Friday, February 19, 2010
2008 Paralympic Silver Medalist, Angelika Trabert (GER)
Welcome to my first Kentucky blog entry. This is very exciting for me. I am one of the original Para-Equestrian (PE) newcomers to FEI. Kentucky will be another first because it is where people with a disability will, for the first time, compete in the same place and at the same time with colleagues from all our FEI disciplines.
My career with horses started long ago (if you are interested you can read more on my website www.angelika-trabert.de). But my first major Paralympic International event was in 1996, when Atlanta hosted the Paralympics. Since then I have been the athletes’ representative and fighting for Para-Equestrian to become an equal partner in the international equine world.
Why you might ask. Well horses are the best compensating aids we have. They make it possible for us to ride in both para and regular horse competitions up to top level. After all the Danish dressage rider Liz Hartnell won silver at the first Olympics in 1952, the first time women could compete.
Let me explain a little bit about FEI’s 8th discipline Para Equestrian. We ride in 5 different Grades, based not on our riding ability but on our level of disability. This is to make the competition as fair as possible. People in one Grade ride against each other. We are allocated a Grade after examination by a specially educated doctor or physiotherapist depending upon on how able/ disabled you are. The more disabled you are, the lower the Grade. The test you ride relates to the Grade, so the more disabled riders are in the lower Grades and they ride less difficult movements. For example, a Grade Ia rider will do a walk only test, while Grade IV riders (the least disabled – perhaps missing an arm, having a stiff ankle or missing a lower leg) must perform tests which can be compared to a medium standard test in able bodied competitions. The tests have been specially created for Para-Equestrian, so when you come to see us ride, I am sure it will be a new and unique experience. I can assure you that you will see some very fine riding by some extraordinary people, who incidentally, are more than happy to discuss their disability and how it impacts on their life and riding. So if you are curious to learn more about Para- Equestrian or us don’t hesitate to ask.
Something else that is different from many other Equestrians is that most of us are total amateurs. We mostly have a job in order to earn the money for our horses. So we are not that free to train as we would like. Indeed we have often to be close to a genius in logistics and organisation to do what we love doing.
Now I would like to introduce myself and my horses to you!
Most important are my horses. So the one who most likely is going to book a
flight to Kentucky is LONDRIA. A 10 year old Hanoverian mare by Londonderry, dam sir Weltmeyer. I bought her when she was seven. She is somewhere between genius and crazy. Very sensitive and therefore great with my light aids, but if she gets distracted she might very well ignore me on top. So I have to be quick and I have to keep her busy to stay with me in her mind. She is definitely a challenge every time I get on her. In Hongkong she won the warm up well but then got distracted in the Championship test (would have been nice if we’d got it the other way round). However, last year at the Europeans in Norway she proved that she is capable of listening and she showed me what great potential she has. It was a gold! So I guess everything is possible and I’m certainly hopeful for this year!
Oh I forgot all about it, my disability: I was born without legs and on my right hand I have only three fingers and I miss the middle joints. Therefore it is a challenge if my horse gets scared and jumps to the side. My centre of gravity is just too high. So Londria and I do have our days, but we are getting there.
Then there is my second horse, WALMOREL, she is a 15 year old Hanovarian mare by Wolkenstein II, dam sir Pik Bube. I have had her since she was 9 and she has been quiet a challenge too. She is not the greatest dressage horse, but she has an amazing attitude to work and a willingness to really focus on whatever work you want to undertake with her. So she made it possible for me to ride my first S-dressage last year, which was an amazing feeling. Since then I believe that everything is possible with the right horse. But for two reasons she will not fly to Kentucky this year! First of all she will have her first foal in March (by Fürst Romancier) and secondly, our priority will be to compete together in able bodied competitions.
For more information about Para-Dressage, go to http://www.fei.org/disciplines/dressage/about-para-equestrian-dressage.