$800K boost for US para equestrian dressage

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Jonathan Wentz and NTEC Richter Scale at the 2012 London Paralympics.
Jonathan Wentz and NTEC Richter Scale at the 2012 London Paralympics. © Lindsay Yosey McCall

A US group aiming to raise $800,000 to help the equestrian sport of Para Dressage has reached its goal.

The Jonathan Wentz Memorial Challenge for High Performance Para Dressage was launched last year by Margaret H. Duprey and The Barnfield Foundation. Both pledged up to $200,000, matching dollar for dollar, gift commitments of $4000 and above. In August that goal was reached, providing the Para Dressage High Performance program with critical funding.

“I am very excited that we have reached the goal,” Duprey said. “It is a wonderful boost for the Para Dressage discipline and will hopefully provide more awareness for the sport in the United States. The USET Foundation did a great job spreading the word about the need for funding through the campaign and social media, which will help the riders prepare for Rio and representing the USA.”

Jonathan Wentz, who was born with cerebral palsy, died in September 2012, just weeks after being the highest placed US 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.

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.

The purpose of the Jonathan Wentz Memorial Challenge was to establish a base of funding for each of the next four years, which will provide for a High Performance program that will include training sessions, coaching and international competition opportunities leading up to and including the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro.

The financial need for Para Dressage athletes at the High Performance international level can be quite significant. Unlike in most countries, the United States Equestrian Teams do not receive any government subsidies. The main source of funds for athletes to participate in international competition comes through the USET Foundation from individuals and foundations whose interest in and commitment to equestrian sport motivates them to make generous charitable contributions.

In addition to shipping horses to Europe and making sure that the correct support staff is in place, such as veterinarians and farriers, additional support staff is also needed for the riders so they are able to function at the highest level, both physically and emotionally, during competitions.

While traveling, especially overseas, wheelchair accessibility can be limited, and a rider benefits from having a personal care assistant to help them to not only move through low accessibility areas but also to monitor their physical well-being. Other supplementary support staff may include a person who helps a rider to mount their horse before competition and a physical therapist to work the rider’s muscles.

USET Foundation Executive Director Bonnie B. Jenkins said the Para Dressage High Performance program was growing each year, as were the number of riders who aspire to represent the United States at World Championships and the Paralympic Games.

“We are most grateful and appreciative to Margaret (Duprey) and The Barnfield Foundation for leading this effort, and to all the donors who made gift commitments allowing us to reach the goal.”

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