By Alice Collins for Wellington International
Week nine at the Adequan® Global Dressage Festival (AGDF) continued on Saturday March 11, featuring the Perrigo CPEDI3* of para dressage. AGDF 2023, which hosts seven weeks of CDI competition over three months in Wellington, runs through April 2.
Fiona Howard (USA) made it two blue ribbons from two Grade II starts in AGDF9 on Kate Shoemaker’s 16-year-old gelding Solitaer 40 (by Sandro Hit x De Niro). The 24-year-old Howard scored 72.5%, with a high score of 74.167% from the judge at C, who awarded a nine for the mid-test halt at A. This is the pair’s first international show together. Howard is also coached by Shoemaker, who enjoyed stellar success with the gelding since 2015, including team bronze at the Tokyo Paralympics.
“I went in the ring today wanting to improve on everything from yesterday and today he listened to me so well,” said Howard, who suffers from dystonia, a neuromuscular disease, meaning that her muscles involuntarily contract and twist.
“‘Soli’ belongs to Kate and it’s kind of a funny story,” she added. “I rode ‘Soli’ a little bit last summer while she was at the European Championships and kind of as a joke she said, ‘If you can ride him, you can show him,’ and I thought, ‘OK!’. At the time I needed a horse to ride and of course I said yes.”
Howard only began competing in para dressage in 2022, and this year took her first competitive foray out of the country, contesting the CPEDI in Doha in February, where she finished first or second in all three tests on her own horse, Jagger.
“It’s all been a whirlwind,” she said. “Soli has such a big heart and he just wants to do everything right. He’s got a huge personality, he’s super loving but goofy at the same time. I just have a lot of fun on him and I’m really grateful that Kate allows me to ride him, and he’s taught me so much; he’s such a great teacher. Before I competed him, Kate said to go out there and have fun. He’s a blast.”
Shoemaker herself continued to make strides with her new horse, the 12-year-old Ghandi, securing her second Grade IV victory in as many days at the pair’s first international outing. Shoemaker, 35, logged 71.442% on the Bojengel x Tuschinski gelding in the individual test.
Grade I rider Roxanne Trunnell (USA) built on her previous day’s good performance to produce yet another impressive test on Saturday. She rode Lehua Custer’s seven-year-old stallion Fortunato H20, by Floriscount OLD x Rascalino, to 72.43%. The 37-year-old’s test was peppered with eights, despite this being a relatively new horse for the Tokyo Paralympic gold medalist.
“Being that he’s a stallion, we are still working on keeping him more in and with me the whole ride and it seems to be working,” said Trunnell, whose para journey started after she suffered swelling on the brain and a stroke following a suspected infected mosquito bite in 2009.
“I really liked the stretch down in my test,” she added. “I’ve been working hard on getting him to accept that. Looking towards tomorrow’s freestyle, I want to keep working on keeping him steady and calm and the same.”
Trunnell only began competing the Oldenburg gelding less than a year ago — when he was just six — but the pair have won eight out of their 12 international starts together. They helped the US team to bronze at the Para Championships in Herning, Denmark, in August 2022.
Rebecca Hart’s stranglehold on the top two spots in the Grade III tussle was spliced on Saturday. On Friday the USA rider won the team test on Fortune 500, finishing second on El Corona Texel. On Saturday, in the individual test, she again dominated with Fortune 500, but Elle Woolley (USA) climbed a place to claim second and relegate El Corona Texel into third. Hart and Fortune 500, Rowan O’Riley’s 13-year-old gelding by Fidertanz, put an unassailable 70.444% on the board.
Despite an error of course, 55-year-old Cynthia Screnci (USA) was the judges’ unanimous winner in the Grade V individual test, adding another blue ribbon to their win in the team test this week. She rode her own and Volado Farms’ 16-year-old Sir Donnerhall gelding Sir Chipoli to 68.579%.
Dressage competition in the Perrigo CPEDI3* AGDF9 week wraps up on Sunday, with freestyle action in all grades. AGDF10 heralds the CDI5* show, one of the biggest shows on the Wellington dressage calendar. For more information and results, visit www.globaldressagefestival.com.
Click for full results from week nine’s para classes