In this series, the Chronicle follows multiple riders as they seek to fulfill their FEI World Equestrian Games dreams in Tryon, North Carolina, in 2018. We’ll check in with them in the coming months as they pursue a team spot to see how they’re getting their horses ready and preparing mentally.
Rebecca Hart is a veteran of the U.S. Para-Dressage program. She’s been on teams at the 2008, 2012 and 2016 Paralympic Games as well as the FEI World Equestrian Games in 2010 and 2014.
Hart was named to the U.S. Para-Equestrian Dressage Team for the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games with Rowan O’Riley’s El Corona Texel.
Hart is based in Wellington, Florida, year round, and “Tex” is based at Cedar Crest Farms.
We got a waiver to not bring the horses to [the final selection event at] Wheatland Farms in Virginia], so we missed out on that, which was a bit of a disappointment. Tex just had a bit of a fever, and we wanted to be super cautious about it, which meant not making him travel. It turned out to be nothing, and we got the team announcement about a week later. We were lucky enough to receive that spot alongside Annie Peavy, Kate Shoemaker and Roxanne Trunnell, and it’s an absolute privilege to get to ride with them.
It’s actually been really fun because the whole team is all based in Wellington right now. [Shoemaker and Trunnell have been based in Wellington since January though they call the West Coast home.] We spend a lot of time together; we’ve had lunch and watch each other ride, so that’s been cool. Normally everyone’s so spread out around the country, so it’s been nice to get that team bond feeling and be able to support each other while we’re training or doing local shows.
We just finished our team home visit, which is when our team leaders come in and Michel Assouline does “shadow coaching,” where he watches what our home coaches have us do on a normal training day and makes suggestions on where he wants to tweak things. He’s so experienced specifically getting what he wants in a Games result, so he’s not reinventing the wheel; he’s just giving us some guided direction, so we can squeeze those last possible points out of our tests.
Michel basically said we were on the right track and to just keep working on having really smooth responses in the ring. That means a lot of work at home to make sure when we’re in the ring that Tex’s level of comfort stays the same. My mantra is “Same job, different sandbox,” so that’s the kind of attitude we’re trying to keep when the pressure amps up. But Michel was really impressed and happy with how Tex has blossomed since we’ve had him, and I feel the same way.
Tex has really matured in his confidence. He’s really a delight to handle at the shows now, and it’s nice to have that timing work out because I think we’ve just hit our year anniversary. I always give myself six months to a year to develop that bond; before that I feel like you’re kind of just a rider and a horse. Now I really feel like he’s working for me, and we have a deeper connection, so I can ask for a little more in the ring. I feel like he’s got my back, and I’ve got his back.
Tex ❤️…to say I love this horse would be an understatement.
Posted by Rebecca Hart on Monday, July 9, 2018
I always knew he was a cool horse and a unique character, and his personality has developed just as much as his talent. He wants cuddles all the time; he wants to be the center of attention. I’m gushing about my own horse, but I just adore him. He picks his people, and once he picks you as one of his people he’ll give you everything he can in a moment.
With a physical disability my brain doesn’t always connect with my leg to give cues at the right time or the right intensity, and Tex used to be a little unsure about that. He used to not quite know what to do, but now when that happens he just forges on. He’s like, “Don’t worry, I’ve got you!”
I’m working with my physiotherapist up until the week of WEG, so I can save all my energy for the horses that week. I also work with Jane Savoie; she’s been a delight and a huge help to the team. She’s coaching us in mental toughness and just getting ready to handle the stress of being at the WEG at home and needing to be able to deliver in the moment.
I did the WEG in 2010, which was similar to this year because we were at home too, but eight years down the road I’m feeling so much more confident. I’m really excited about where we are with our preparations. I always touch wood when I say those things, but I am excited.
I love where this sport has been going and to see all the pieces fall into place with our new management. It’s been great to have the level of structure and support from the federation and my new horse and my amazing sponsor in Rowan O’Reilly. All the pieces have kind of fallen into place in such a short time, only a year, but even so I really, truly believe in the horse I’m sitting on. Tex has got a lot to give, and it will be fun to see how everything plays out in that week.
This will also be the first time my dad has gotten to watch me compete at a big championship. He’s always been supportive, but this will be the first chance he has to watch us perform on this stage. Annie, myself and Roxie are kind of veterans; we’ve all done a WEG and a Paralympics, so Kate is the newcomer in that sense. I’ve been really impressed with her; she’s done a lot of awesome prep work. It’s a really intimidating thing to come into your first world championships and be on a team with people who have kind of done it all before; she’s done a phenomenal job.
It’s a great team with a great group of horses, and the quality of the work everyone has put in is really astounding. That includes everyone’s teams at home, all the supporters. I’m so grateful for my own supporters. I’m feeling very confident, and I’m really looking forward to this championship.
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