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.”

World Equestrian Games 2014

Thursday, September 18, 2014 - 13:23
FEI Communications
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Alltech Media
[CAEN, France] – After a successful 15 days of competition and celebration, the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2014 in Normandy have come to a close this evening with a farewell ceremony in the Michel d’Ornano Stadium in Caen. A cast of close to 2,000 of the world’s best equine and human athletes, more than 570,000 on-site spectators and 3,...
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Sunday, September 7, 2014 - 21:54
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Eventing

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FEI Communications
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Thursday, February 26, 2015 - 16:33
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Monday, February 23, 2015 - 12:24
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Tuesday, February 17, 2015 - 10:29
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Tuesday, February 17, 2015 - 10:18
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Monday, February 9, 2015 - 10:28
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Reining and Western Riding

Thursday, February 19, 2015 - 14:47
American Quarter Horse Association
The American Quarter Horse Association, February 17, 2015 - The American Quarter Horse Association has an exciting schedule of events planned for 2015. Mark your calendars today with the tentative dates!
AQHA Convention
• March 6-9 – 2015 AQHA Convention at the Omni Hotel in Fort Worth, Texas
• March 7 – Markel AQHA Cowtown...
Thursday, February 19, 2015 - 14:31
ARHA – Austrian Reining Horse Association
$80,000-added AustrianRHA Futurity...
Monday, February 16, 2015 - 12:01
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Tampa, Florida – February 15, 2015:  The Florida Reining Classic at the Bob Thomas Equestrian Center in Tampa, Florida will be the second show to host World Para Reining (WPR) approved classes, on February 21 and 22. To add to the excitement, the WPR will offer $500 in prize money for this event and the champion from each WPR class will receive $...
Saturday, February 14, 2015 - 18:39
NRHA News
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Saturday, February 14, 2015 - 18:20
Todd Branson Sr.,Director of Marketing,NRHA
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Wednesday, February 4, 2015 - 10:49
USEF Communications Department
Lexington, KY - The United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) is pleased to announce the dates and locations for the 2015 Adequan/USEF Open Reining National Championship and 2015 USEF Youth Reining National Championships. Held as a CRI3*, the 2015 Adequan/USEF Open Reining National Championship will run during the High Roller Reining Classic,...
Monday, February 2, 2015 - 12:26
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Driving

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Rebecca Walton USET Foundation
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Tuesday, February 24, 2015 - 07:35
Here is a great opportunity to ask ADS "R" Rated Dressage judge Craig Kellong all those questions you have after you read your score sheets. Understand what they saw or what they are looking for. Audit and watch participants as they do their test of choice. Join in on the round table discussions, and enjoy breakfast and lunch at the beautiful...
Monday, February 16, 2015 - 14:40
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Monday, February 9, 2015 - 12:20
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Show Jumping

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Monday, March 2, 2015 - 14:26
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Monday, March 2, 2015 - 14:16
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Monday, March 2, 2015 - 13:46
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Monday, March 2, 2015 - 13:35
Gulf Coast Classic Company
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Monday, March 2, 2015 - 13:21
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Sunday, March 1, 2015 - 13:37
Jennifer Wood Media, Inc
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Para Dressage

Friday, January 16, 2015 - 05:20
Written By: Lindsay Y. McCall
Kjell Myhre talks to riders at the 2015 USEF High Performance Southeast Para Equestrian Dressage Symposium in Wellington, FL, January 12-13. (Photo: (C) Lindsay Y. McCall) Wellington, FL - Following the 2015 Adequan Global Dressage Festival CPEDI3* select U.S. Para-Dressage athletes and coaches had an opportunity to attend the USEF High Performance Southeast Para-Equestrian Dressage Symposium. This symposium took place January 12-13, 2014, at the Global Dressage Festival show grounds in Wellington, Florida. Over two days U.S. High Performance and developing Para-Dressage coaches and riders were immersed in the international equestrian discipline of Para-Dressage. Topics included Para-Dressage theory, scales of training, para-dressage test riding, quality of horse, freestyles, preparation...
Tuesday, January 13, 2015 - 04:46
Written By: Lindsay Y. McCall
USA Team (Left to right): Sydney Collier, Annie Peavy, Rebecca Hart, U.S. Chef D' Equipe Kai Handt, and Roxanne Trunnell (Photo: (C) Lindsay Y. McCall) Wellington, FL - Thirteen Para-Dressage horse and rider combinations made their way to Wellington, Florida, this January for the first CPEDI3* of the 2015 show season. Para-Equestrians from Canada and the United States in Grades Ia, Ib, II, III, and IV, competed at the spectacular Global Dressage venue in the Van Kampen Arena. FEI Ground Jury members Mr. Freddy Leyman (BEL), Mr. Kjell Myhre (NOR), and Ms. Kristi Wysocki (USA) were on hand to offer their expertise for each Para-Dressage duo. This CPEDI3* is one of the qualifiers for the 2015 USEF Para-Equestrian Dressage National Championships, 2016 USEF Para-Equestrian Dressage National C...
Monday, January 12, 2015 - 09:29
Robyn Andrews and Fancianna (Photo: SusanJStickle.com) Ottawa, ON. - On the final day of competition at CPEDI3* Global Dressage Festival I presented by Adequan, Robyn Andrews won her test for the second day in a row for Canada. The competition was held at The Stadium at Palm Beach International Equestrian Center in Wellington, Fla., Jan. 9-11, 2015. Andrews of St. Johns, N.L. secured the victory in the Grade Ia Freestyle test riding her 2014 World Equestrian Games mare 14-year-old Fancianna, a Friesian-Andalusian cross, to a score of 67.917%. "I was pleased with Fancy today," said Andrews. "I was a bit tired, but we pulled it off. Many thanks must go to the Global Dressage Festival for putting on a great show. Special thanks to my coach, Amanda Kalvoda; chef d'équipe, Elizabeth Quigg; Pa...
Friday, January 9, 2015 - 05:31
Written By: Lindsay Y. McCall
U.S. Chef D' Equipe Kai Handt jogs Rubicon 75, ridden by Mary Jordan, owned by Vinceremos Therapeutic Riding Center (Photo (c) Lindsay Y. McCall) Wellington, FL - Para-Equestrian Dressage athletes from around the North American continent have landed in Wellington, Florida, for the 2015 Adequan Global Dressage Festival CPEDI3*. This is the first CPEDI3* event for the 2015 calendar year. Thirteen horse and rider combinations presented their mounts in front of FEI Ground Jury members Mr. Freddy Leyman (BEL), Mr. Kjell Myhre (NOR), and Ms. Kristi Wysocki (USA). Para-Equestrians from Canada and the United States will compete January 9-11, in The Van Kampen covered arena at the Global Dressage Festival. Friday, January 9, is the FEI Para-Equestrian Dressage Team Test, followed by Saturday's FE...
Thursday, January 8, 2015 - 07:52
Kai Handt and Wes Dunham showcase collaborative coaching at the Northeast Symposium in 2013. Rider Sydney Collier aboard her own Wentworth works on gaits. (Photo (C) Lindsay Y. McCall) Wellington, FL - The United States Equestrian Federation, Inc. (USEF), is excited to announce a two-day Para Equestrian Dressage Symposium to be held at Global Dressage, Wellington, Florida, January 12 & 13, 2015, 8 AM-4 PM. Select U.S. High Performance and developing Para- Equestrian Dressage riders and coaches will be attending the symposium. Auditors are welcome to attend for $75. Pre-registering as an auditor is not required. Please contact Laureen Johnson at USEF at lkjohnson@usef.org if you are interested in audit...
Wednesday, December 24, 2014 - 05:00
Written By: Lindsay Y. McCall
Nora Grassmyer, Mibis, Barbara Grassmyer, and Bob Grassmyer. (Photo: (c) Lindsay Y. McCall) El Dorado Hills, CA - On December 19, 2014, the Dressage Community lost friend, volunteer, and parent Nora Grassmyer after a three year battle with bladder cancer. Nora was heavily involved with the Dressage and Para-Dressage disciplines both internationally and at the national level. She was also a longtime volunteer at the California Dressage shows managed by Connie Davenport. Nora was a driving force behind her daughter and Paralympian Barbara Grassmyer. She was there at every moment for Barbara including when Barbara served as an alternate for the U.S. Paralympic Team in 2000, competing in Sydney, Australia; in 2001 and 2002 when Barbara was the USEF Para-Equestrian Dressage National Champion;...
Thursday, December 18, 2014 - 06:30
Rebecca Hart and Schroeters Romani rode to the high score of 78.382% during the Polar Express Show at White Fences. Wellington, FL - Rebecca Hart and Schroeters Romani shined Saturday afternoon during the Polar Express show held at the White Fences Equestrian Center in Loxahatchee, Florida. The talented duo rode to the score of 78.382 percent for the FEI Para Team Grade II test during the national show, kick starting their season as they prepare for the Adequan Global Dressage Festival in CPEDI3* in January 2015.Hart traveled to Florida in early December to work with Wellington-based international dressage trainer Todd Flettrich out of Cherry Knoll Farm, which is also a partial owner of Romani. Hart and Flettrich have worked consistently on warm-up and preparation with Romani after takin...
Sunday, December 14, 2014 - 17:41
Sydney Collier riding Willi Wesley (Photo: SusanjStickle.com) Lexington, Ky. - The United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) is pleased to announce Sydney Collier as the 2014 Junior Equestrian of the Year. Seventeen-year-old Collier is a talented Para-Equestrian who competed at the international level in 2014, including the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. A native of Ann Arbor, Mich., she was diagnosed at the age of seven with a rare congenital birth defect called Wyburn-Mason Syndrome. In spite of this challenge, Collier pursued her love of riding and has become a top equestrian athlete. A prime example of courage, sportsmanship, and dedication, Collier will be awarded the Ruth O'Keefe Meredith Memorial Trophy as the 2014 Junior Equestrian of the Year. Having her biggest year to da...
Sunday, November 30, 2014 - 06:53
Trainer Wes Dunham and WEG athletes Sydney Collier's mount Willi Wesley at the 2014 Adequan Global Dressage Festival CPEDI3* horse inspection . (Photo: Lindsay McCall) Wellington, Florida - November 26, 2014 - Entries are now being accepted at www.equestrianentries.com through December 22, 2014, for the 2015 Adequan Global Dressage Festival CPEDI3*. Para-Equestrian Dressage athletes kick-off the show season with their their first international show of the year January 7-11, 2015, in Wellington, FL, in the Van Kampen covered arena. This show will include FEI Para-Equestrian Dressage athletes in Grades Ia, Ib, II, III, and IV. Thursday, January 8, is the Horse inspection at approximately 5:30 PM. Friday, January 9, is the FEI Para-Equestrian Dressage Team Test, followed by Saturday's FEI P...
Tuesday, November 11, 2014 - 06:18
  We salute our veterans this Veterans Day. Thank you for protecting our freedoms. On this day we ask you to take a moment to think about those that have served our country. We would like to salute our disabled veterans who are part of not only the equestrian sport but all Paralympic sports. Thank you, - USPEA. We too, at DressageDaily, would like to take a moment to thank all veterans who have served our country to protect our liberties and rights. We truly appreciate all past and current members of our military for all that you do! History of Veterans Day - From the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs: World War I - known at the time as "The Great War" - officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, in the Palace of Versailles outside the town of Versaille...
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