USA’s top para-equestrian dies at 21

Jonathan Wentz riding Richter Scale in the Grade Ib Individual Freestyle Test at the London 2012 Paralympic Games at Greenwich Park.
Jonathan Wentz riding Richter Scale in the Grade Ib Individual Freestyle Test at the London 2012 Paralympic Games at Greenwich Park. © London 2012

US paralympic equestrian Jonathan Wentz has died at the age of 21.

Wentz, who was born with cerebral palsy, died on Sunday, September 30. His cause of death was not yet known.

He had the distinction of being the highest placed American equestrian at either the London Olympic or Paralympic Games, where he finished fourth in the Individual Test and fifth in the Freestyle Test in Grade 1b competition riding Kai Handt’s Richter Scale.

The US Team earned seventh place overall.

Jonathan Wentz
Jonathan Wentz

Wentz enjoyed a successful career with Richter Scale, who also carried him to the World Equestrian Games in 2010 and to the 2011 USEF National Para-Equestrian Championship.

In 2012, the combination earned Reserve Champion honors at the 2012 USEF National Para-Equestrian Championships and Paralympic Selection Trials before travelling to London. Additionally, Wentz finished in sixth place with Silvano at the 2012 National Championship.

In addition to competing at the highest level, Wentz was a tireless advocate for his sport. He served on the USEF Youth Council representing para-equestrian and was a member of the USEF Para Equestrian Technical Committee. Wentz also served as an ambassador for hippotherapy, therapeutic riding, and para-equestrian dressage from an early age.

Wentz, from Richardson, Texas, took up riding at age two, and at five he began therapy at Equest, a riding center in Wylie, Texas, where he began vaulting and jumping.Wentz was also a student at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas with a keen interest in political science, history and the law. He listed his hobbies as football, American football, golf, and politics.

USEF CEO John Long said: “The Federation sends our deepest sympathies and condolences to the Wentz family. Jonathan was great competitor and outstanding role model for all in equestrian sport. He will be greatly missed.”

Of his ranking at the Paralympics, Wentz said at the time: “It’s a dream come true. I started riding horses for therapy at age two then began riding horses for sport.

“At age 12 I was told that horses were part of the Paralympics and that may be something I would be interested in for the future. From that day on I set a goal and it has taken eight years to get here. It’s an achievement, we are the best in the country, we are blessed to represent our country, especially here in London where the Paralympics movement is huge.

“Richter was amazing and I want to thank my mom and my trainer/horse owner Kai Handt for getting me here. We came to him, he said he would get me here, and he delivered better than I ever expected. I never thought I would be in the top five at the second largest sporting event in the world.”

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