TRYON, N.C.--Rebecca Hart, riding Corona Texel, won the Bronze Medal in the Grade III Individual Test at the World Equestrian Games in Tryon on Sept. 19.
Hart, a three-time Paralympian from 2008, 2012 and 2016 and three-time WEG competitor, from 2010, 2014 and 2018, secured the medal as her first ever medal in the Para-Dressage sport since her beginnings in 1998.
It was also the first ever medal for the U.S. in Oara-Dressage.
"I have had this horse for just a year, and he is incredibly talented and young, so I am excited about my future with him," said Hart of Corona Texel, owned by Rowan O'Riley. "This was my career best at an international World Games."
Hart and her teammates Annie Peavy from Wellington, Fla., riding in Grade IV, Kate Shoemaker from Peoria, Ariz., in Grade IV, and Roxanne Trunnell from Rowlett, Texas in Grade I, each contested the individual championships with quality results.
PRIOR TO the 2018 WEG, Hart had retired her mare Schroeter's Romani, owned by Margaret Duprey and Cherry Knoll Farm, following the 2016 Rio Paralympics, beginning her search for a new partner, along with her friend and supporter Rowan O'Riley.
"Rowan O'Riley has been such a great horse owner/sponsor," said Hart. "She is so supportive of not only me but the sport as whole. She really wants to help grow the Para-Equestrian sport in the US."
Hart earned her medal in the presence of her family, teammates, coaches, and support team.
"With the WEG in the United States, my family was able to watch me at their first international Games," said Hart. "It was very emotional to not only have my test go so well but to be at our home-base representing the United States of America."
“I’m thrilled; it’s absolutely phenomenal," said Hart. “To be able to do it on home turf with my family watching, and it's our first U.S. WEG medal ever and my first medal ever, so this will not be coming off my neck. I’m just absolutely thrilled.”
Hart was excited that her partnership with the 9-year-old bay gelding has gone so well over the past year.
"Tex is a unicorn," she said. "He is incredibly talented and even through the transition period coming from able-bodied to Para-Dressage he was always there for me. He is not experienced in this atmosphere, and I was proud of him during my WEG test because I was able to keep him with me from the warm-up through the tunnel and into the ring. He was fantastic."
Hart scored a 72.235 percent for bronze behind Natasha Baker of Great Britain riding Mount St John Diva Dannebrog at 72.471 percent and in gold Rixt van der Horst of The Netherlands) on Findsley at 73.735 percent.
Hart's teammates also had top results including Annie Peavy from Avon, Conn., in Grade IV, who earned a 6th place with Royal Dark Chocolate, owner Rebecca Reno, scoring a 68.902%.
Kate Shoemaker from Peoria, Ariz. i Grade IV earned a seventh place with Solitaer 40, Owner Kate Craig & Deena Shoemaker, scoring a 68.707 percent, and Roxanne Trunnell from Rowlett, Texas in Grade I on Dolton, owned by Kate Shoemaker, earned a fifth place scoring a 72.143 percent.
Kai Handt has been the U.S. para-equestrian dressage chef d’equipe for six years and has been coaching para-dressage athletes for 11 years.
He has been close to para-dressage medal efforts but never experienced one until today, so Hart’s medal is extra special.
“We have been nipping at the medals for the past couple of years, and finally, now the program is coming into its own," said Handt. "We hired Michel Assouline as a coach’s coach for us and for coach development. We have been very busy re-educating these athletes and getting them to the level to compete internationally. The USEF/USPEA Center of Excellences have helped us come together and provide facilities where athletes can compete to see the level of competition. We are getting the coaches properly educated, and they understand what it takes to get this point and compete at this level. I’ve been trying to get [a medal] for 11 years. This is a dream come true.”