Great Southwest Equestrian Center Hosts First-Ever Olympic Dressage and Para Qualifier

Great Southwest Equestrian Center Hosts First-Ever Olympic Dressage and Para Qualifier

Courtney King Dye Slated to Compete in First International Event Since Accident

Wellington, FL – April 26, 2012 – From April 27-29, 2012, the Great Southwest Equestrian Center in Katy, Texas will host a Dressage Olympic and Paralympic qualifier. It is the first international dressage event at this level to be held in the multi-state region including Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Mississippi and Arkansas. 

As the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games approach, equestrians are attending this qualifying competition with the hopes of representing their country abroad this summer. The able-bodied CDI3* riders are vying for the opportunity to go to the 2012 USEF Olympic Dressage Selection Trials. For the Para-Equestrian (physically disabled) CPEDI3* riders, this is their last opportunity to qualify as an individual for the 2012 USEF Paralympic Selection Trials. 

While there are several qualifying events around the United States for able-bodied riders, the Para- Equestrian competition at the Great Southwest Equestrian Center outside of Houston is the final qualifying event for disabled riders before the 2012. Paralympic Selection Trials and the 2012 USEF Para-Equestrian Dressage National Championship in New Jersey June 11-13. Para-Equestrianriders will travel to Great Southwest Equestrian Center from across North America to compete including Canada, California, Ohio, Michigan, Connecticut, Colorado, Florida and Texas. 

Courtney King Dye will compete at the event at Great Southwest Equestrian Center. A world-class rider and a member of the 2008 United States Equestrian Team in Dressage, in 2010 Dye sustained a traumatic brain injury in a riding accident. Dye, 33, spent four weeks in a coma and had to re-learn how to walk and talk. She is now a tireless proponent of helmet safety, receiving national recognition for her efforts. Dye’s dedication to the sport and competitive drive to be a top athlete are bringing her to Great Southwest Equestrian Center where she will compete internationally for the first time since her accident. Her goal is to go to the 2012 London Paralympics.

Jonathan Wentz, a student at Southern Methodist University and the 2011 USEF Para-Equestrian Dressage National Champion, will also compete. Jonathan has ridden for the US Para-Equestrian Team several times including the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™. He is currently ranked among the top ten Para-Dressage riders in the world. Born with cerebral palsy, Jonathan started riding for therapy as a young child. His competitive nature pushed him to the international scene several years later. During the Houston Dressage Society CPEDI3* event, Jonathan will compete on two of his international horses in preparation for the approaching Selection Trials. He is a member of the Houston Dressage Society and is certain to be the local favorite. 

Due to the range of disabilities, Para-Dressage athletes are classified according to the level of their disability into five different “Grades” ranging from Grade Ia to Grade IV. Classifications are performed at each international competition by trained physical therapists or physicians who perform strength, range of motion and/or coordination tests on the athletes to assess their functional ability and approve them for adaptive equipment. Grade Ia is the most severely impaired group and Grade IV is the least impaired. Athletes compete against other riders within their Grade (Ia, Ib, II, III and IV) so that there is fair competition between riders with comparable disabilities. Adaptive equipment is allowed, as needed, such as modified saddles, additional whips, rubber bands, looped reins and other aids to help compensate for a rider’s disability. 

To qualify for the 2012 US Paralympic Selection Trials, Para-Dressage riders must achieve a performance score of 60% or better in the Individual or team events, excluding the Freestyle, from a panel of judges at an approved international competition (CPEDI3*). In 2012, only four North American competitions offered US Paralympic CPEDI3* qualifying events. The Houston competition is pleased to be one of them. The Para-Dressage judging panel includes Kathy Amos Jacob (FRA), Carlos Lopes (POR), David Schmutz (CA) and Kristi Wysocki (CO). Increasing the pressure for the Para-Dressage riders, Carlos Lopes has been selected as part of the judging panel for the 2012 London Paralympics making this competition even more interesting. 

International level competition is governed by the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI), headquartered in Lausanne, Switzerland. Both able-bodied and Para-Equestrian riders compete under special FEI rules. Judges are licensed by the FEI to officiate at international competitions around the world. Equestrian sports are the only Olympic sport where men and women compete directly against each other. 

The goal of Dressage is to make the horse more responsive and gymnastic. The rider’s aids should be nearly invisible and the horse should seem like it is performing of its own accord. It takes years to train a horse to the Olympic level and few are talented enough to master the advanced movements required. 

The event is open to the public free of charge beginning at 8:00 AM each morning and ending around 5:00 PM each afternoon, except for the Saturday night ride-to-music performances (Musical Freestyles). Parking is also free. 

Year-round, Great Southwest Equestrian Center is home to a wide range of local and international horse shows and events including, the National Reining Breeders Classic (NRBC), the second largest reining show in the world, which they have successfully hosted for the past ten years. 

Great Southwest Equestrian Center also hosts The Pin Oak Charity Horse Show, one of the country’s most prestigious equestrian events as well as Arabian, Dressage, AA Hunter/Jumper, Reining and American Quarter Horse Association Shows. A third indoor arena, the Tellepsen Arena, will open this fall. 

For more information on Great Southwest Equestrian Center go to: 

Courtney King Dye and Mythilus at the 2008 Olympic Games in Hong Kong.
Photo by Susan Stickle/