Rebecca Hart Shines In Para-Equestrian Dressage Tour

When Rebecca Hart and Schroeter’s Romani left the 2015 USEF Para-Equestrian Dressage National Championship CPEDI3* in November with their seventh consecutive championship title, one thing was apparent: they are riding to Rio. The first step for the dynamic team in the road to the Paralympic Games, however, was to go straight to the drawing board and begin making changes in their training and musical freestyle to prepare for the podium. Their efforts proved effective, garnering Hart the $10,000 CPEDI3* Championship at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival in Wellington on Sunday, Jan. 10.

“Basically, we have done a lot of preparation work to get to this point,” Hart said. “We went to Europe, put in the leg work, the miles and the training. We are specifically keeping her for these competitions, and for the Olympic Games in Rio this September. Having the experience with the European riders, and especially with Margaret [Duprey] and Todd [Flettrich] of Cherry Knoll Farm, has been amazing. It is a fantastic feeling to have the whole team focused on one goal.”

The $10,000 CPEDI3* offered a first glimpse of the contenders aiming for the 2016 Paralympics in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, and 19 FEI para-equestrians competed for the top marks in their grades. It was two-time Paralympian (2008, 2012) Hart and Schroeter’s Romani that stole the limelight, proving that they have only just begun to tap into their potential.

“What I like about this competition is that we have shown a lot of progress,” trainer Todd Flettrich said. “What I like even more is that there is untapped potential. Some people max out, and do not have the room to improve, but this is only the beginning for Rebecca and Romani.”

Hart was awarded the high score of the day both for her Team Test and Individual Test in the Grade II. They earned a three-day average of 73.805 percent, with top scores from the FEI ground jury, clinching the championship title for the first leg of the 2016 Para-Equestrian Dressage Tour.

“It means that our program is working,” Hart said of her recent change to move to Florida to train full-time with Flettrich out of Margaret Duprey’s Cherry Knoll Farm. “It was scary coming down here four months ago, and it was intimidating. Margaret and Todd have been absolutely phenomenal in making me feel supported, comfortable and to really focus on the goal to go to Rio.”

After recently returning from a highly successful summer European tour, Hart dropped her stirrups and began working on a new freestyle, both of which were unveiled over the course of the competition weekend.

“No stirrups was a bit of a scary change, but it has been better. Since my disease is progressive, my spasticity and tone has worsened with time,” Hart said. “Every time I would hit the stirrup bar, I would have spasms and basically become a human clothespin — I could not use my body at all, and it created disharmony in our rides.”

While in Europe, Hart spoke with several riders who have similar conditions, and their insight was invaluable. They told her to “drop her stirrups,” which made all the difference.

“One of the reasons going to Europe is so essential is that you not only get insight from the judges, but also the other riders,” she said. “We have been working on dropping my stirrups for the last month, and it has really helped with the harmony and the flow.”

Hart rode to the score of 74.167 percent for their Team Test and was thrilled with the improvements she felt for both herself and Romani. They duplicated their efforts during the Individual Test on Saturday with the score of 73.095 percent. It was their all-new Freestyle, however, that showed the beat and expression that Hart believes will put them on the podium at Rio. The ground jury awarded the pair a 74.5 percent for the pilot ride.

Hart and Schroeter’s Romani will compete again in the second leg of the tour during the $10,000 CPEDI3* January 21-24, 2016. For more information, visit

ABOVE: Rebecca Hart and Schroeter’s Romani.