In the final selection event held before naming the U.S. Para-Dressage Team for the 2022 Orifarm Healthcare FEI World Championships, Tokyo Paralympian Beatrice de Lavalette and her new horse Sixth Sense came out on top at the Tryon Summer Dressage CPEDI3*, held June 16-19 at the Tryon International Equestrian Center in Mill Spring, North Carolina.
Scores from across three days of competition—Friday’s individual test, Saturday’s team test and Sunday’s FEI Para Dressage freestyle—were combined at a ratio of 40%, 40%, and 20%, respectively, to determine individual winners for the CPEDI3*.
De Lavalette, Loxahatchee, Florida, and Sixth Sense, a 12-year-old Oldenburg (Sir Donnerhall I—Edosta, Florencio I) owned by Elizabeth and Nicolas de Lavalette, performed a Grade II freestyle to a soundtrack that included music from the movie “Madagascar” and choreography that showed off the dark bay gelding’s impressive movement. They were rewarded with a score of 75.94%, a new personal best.
“I’ve had ‘Sensei’ since December, so it’s a new partnership,” Beatrice said. “It started really well, and then kind of went down because he learned that he could take advantage of some stuff that I couldn’t do. But ever since we went to Europe in April to do two competitions there, and what we experienced there, we’ve built back up to the partnership. Clearly today it showed, and it’s been a really good month of training hard. He did his job, and I couldn’t be more proud of him.”
Beatrice also brought her Tokyo Paralympics partner, Clarc, to Tryon. She said her two top geldings have some similarities, but are also unique.
“Sensei is a little different in the sense that he’s more active,” she said. “He’s still a little lazy like Clarc—that’s my type of horse, apparently—but he’s got a bigger essence. I’ve learned so much from him that I can use with Clarc, and it’s made a huge difference in both of the horses.
“I’m so proud of [Sensei],” she continued. “This is only the second time we’ve done this freestyle. We put the music and the choreography together, did it in Europe, and it went well. So today was definitely a highlight. I’m so proud of both of the boys. They were just great.”
Fellow Tokyo Paralympian Kate Shoemaker, Wellington, Florida, finished in second place in the CPEDI3* with Solitaer 40, the 15-year-old Hanoverian gelding she co-owns with her parents, Craig and Deena Shoemaker. Kate and ‘Soli’ have represented the U.S. at the FEI World Equestrian Games in 2018 and the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics.
The competition served as the final observation event ahead of team selection for the 2022 FEI Para Dressage World Championship, which will take place in August in Herning, Denmark. The team members will be selected in July. USEF Para Dressage Chef d’Equipe Michel Assouline is optimistic about the pool of U.S. athletes heading into this championship. (See full scores here.)
“We have some decent scores and a lot of consistency,” he said. “We have three riders with two horses, which is another luxury. In the past, we didn’t have that scenario where some riders had a backup horse, but we’ve got at least three now.”
Watch Beatrice and Sensei’s winning freestyle:
Remembering Hope Hand
At the conclusion of the weekend’s competition, participants gathered to recognize Hope Hand, president and founder of the U.S. Para-Equestrian Association, who died June 12. Hand was instrumental in elevating the sport in the U.S. She was a successful para-dressage athlete in her own right, having been the alternate for the 1996 Paralympics in Atlanta and team captain for the 2000 Paralympics in Sydney.
“The para-dressage community world-wide has lost a legend and a true friend,” said Laureen Johnson, the U.S. Equestrian Federation’s director of para-dressage. “Hope Hand not only knew every U.S. para-dressage athlete from emerging to elite but recruited many of them into the program. Hope was available 24/7 to everyone to advise, encourage and educate them on their journey to be the very best version of themselves professionally and personally. She is well known in the equestrian world for her tireless work in advancing para-equestrian sport and has served on numerous boards and committees, all in the pursuit of bringing competition excellence to the U.S. in para-dressage. Personally, I have lost a great mentor and friend. She is truly irreplaceable with her extraordinary energy and warm, caring heart. Her beautiful smile, witty personality and laugh will always remain in my heart and mind.”
Athletes and friends paid tribute to Hand with a remembrance after the freestyles on Sunday. Seventeen-year-old para dressage athlete Andie Sue Roth led her horse, Aniko, to center ring as a riderless horse as the assembled crowd observed a moment of silence.
Watch the tribute to USPEA President Hope Hand: