Paralympic Freestyle Day and Wrap Up

Rebecca Hart (USA) and Lord Ludger, owned by Jessica Ransehousen | Copyright Lindsay McCall

September 8, 2012

My goal going into Monday’s Freestyle was to improve on our Individual Test performance.  Lolu has a beautiful Freestyle designed by Marlene Whitaker of Custom Freestyles.  I was excited to highlight my horse’s strengths and show the judges and spectators what we are truly capable of.  Lolu warmed up pretty well and was much more settled in the arena.  Our music is very technical with specific pieces for each move that we do.  If we don’t hit the timing just right it is very obvious and detracts from the performance.  You have to get the entrance just right or you are constantly trying to either catch up or slow down to match the music for the rest of the Freestyle.  I have two chimes that are exactly on centerline for my serpentine.  I hit the first one and cracked a huge grin because I knew we had the Artistry component nailed.  The Technical component of our routine was also fairly strong.  Our weak points are the freewalk and the walk circles.  It is hard to get Lolu to maintain activity without making him nervous in the walk.   This test was by far our best performance and landed us in fifth place with the highest score of any American rider.

I am truly honored to have competed in this Paralympic Games and represented my country well.  I am also very proud of all of my teammates.  The bar was set high at this competition and everyone rose to the occasion.  All of our riders maintained and improved on their scores each day, improving dramatically on the United States’ final placing from Beijing four years ago.  The sport of Paraequestrian has grown and improved considerably over the last several years with a lot of hard work from everyone involved.  It has been an honor to be a part of these changes and I look forward to seeing our sport rise to even greater heights as we prepare for the next Paralympics in Rio.

The Freestyle competition marked the close of Equestrian events for the London 2012 Paralympics.  On Tuesday we packed everything up and sent the horses home to the United States.  It was a little sad to see everything being packed away and the amazing facilities we had been competing in taken down, but I’m taking some great memories of this whole experience home with me.

I am staying in London until after the Closing Ceremonies, so I’ve been having a great time sightseeing and enjoying the city for the last few days.  There is so much here to see and do, and everyone I’ve met has been extremely welcoming and friendly.  Although it will be good to get home after five weeks of being away, I am already looking forward to my next chance to come back.  Thanks, London, for my best Paralympic experience yet!

Categories: London 2012 Paralympic Games, Para-equestrian, Paralympics.

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Paralympic Competition Days 1-3

 

Team USA base camp

September 1, 2012

On day one of the competition, we started off with Dale early in the morning group for the Team Test.  Bonifatius was not thrilled with the crowds, and they finished a bit lower than they would have liked.  Lolu was unfazed by the crowds, was soft and relaxed in his trot work, but needed a bit more activity in his walk.  We finished fourth.  Later in the afternoon, Jonathan and Richter put in a nice, steady, accurate test for a fifth place finish.

On day two, Lolu and I had a little break from competing, but we had a good schooling ride, just to keep us on point for the Individual Championship the following day.  Donna and Western Rose walked into their Team Test in the afternoon with confidence and laid down a solid test, ending up in fifth place.

Day three started with Dale again having the first ride for Team USA, this time for the Individual Championship.  Bonifatius was a little more comfortable with the crowds this time and they were able to improve on their previous score by four points.  Lolu, unfortunately, did not have his head in the game today.  We will just have to pull it together for the Freestyle on Monday!  Maybe hearing his awesome Freestyle music will help him get his game face on for our final ride of this Paralympic Games.

The Individual Championship for Grade 1b this afternoon was a real nail-biter.  Jonathan and Richter had a fantastic ride, holding onto a medal position until the last two riders of the class.  There were some spectacular rides toward the end of the day, and Jonathan and Richter finished in fourth place.

Tomorrow Lolu and I will have another schooling ride, and Donna and Western Rose will ride for the Grade 1a Individual Championship.  Here’s hoping everyone puts their best foot forward!

Categories: London 2012 Paralympic Games, Para-equestrian, Paralympics.

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Start of Competition: Horse Inspection

 

USA London Paralympic Team 2012 (Left to Right, top to bottom) Chef d'Equipe Missy Ransehousen, the late Jonathan Wentz, Rebecca Hart, Dale Dedrick and Donna Ponessa | Copyright Lindsay Yosay McCall

August 29, 2012

The day started early and was slightly stressful, as all jog inspections are.  This is the day all the team  horses are inspected to make sure they are sound before the competition.  Even if you know your horse is in perfect health, this part is a nail-biter because if the ground jury (the inspectors) find anything wrong you could be out of the running before you even get into the race.  I wore my special Team USA Oakleys to cover my nervous expression as we watched the jog.  Lucky for me, there was a rare bit of sunshine at that moment that helped my disguise seem totally natural.

All the USA horses were ridden and schooled in the morning and then brushed and braided to perfection.  Lolu enjoyed his extra spa time.  Did you know horses can benefit from acupuncture too?   Lolu got his acupuncture treatment at the same time team coach Missy was getting hers, though not from the same acupuncturist.  It’s hard to say who was more relaxed.

My sister Katie arrived yesterday.  It has been amazing having her here with me at the venue.  To celebrate our successful jog, we went out for a lunch of sausage baps at Heap’s Sausages here in Greenwich.  Yum!  Trust me, if anyone ever offers you a sausage bap, just say yes!

Opening ceremonies are tonight and where the village was relaxed earlier in the week there is now a nervous energy in the air that you can feel as the competition grows near… the good kind of nerves, the ones that tell you something big is about to happen.

Be right back, I’m going to watch the teams leaving for the opening ceremonies from my balcony…

And they are off!  They looked like very well-dressed ants, gathering out on the sidewalk in front of the Team USA dorms.  I’m not walking tonight because of my early ride time tomorrow morning, but I hope my team mates have a great time!

Tomorrow is day one of the competition… wish us luck!

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Back in Action

August 27, 2012

A grin is worth a thousand words

After having a few days off due to a massive stomach flu, I got back in the saddle and it felt fantastic.

Team USA had “ring familiarization” time yesterday.  It basically gave us 30 minutes to let the horses see where they would be competing.  All of our horses handled the atmosphere really well.  As I was walking down the ramp and into the “big ring”  for the first time (even though it was just for practice) I definitely felt the butterflies start to flutter in my stomach.

I think I  was more spooky than Lolu;  Lolu walked in to the ring like he owned it.  Once I actually got into the ring I couldn’t keep the grin off my face.  I glanced over at Dale and Donna and they had the exact same expression as I did.  I think it finally hit us that after all the hard work and effort we are actually here and we are doing this.

Lolu has been a little tentative on the footing here at Greenwich Park.  All of the arenas are raised off the ground to protect the turf of the park, so having the arenas up on platforms causes the footing to feel and sound a little hollow.  Lolu was remarkably obedient and didn’t look at any of the scoreboards or arena decorations, he just felt a little cautious and slightly backed off in his way of going.

The “Queens House” is an impressive backdrop for these Games and I am excited to represent the U.S.A.   We have another practice day tomorrow.

Categories: London 2012 Paralympic Games, Para-equestrian, Paralympics.

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Made it to London!

 

Becca Hart with Lord Ludger. Courtesy Becca Hart

Becca Hart with Lord Ludger. Courtesy Becca Hart

August 26, 2012

Well, we made it to London.  LoLu handled the flight really well and settled in beautifully to the venue at Greenwich.  I moved into my new home in the Olympic village and then spent the last few days in the medical center with the flu. Not the most fortuitous start to this adventure, but I am feeling better this morning and ventured to the venue for a look around and to spend some time with Lolu.  We have time to acclimatize  and practice in the main  ”competition ring”  today at two; LoLu seems very comfortable in his new surroundings and remarkably at ease mentally. I am excited to sit on him later today.

Categories: London 2012 Paralympic Games, Para-equestrian, Paralympics.

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Spa Day!

Team Nails--Red, White, Blue, and GOLD!

Everyone has been working really hard here at training camp.  The horses and grooms head to Stanstead late tomorrow night; I fly over with the other team riders on Tuesday.  So you would think that today would involve a lot of packing, which it did, but we also opted for a little bit of creature comfort time for both horses and humans.  All the girls on the team opted to bond over a manicure and lunch at Gladstone Tavern.

Meanwhile, Lolu had his own version of a spa day with his own pedicure done by fabulous team farrier Todd Meister and  a massage with Laura Scherr-Spilhaus.
Lolu is loving all of the extra pampering he is getting while training here at USET.  Tomorrow will be a very light day of riding and then shipping over to Newwark airport in order to start the next leg of our journey!

Lolu loves his massage time. Can I get a color?

 

 

Categories: London 2012 Paralympic Games, Para-equestrian, Paralympics.

Mock Show

The last two days have been busy, with a capital B!  We “competed” in a mock show hosted by Para-Equestrian judge Kristi Wysocki.  The clinic was a really great experience. She had us pick and ride a test of our choice .  Then after we finished our test, she did a run through explaining, what we did well and what we needed to improve on.  After we discussed the highs and the lows, she had us run through the test again and coached us through the “tricky” parts.  It was great to get the inside scoop on what the judges are looking for.  Kristi was really good about explaining the best way to ride a test and get the most points possible out of each movement.  It was interesting to hear the perspective that showing is not only about the technical riding, but also about learning how to use the art of  showmanship to your advantage.  So a huge thank you to Kristi Wysocki for coming in and helping us over the last two days!  I know that I gained alot of the clinic.  I will ride tall and proud and I will stay on the balance beam!!

 

Lolu adding his two cents to the postDale and Erik in the Mock Show

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Training Camp–Day I

Today consisted of several rain delays; New Jersey is just prepping us for London.  Missy and I rode early this AM to try and get our ride in before we got too wet.  Lolu was pretty good today; he felt a little stiff, but I think it was from traveling yesterday.  He handled the big open atmosphere of Gladstone’s outdoor arena really well.  Jonathan and Dale rode in the morning too.  Jonathan had a nice ride on Silvano.  Silvano is Jonathan’s back-up horse in case anything would happen to his main horse, Richter Scale.  Dale rode Bonifatius (Erik), and they also had a nice school.   Dale and Erik were seriously rained on, but like true competitors, they didn’t allow a mere downpour to keep them from staying focused and producing good work in the arena.  I huddled in the judge’s booth with Missy to cheer them on.

We had a team lunch today at Gladstone, and I was talking some strategy with Dale and Donna.  We have a good team; we just need to really focus on accuracy if we want to try and stay with some of the European teams. 

We had a helpful and informative presentation by USADA (United States Anti-Doping Agency) and FEI Clean-Sport.  We discussed all the procedures and rules that help to keep the athletes and horses safe and comfortable throughout the games.  It is fabulous to have the support and assistance from these agencies; It allows us as riders to focus on competing without having to slog through the rule books. 

It looks like we are having a break in the rain, and Lolu and I are going to head out and let him at some grass before the next wave of weather heads in.

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The Adventure Begins—with Packing

August 14, 2012

Becca Hart with Lord Ludger. Courtesy Becca Hart

Becca Hart with Lord Ludger. Courtesy Becca Hart

After four hard years of work the adventure begins again–new partner, new team!  Lolu and I headed to the USET Headquarters in Gladstone NJ today for training camp.   Besides training well, other challenges must be met!  We were given a two-trunk limit per horse to get all of our equipment to London.  Now, two trunks may seem like a lot, but Lolu is a total clothes horse and likes to travel in style!

Thank goodness for Spacebags! One of the boarders at Blue Hill suggested that I try them.  They are mesmerizing. I now get a little too much satisfaction watching my gigantic pile of wraps, towels, and blankets get squashed to a mere fraction of the size as the air is pulled out of the bag.

In getting ready to head out I horrified Missy with–get ready for it—plaid shipping boots.  Lolu traveled in his standard fuzzy halter, but (gasp!) I put a set of navy plaid shipping boots on him.  I personally think that Lolu rocked in them.  You guys can decide on your own opinion of “to plaid or not to plaid.” I like to think of our style as conservative chic.

USET HQ in Gladstone, NJ, site of the Paralympic team training camp. Courtesy Becca Hart

USET HQ in Gladstone, NJ, site of the Paralympic team training camp. Courtesy Becca Hart

We arrived at beautiful Hamilton Farm and Lolu settled in nicely.  He rather enjoys the extra pampering and the super deluxe, brass-topped stalls.  He is especially pleased with his equine massage sessions.  I enjoy soaking in the history of the place and thinking of all the riders and horses that have worked here—teams I idolized as a young rider just starting through the levels.

Today is relatively quiet.  We had a trot up with the team vet at 12:30 just to get a baseline on all the horses and make sure everyone traveled well.  We did a light schooling afterwards and have a team dinner tonight.

So excited to start this trip!  We made it; we are leading Lolu to London!!

Categories: London 2012 Paralympic Games, Para-equestrian, Paralympics.

It’s Official…Happy Dance!!

The official announcement for the Paralympic dressage team has been made.  LoLu and I are in and headed for London.  There are no words for the size of my grin right now.  Ginormous still isn’t adequate.  We are on full horsey rundown until we leave on August 12th for “boot camp” in Gladstone.  Lists must be made, equipment prepped and packed, Lolu pampered and praised, and of course, hard work and training.  I had my last day of work yesterday until after the Games!  The great team and customers there gave me a warm and fabulous send-off.  I love my job…but, am I allowed to say I love playing with my ponies, all day, a wee little bit more?  I feel like a kid let out for summer vacation, soon to be heading to the most exciting camp in the world.  I can’t wait to get to Gladstone and start riding and training with my fellow teammates.  I feel we have a great team.  Everyone has good horses and is hungry for those coveted top spots.  Everyone has been training and working hard.  There are many fabulous teams that will be in London, and many great riders I can’t wait to watch.  We Americans are sometimes seen as a little bit of an underdog, but I am looking forward to working hard and learning what we can produce! GO TEAM USA!

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