wentz and NTEC Richter Scale, settled for Reserve honors after scoring 74.833% in the Freestyle. Wentz (Richardson, TX) demonstrated an elaborate Freestyle utilizing Irish music to compliment Kai Handt's Shire cross gelding’s gaits.
Finishing in third place was Grade 1a competitor Donna Ponessa and Wesley Dunham’s Western Rose. The pair scored 73.833% in their Freestyle by way of a high degree of difficulty. The pair demonstrated beautiful trot movements, which are not required but rewarded in Grade 1a.
Earlier in the week, Hart earned the highest score in the Grade II Individual Test to take the lead in the National Championship with a score of 73.968% for an accurate forward test. Hart is one of seven competitors riding two horses this week and feels that opportunity to ride multiple horses in competition is extremely beneficial. She rode Ransehousen's Carlingford Taldi to fourth place in the Grade II Individual Test.
“Each horse is a little different and has more strength than others. So you can get in the ring and get more experience and see what the judges like in that particular moment and try and ride through that.”
Hart, Wentz and Ponessa were all winners of the Freestyles in their respective Grades. In Grade III competition Wendy Fryke won her third test of the week with her own and Michael Fryke's Lateran with a 69.75%. Mary Jordan and Deecie Denison’s Sebastian swept all Grade IV tests and rode to a 69.833% in the Freestyle.