Fresh Partnerships Shine in Para Classes at 2023 Adequan® Global Dressage Festival
The Perrigo CPEDI3* of para dressage action during week nine of the Adequan® Global Dressage Festival (AGDF) kicked off on Friday. AGDF 2023, which hosts seven weeks of CDI competition over three months, runs through April 2.
Partnering with her own 12-year-old Ghandi (Bojengel x Tuschinski) in international competition for the very first time, the decorated Grade IV US Paralympian Kate Shoemaker, 35, topped the grade with 71.759%.
“This weekend has been a little different for me as this is the first time in five years that I haven’t been named to a team while competing,” she explained. “It took the pressure off having a new horse and just being able to go in there with him and give him the best showing I could. To get the experience in this stadium was wonderful.”
Shoemaker found the horse for a client who decided to pass on him, but she had a good feeling about him and got on.
“It was love at first sight,” remembered the rider, who has lesions that cause motor control dysfunction, muscle weakness and spasms on the right side of her body. “The goal with this horse was to give me something to ride on a daily basis that gives me the feeling that my mare Quiana does. The competition side of it was an extra opportunity for me. The fact that he went in there this weekend and said, ‘Yeah I’m happy with the people and the stadium’ — it was incredibly fun to ride him and I learned a lot because he truly is a schoolmaster.”
Shoemaker’s para dressage career (she had previously evented internationally) began at this very venue in 2014. She drove 30 hours from Oklahoma, where she was working in a vet clinic, to attend the show and it was in Wellington that her illustrious para journey was launched. Soon after, she found Solitaer 40 and, with the help of trainer Andrea Woodard, took the horse to the World Equestrian Games in 2018 and the Tokyo Olympics.
At AGDF 9, Shoemaker handed over Solitaer 40’s reins to the Grade II rider Fiona Howard (USA), who has the neuromuscular disease, dystonia. She posted a 68.908% win on the 16-year-old gelding by Sandro Hit x De Niro and is coached by Shoemaker.
Shoemaker played a huge part in the success of yet another winner, Grade V victor Cynthia Screnci (USA). The 55-year-old rode her own and Volado Farms’ 16-year-old Sir Donnerhall gelding Sir Chipoli to 70.427% — with a high score of 71.923% from the judge at C Adrienne Pot, who awarded 10 eights. Shoemaker found ‘Chip’ for Screnci and they have won their last 15 international starts together over the past two years.
“Kate has an amazing ability of looking at a rider and being able to pair them with a horse,” said Screnci. “This is the second horse she’s helped me with using Facebook ads. Within a day somebody responded, sent videos and she met them for breakfast. The next thing I knew I was on a plane going to Germany to try Chip. I rode him for five days, took him to a show, and said, ‘Find him a flight and get him home’. The credit goes to Kate; she’s such a supporter of the program and the growth of the team.”