Final U.S. Para-Dressage World Equestrian Games Qualifier Completed at the Golden State Dressage Classic CPEDI3*

RELEASE: April 8, 2014

USA Riders at the Golden State Dressage Classic CPEDI3*
(Left to Right) Elizabeth Traband, Holly Bergay, Deborah Stanitski, Kate Shoemaker, Susan Treabess, Ashleigh Flores-Simmons, Chef d'Equipe Kai Handt, and up front is U.S. Air Force Veteran Derrick Perkins. (John Stevenson)
USA Riders at the Golden State Dressage Classic CPEDI3* (Left to Right) Elizabeth Traband, Holly Bergay, Deborah Stanitski, Kate Shoemaker, Susan Treabess, Ashleigh Flores-Simmons, Chef d'Equipe Kai Handt, and up front is U.S. Air Force Veteran Derrick Perkins. (John Stevenson)
Rancho Mureieta, Calif.
- The pressure was on at the Golden State Dressage Classic CPEDI3* for many U.S. para-dressage athletes looking to qualify for the World Equestrian Games. From April 4-6, 2014, riders from Grade Ia, II, III, and IV competed for top scores in the international arena at the Murieta Equestrian Center. The FEI ground jury included Alison King (HK) FEI 4*, David Schmutz (USA) FEI 4*, Kathy Amos-Jacob (FRA) FEI 4*. After a top showing just weeks prior at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival CPEDI3* in Wellington, Florida, riders were ready to give it their all in their final qualifier held in the United States for the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ Selection Trial and U.S. Para-Equestrian Dressage National Championship. With all U.S. events completed there are 14 U.S. riders qualified for the selection trials including a U.S. Air Force Veteran. Many of these riders will also compete at the Para-Equestrian Dressage National Championships, which coincide with the trials.

Para-Dressage Chef d'Equipe Kai Handt is looking forward to the June 2014 trials because he has spent the year watching, encouraging, and applauding the many talented U.S. horse and rider combinations. The Golden State Dressage Classic CPEDI3* was his last opportunity to see how each rider has progressed. Handt commented, "The U.S. para-dressage team had a great showing at the this CPEDI3*. Our new riders performed well in their first CPEDI and everyone earned their qualifying scores for the trials. The seasoned riders had quality rides creating a great outlook for the future. There were small technical errors in a few tests but those should be easily ironed out. All of the riders look forward to their next performance at selection trials for the 2014 WEG. Overall, the show was a great success and we are thankful to the entire show for the great support of our para-dressage riders. We are also grateful to our sponsors for the team dinner that was provided."

2010 World Equestrian Games (WEG) U.S. rider Susan Treabess, Grade IV, understands the position each of the athletes are in right now. Almost one year ago, Winters, California, equestrian and trainer Susan Treabess debuted the now 9 year-old Pura Raza Espanol Kamiakin, owned by Scott and Katie Hill. Treabess was happy about the duo's first international show but was looking forward to preparing for 2014. As a 2010 WEG U.S. rider Treabess knows what it takes to get to that arena in Normandy, France. At the Golden State Dressage Classic CPEDI3* Treabess and Kamiakin brought their best and earned solid team and individual scores. On the final day of competition Treabess earned an exciting 72.417% freestyle score. Although riders must qualify with the team or individual score, the freestyle scores will be taken into account for the selection trials.

Treabess explained, "In 2010, my freestyle score was what put me over the top for WEG. For some reason the freestyle really clicks with my horses and me. Of course I am working hard on the other tests but the freestyle has always been my strongest. It was the first time we rode this freestyle and we received some great feedback to work on before Gladstone."

She continued, "This show was a bit of an experiment for Kam and I. After our one CPEDI in June 2013 we worked this last year on gate development. We have been working hard, training, showing, and we decided to try a few things at this show. It was great to get that perspective from the judges before selection trials. We took some risks that paid off and some that didn't."

This show was the first time Treabess was able to work with the new Para-Dressage Chef d'Equipe Kai Handt. She commented, "You never know with a new coach and new system but I have to say that Kai wants the same thing we do which is to become more competitive as a team. He knows his job is to make this team in a solid team and that will take some time. On a coaching level I appreciated his support this weekend. He recognized what Dennis and I have been working on, he knows we are doing everything we can, he reinforced our training this weekend and had that open communication we desire from a Chef d'Equipe. I am excited for what the future holds."

Holly Bergay and Rubino Bellissimo at the 2012 Rancho Valencia Dressage Festival CPEDI3* (Lindsay McCall)
Holly Bergay and Rubino Bellissimo at the 2012 Rancho Valencia Dressage Festival CPEDI3* (Lindsay McCall)
For fellow Grade IV rider Holly Bergay, this show was a chance to step back into the international arena. In 2010 Bergay was named to the World Equestrian Games U.S. team. Unfortunately lameness in her mount would cause her to withdraw from the competition. Since that time period Bergay has been actively competing and topping the ranks in the small tour for para-dressage. The Golden State Dressage Classic CPEDI3* was Bergay's opportunity to qualify once again for the 2014 World Equestrian Games. The judges were impressed with the duo of Bergay and Rubino Bellissimo who earned the top score of the competition of a 73.083% in their freestyle. Everyone was excited to see the accomplished para-dressage athlete back in the spotlight and earning top ranking international scores.

Rounding out the Grade IV tests was brand new para-dressage rider Elizabeth Traband and Ucari, owned by Helene Bergstrom. Just weeks prior Traband and her mount were in Wellington, Florida, at their first CPEDI3*. Traband, a talented hunter/jumper athlete, transitioned into the para-dressage world and was immediately a force to be reckoned with. After a near miss of a WEG qualification score in Florida, Traband packed her bags and traveled to Rancho Murieta in hopes of obtaining a qualifying score for the WEG and some important feedback from the ground jury. Traband and Ucari will now head back to the east coast where they will rendezvous with the 13 other U.S. para-dressage riders qualified for the WEG selection trials and national championships.

Following Traband's trek across the country, Kate Shoemaker left Wellington, Florida, and headed to the Golden State Dressage Classic CPEDI3*. Shoemaker brought her own Pacifec M to the competition and their hard work paid off when they earned their qualification score. The para-dressage world takes commitment, hard work, and sacrifices. For both Traband and Shoemaker the trip to California may have seemed long but in the end, it was worth the miles. From the value of the feedback from the FEI 4* judge's to the international show exposure, the experience was immeasurable.

Ashleigh Flores-Simmons, Grade II rider, can understand how these riders felt as they approached X on the first day. Only 9 months ago, she was trotting down centerline with a registered Arabian at her first CPEDI3*. Not even a full year later and Flores-Simmons has become the complete para-dressage package.

"She worked her tail off this year," commented Flores-Simmons' mentor and national coach Susan Treabess. "We pushed her and pushed her and she really stepped up to the plate this weekend. It was emotionally challenging but the judges gave her fantastic feedback. Verite and Ashleigh make a beautiful pair and we were all ecstatic about where she is right now. I know this partnership has a really strong future."

Winterhaven Dressage and Horsemanship, owned by Susan Treabess, have given Flores-Simmons a borrowed horse sponsorship. This relationship has allowed Flores-Simmons and Treabess to work together on developing Flores-Simmons as an international athlete. It has also provided Flores-Simmons the opportunity to work with international renowned dressage trainer Dennis Callin.

Flores-Simmons was excited about her performance. She expressed, "This was an amazing weekend and I am so thankful for this opportunity. Verite and I had a great first CPEDI together and she was absolutely fantastic. I couldn't ask for a better partner in the ring and I am so proud of what we were able to accomplish this weekend. I would like to thank Dennis Callin and Susan Treabess for their great coaching and support, without them this would definitely not be possible. I would also like to thank Dana Williams for providing me with the opportunity to ride such an awesome horse and for all of her help and support. Also, without the support of the whole Winterhaven Dressage and Horsemanship team this would not be possible. To all of the friends and family that support Verite, I am greatly appreciative for all that they do and for the endless encouragement they provide. In addition, I want to thank USPEA and everyone who played a part in making this event possible and ensured it ran smoothly. I really valued the opportunity to receive feedback from the judges and I appreciated the time they took to offer their insights so that we can improve. I can't wait for what the future holds."

Competing against Flores-Simmons in Grade II was Dr. Deborah Stanitski and her own Tiramisu. Stanitski, like Traband and Shoemaker, shipped out of Florida and headed to California in search of a qualification score and a chance to ride at another CPEDI3*. The trip paid off when Stanitski earned the scores she needed and the welcome feedback she desired.

Earning a clean sweep in the Grade Ia competition was wounded U.S. Air Force veteran Derrick Perkins and Kai Handt's NTEC Hans. The pair had an exciting showing at the Adequan Global Dressage CPEDI3* in Florida and they are continuing to develop their partnership together. Perkins noted, "This was a real learning experience. Each test I made improvements and my final ride was my best."

Perkins has been working with Chef d'Equipe Kai Handt over the last year and he has already become a top ranking U.S. Grade Ia athlete.

Perkins and each of the qualified athletes will head to Gladstone, New Jersey, in June where they will compete at the 2014 USEF Para-Equestrian Dressage National Championship and 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games Selection Trials for the U.S. Team.

Treabess remarked, "I am looking forward to New Jersey. It is going to be competitive. On one hand it's nerve racking because it is a lot of time and money and you really want to make the team, and if you don't it's disappointing. But, it's so exciting for U.S, para-dressage. We are going to have a really tight competition, which is great for us as a country. The competition is going to be day to day and no one will know who is on that team till that final freestyle and ranking calculation."