Lexington, KY- The U.S. Para-Equestrian Team continued to make strides in qualifying for the 2012 Paralympic Games by winning Team Gold at the 2011 Melbourne CPEDI3* held in conjunction with the Saddle World Dressage Festival. The U.S. was represented by Donna Ponessa, Becca Hart, Erin Alberda, and Mary Jordan all riding borrowed horses at the competition held December 8-11 at the National Equestrian Centre in Werribee, Victoria. The team win came in spectacular fashion as the four riders earned the highest overall team score that the U.S. has ever produced. Australia place second with New Zealand and Japan placing third and fourth, respectively.


The winning was not limited to the team competition - U.S. riders finished no lower than second in any of the tests they rode. In Grade 1a competition, Ponessa (New Windsor, NY) produced three winning efforts riding Miike Setsuko's Don Armani to scores of 70.588%, 69.5% and 68.5% in the Team Test, Individual Test and Freestyle, respectively. Alberda of Woodinville, WA, also had a clean sweep of her Grade III division tests scoring 66.913% in the Team Test, 65.556% for the Individual Test and earning a 71.5% Freestyle score with Adele Plumbridge's Southern Cross Tamaris. Grade IV rider, Jordan (Wells, ME) produced second-place efforts in the Team Test, Individual Test and Freestyle riding Elainie Castiellini's Northern Charmer to scores of 64.271%, 65.161% and 68%, respectively.

Hart of Unionville, PA, had winning rides in the two Grade II tests she contested with Plumbridge's Southern Cross Tamaris. However, severe weather including driving rain and hurricane force winds led to the cancellation of the Freestyle on Sunday for this division. In the Team Test, Hart earned a 69.048% and improved upon that mark the following day earning 69.365% for Saturday's Individual Test.

The four riders demonstrated the increasing strength and depth of the para-equestrian program in the U.S. by producing solid results with unfamiliar horses. All the U.S. riders and their connections are extremely grateful to the Australian owners that graciously supplied horses for this competition.

The U.S. is steadily marching towards their qualification to compete in London having scored three team wins in 2011. The win in Australia comes on the heels of another Team USA victory at the CPEDI3* in Mexico City in November. They were also the winners of the Saugerties CPEDI3* in September, a competition that was held alongside the USEF Para-Equestrian Dressage National Championships.

Two more chances to gain qualification will be held stateside in January 2012. Twenty horse-and-rider combinations will have the opportunity to contest CPEDI3*s in Wellington, FL, January 19-22 at the Gold Coast Opener and January 26-19 at the Jim Brandon Equestrian Center. The second competition will be held in conjunction with the World Dressage Masters Palm Beach CDI5*.

To find out more about the Wellington CPEDI3*s and the World Dressage Masters Palm Beach CDI5* visit: http://www.wellingtonclassicdressage.com/.

To learn more about the 2011 Saddle World Dressage Festival visit: http://www.equestrianvictoriaevents.com.au/DF/.


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