Saugerties, N.Y.-Sept. 18
As he headed down centerline for his Grade 1b Individual test with NTEC Richter Scale, Jonathan Wentz knew the scores were very close. He was leading the Para-Equestrian Dressage National Championship, but Dale Dedrick was right behind him with Bonifatius.
“It was down to the wire,” Wentz said. “I knew one mistake could decide the entire competition. That was the main goal going into today’s test: no mistakes whatsoever. No geometry errors. When I got on, I could tell the two days of competition had drained Richter a bit, so I knew it was going to be a harder test today. But I knew if I rode accurately, I could put down a score similar to Day 1.”
Wentz, 20, even bested his score from the first day’s Team test, where he scored a 71.51 percent, picking up a 71.81 percent in the Individual test. Combined with his score of 71.00 in the freestyle, Wentz sealed his fate as the 2011 champion on a 71.53 with Richter, a 17-year-old Shire cross owned by coach Kai Handt. Dedrick, riding in the Grade II division at her first national championship, took the reserve title on a 71.22 percent. The Team and Individual tests each counted for 40 percent of the overall score, and the freestyle was worth 20 percent.
“I thought Day 1 was by far the best on Richter,” said Wentz. “That was the day that set us out in the lead. I don’t think you could ride that horse better in that test than I rode him that day. Yesterday in my freestyle, the test is a lot of trot, and my freestyle probably needs to be re-written to have a walk break in the middle. You have all of the trot, and you just get chasing, and it needs to be broken up a little. We had a break in the walk. The second I let the reins go, it was a beautiful free walk, maybe a 9 or a 10, and as my coach always says, past 10 is 0 again on the scale.”
But Richter wasn’t the only horse of Wentz’s sitting near the top of the national leaderboard—Wentz also took fourth in the national championship aboard NTEC Jabriel, a 12-year-old Bavarian Warmblood (Jazz Time—La Gana) owned by Rachel Marie Zent.
Wentz, Dallas, Texas, competed at the 2010 Alltech FEI Equestrian Games Para-Equestrian team for the United States and is looking towards the London Paralympics next year. The U.S. Para-Equestrian team is hoping they’ll get to send four riders to London.
“I set the goal when I was 12 and had just started doing dressage that I wanted to ride in the World Equestrian Games and go to the Olympics in London,” he said. “I hit one major goal in September. At WEG we got to take 10 U.S. riders, so it was competitive to be in the top 10, but it was not as competitive as it will be to qualify for London as we narrow this great field of emerging riders down. This weekend was just great for preparing me for knowing how to handle myself in a competition like that.”
A student at Southern Methodist University in Texas, Wentz is triple majoring in medieval studies, political science and history. But he still finds time to ride at least three horses a day for Handt, who is both Wentz’s sponsor and coach.
“It’s just been a learning experience,” Wentz said. “When I went to Kai a few years ago, he had no clue what to do. He had just coached able-bodied elites, and it’s a whole new ball game. He knew Richter was good, but we slowly started figuring out what we needed to do. I couldn’t do any of this without Kai.”
National Championship Top 10 Results:
1. Jonathan Wentz/NTEC Richter Scale/71.53%
2. Dale Dedrick/Bonifatus/71.22%
3. Rebecca Hart/Lord Ludger/67.89%
4. Jonathan Wentz/NTEC Jabriel/67.74%
5. Wendy Fryke/Lateran/67.06%
6. Mary Jordan/Sebastian/66.83%
7. Donna Ponessa/Otto/66.68%
8. Donna Ponessa/Western Rose/66.61%
9. Robin Brueckmann/Radetzky/64.63%
10. Elizabeth Pigott/Whitney's Willow/64.35%
The Saugerties CDI-W also finished up today, with Catherine Haddad winning the Grand Prix Special aboard Cadillac 35 on a 67.75 percent.
Class results available at Fox Village.