The U.S. Para Dressage Team saw its first two combinations head down the center line at Equestrian Park in Tokyo, Japan, opening the first day of equestrian competition at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020. Beatrice de Lavalette and Clarc were the first combination to contest the Grade II Individual Test in the main stadium, earning a 70.265 percent, while Kate Shoemaker and Solitaer 40 closed out the evening of competition with a 70.854 percent as the last combination in the Grade IV Individual Test. Both combinations qualified for their Grade’s FEI Individual Freestyle to Music on Monday, August 31.
De Lavalette and Clarc, a 14-year-old KWPN gelding owned by Elizabeth and Nicholas de Lavalette, made their first Paralympic debut, completed a solid test to open Grade II competition. The pair earned a 70.265 percent from the ground jury to put them into fifth place in Grade II competition. They are also the first U.S. combination to break the 70 percent mark in a Paralympic Games, setting an early tone for the team rides ahead.
“It was a very enjoyable ride,” said de Lavalette of her ride with Clarc. “I went through my test about a thousand times. I wasn’t really nervous, but just excited. The excitement took over, and I knew my test, I knew my horse was right, and we were together and in sync, so I couldn’t be happier with the ride.”
De Lavalette, of Lake Worth Beach, Fla., has said that competing at the Paralympic Games and representing her country is one of the main motivating factors in her incredible recovery and return to sport following the 2016 Brussels Airport bombings. Riding her recently acquired mount, Clarc, de Lavalette commented on the meaningfulness of the Paralympic journey and what it felt like to make her international championship debut.
“It is such a great honor to be here representing the U.S. at this competition and being able to have fun with my horse out there after five years of fighting for my life,” she said. “It was really very emotional for me at the end. Setting the goal of being here five years ago when I was in the ICU was a dream, and being here today is a dream realized, and I couldn’t be happier. I’m very proud of myself and my team, because without them I wouldn’t be here.”
Kate Shoemaker and Solitaer 40, a 14-year-old Hanoverian gelding owned by Deena, Craig, and Kate Shoemaker are also making their Paralympic debut after contesting their first major international championship with the U.S. Para Dressage Team at the FEI World Equestrian Games Tryon 2018. The pair earned a 70.854 percent from the judging panel in an extremely competitive first day of Grade IV competition, placing them seventh out of 15 competitors.
“I’m really pleased with my horse, though a little bit disappointed with the score of course, since we had hoped to be in the medals, and I felt our ride today was quite good, but all I can do is be happy with my performance in the ring, and I absolutely love my horse to pieces,” said Shoemaker after her test. “The energy in there was phenomenal. It just gives you a sense of power and the horses can feel it, and it’s just so much fun.”
Shoemaker, of Wellington, Fla., and Solitaer 40 have been partnered together for the entirety of both of their international careers and achieving this selection to the U.S. Para Dressage Team for the Tokyo Paralympic Games is the highlight for Shoemaker and her team. Working through the 2020 and 2021 seasons to continually improve their marks in both the individual and team tests, the pair have become a consistent combination for the team.
“We’ve been showing together for a while now, and this is the end of our seventh year together,” said Shoemaker. “It’s a partnership that’s been a long time coming. He loves championships, and when you add that little bit of energy, he really turns into something special, and it’s a feeling like none other.”
Competition will continue tomorrow at the Tokyo Paralympic Games in para dressage with FEI Individual Tests for Grade I and Grade III. Roxanne Trunnell, of Wellington, Fla., and Dolton will be the first combination to lead off the Grade I Individual Test at 4:24 p.m. JST/3:24 a.m. EST, while Paralympic veteran Rebecca Hart, of Royal Palm Beach, Fla., and her mount, El Corona Texel, will compete in the Individual Test for Grade III competition at 9:26 p.m. JST/8:26 a.m. EST.
The USEF International High Performance Programs are generously supported by the USET Foundation, USOPC, and USEF sponsors and members.
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