By US Equestrian Communications Department
Tokyo, Japan – The U.S. Para Dressage Team finished with the bronze medal at the conclusion of team competition at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020. Kate Shoemaker and Solitaer 40 were the final combination to record a score for the team, earning a 71.825 percent from the ground jury in the FEI Grade IV Team Test to Music to help the team finish on a final total of 224.352. This is the best team finish for the U.S. Para Dressage Team at a Paralympic Games in the history of the program. Three U.S. combinations have qualified for the FEI Individual Freestyle to Music tomorrow, which will conclude equestrian competition at Equestrian Park for these Paralympic Games.
Shoemaker (Wellington, Fla.) and Solitaer 40, a 14-year-old Hanoverian gelding owned by Deena, Craig, & Kate Shoemaker, anchored the team as the only ride on the second day of competition to round out team scoring with a 71.825 precent in their Grade IV Team Test to Music. Shoemaker’s test with Solitaer 40 was improved from their Individual Test in Grade IV and Shoemaker commented on the change in warm-up preparation heading into the test.
“I think that was one of the best tests we’ve done, so I’m really happy. There were a few bobbles here and there, but the overall way of going I was incredibly happy with and I’m super pleased,” said Shoemaker. “It was night and day difference from the first night. We tried for an elastic, forward moving way and it wasn’t well-received by the judges, so we went for collection, balance, and correctness today and we showed the potential we have.”
Following Shoemaker’s ride, the team waited for the final rides of the remaining countries to see how the scoreboard would shake out. With tight competition from Denmark and Belgium, it was a nerve-wracking finish, with the U.S. ultimately contributing high enough scores from each of the three combinations to earn the bronze medal. Rebecca Hart (Wellington, Fla.), in her fourth Paralympic Games appearance, this time aboard El Corona Texel, a 12-year-old KWPN owned by Rowan O’Riley, reflected on the work and progress the team has made over the past sixteen years, as she beamed at her first-ever Paralympic medal.
“This was such an amazing competition. It was so close, and it was a nail-biter until the absolute end. I’m so incredibly blessed and proud to be standing here with these two incredible riders. This was a complete and total team effort. For all the people and our support, our grooms, and everyone behind the scenes that make all of this happen, to be able to finally, after all these years, get to stand on that podium representing our country is so fulfilling. It’s a lifelong dream that has just come true.”
Roxanne Trunnell (Wellington, Fla.) and Dolton, a nine-year-old KWPN gelding owned by Flintewood Farms LLC and Karin Flint, led the team’s efforts, breaking the 80 percent mark for the second time this week in her Grade I Team Test to Music yesterday evening. Trunnell noted that you have to accept and move on from the pressure of waiting because once you deliver for your team, what happens will happen.
“For me, there wasn’t pressure because what happens, happens you know,” said Trunnell. Hart laughed and chimed in that Trunnell is the rock of the team because the rest of the team was on the edge of their seats throughout the evening’s competition.
Michel Assouline, who is managing his first championship as Chef d’Equipe for the U.S. Para Dressage Team was thrilled with the outcome and the performances of his three team combinations. With the team securing their first Paralympic team medal, Assouline is ready to build on this momentum looking ahead to the short quadrennial ahead of the Paralympic Games Paris 2024.
“I came with a mission to lead these wonderful athletes to the Paralympic podium. I just didn’t know it would happen in a relatively short spell but with such amazing overall support and talent the dream became true,” said Assouline. “We will continue to deliver our best tomorrow on the final day of competition here and will immediately start looking ahead to the World Championships next year and Paris 2024 so we can continue to deliver success for this program and team.”