Wellington, FL- February 4, 2014 - Rebecca Hart, a two-time Para-Olympic athlete, has a new horse, thanks to a group of people who believe in her.
Hart's new horse, Romani, an 11-year-old Danish Warmblood mare, was purchased with the help of Margaret Duprey and Cherry Knoll Farm, Hart's family, William and Sandy Kimmel and Sycamore Station Equine Division.
"It was a massively joint effort and I am honored to be a part of it," the equestrian said. "I have a huge support system. It's as much their victory as mine."
In 2012, she won the USEF Para-Equestrian Dressage National Championship title aboard Lord Ludger. Her former mount, owned by the Ransehousens, was retired to a life of eating grass, hacking and light riding at the age of 21 after the 2012 London Olympic Games.
Hart plans to qualify for the June 2014 Para-Equestrian National Championship and Selection Trials in Gladstone, NJ, with the ultimate goal of participating in the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Normandy, France. Beyond that, she wants to go for the gold at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Hart thinks Romani could be the perfect partner. She said the 16.2 hand mare arrived from Denmark at the end of November and is athletic, supple and fun to ride. She had a comfortable connection with the horse the first time she rode her.
"A para horse has to have something special to make it as an international horse, but at the same time, it also has to understand the disability and have a fantastic brain and personality to go along with that," she explained. "It was funny. She sized me up when I met her. She looked me up and down - it was the most bizarre experience I've ever had with a horse. She's like, 'I understand that your legs don't work. I hear what you're saying.' And off we went."
She said that when she mounted Romani in Denmark, it was the first time in 18 years of riding that sitting in the saddle did not hurt her hip.
Hart has birth-onset hereditary spastic paraplegia, a degenerative disease that causes muscle wasting and paralysis, and credits riding with her continued mobility and ability to walk. She said that the more people understand para-equestrian riding, the better it will be for the sport.
Hart added that she's thankful for her support team who has recognized that she competes in a legitimate high-performance sport.
"I can't thank them enough for helping me fulfill my lifelong dream and for allowing me to share my adventure with them," she said. "Every time we succeed, it's as much their victory as it is my own."