2024 Le Printemps Des Sports Équestres: Para Dressage Athletes Take Center Stage

Sanne Voets & Demantur RS2 N.O.P. Sanne Voets & Demantur RS2 N.O.P. © PSV. J.Morel
April 22, 2024

One of the new additions to the rich programme of events at the 2024 Printemps des Sports Équestres is para-dressage, with the CPEDI 3* competition getting things underway at the Grand Parquet de Fontainebleau for a great week of sport lasting until Sunday 28 April. And the least we can say is that the world's top stars in the discipline were ready for the event!

Having dominated the Grade IV discipline for the last ten years, it was no surprise that the Dutch rider Sanne Voets won the first class of the CPEDI 3* of Printemps des Sports Équestres, riding her sixteen-year-old gelding Demantur RS2 N.O.P.. These two established partners won gold medals at the last Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo in 2021 as well as the World Championships in Herning in 2022; they are also members of the team that are reigning European champions. With a score of 75.667, they beat the American Kate Shoemaker on Vianne (74.417) and the French rider Vladimir Vinchon on Pegase Mayenne (71.583).
Another leading riding in the world of para-dressage, Belgium's Michèle George won the day's Grade V class, with her fourteen-year-old mare Best of 8, with which the rider is the reigning European champion, world champion and Paralympic champion. Thanks to their performance and a score of 73,000, the pair beat two French couples: Peggy Neger on Bretzel des Fééries (second with 69.385) and Lisa Cez and Stallone de Hus, who were third with a score of 66.974.
In Grade I, the French rider Marie Vonderheyden – who has just returned from several weeks in the United States, where she won the Freestyle Grand Prix at the CPEDI 3* in Wellington and finished second at the CPEDI 3* event in Ocala – won the class with a score of 69.042 on her eleven-year-old gelding Bombastic d'Arion.
In Grade II, the American rider Fiona Howard, who used to be involved in reining, the dressage discipline of western riding, dethroned the Austrian star Pepo Puch, who has dominated the discipline since the early 2010s but had to be content with second place, two points behind the leader. Riding Jagger, a twelve-year-old gelding, the American rider left the arena of the CPEDI 3* at Printemps des Sports Équestres with an excellent average score of 75.207.
The United States, the world's leading para-dressage nation, had a second rider finish in first place during these initial classes; in Grade III, Rebecca Hart, riding her sixteen-year-old mare Floratina, beat France's Chiara Zenati (the reigning European vice-champion) with a magnificent score of 75.333. In just their second season together, Rebecca and Floratina are continuing to build on their success in 2023. They notably won the CPEDI 3* competition at Stadl Paura in Austria, as well as in Budapest and all the American competitions in which they took part.
Para-dressage is open to riders with different disabilities (locomotor, sensory or cerebral disabilities) and gives all disabled riders the opportunity to compete in routines that are adapted to their abilities and technical level, competing against other riders with the same disability profile. The riders' capabilities to manage the horse's different gaits and technically carry out the different dressage movements are assessed according to a classification system set up by the Fédération Équestre Internationale, with the aim of ensuring equality between the competitors. During the classification process, three areas are assessed: muscular power, the range of joint movement and coordination. At the end of the assessment tests, the level or "Grade" of competition in which the rider will be able to compete is determined. Grade I is for the most severe disabilities, and Grade V the mildest.
The first CPEDI of the Printemps des Sports Equestres, an international para-equestrian dressage competition with a 3* label – the highest level in the hierarchy of international competitions – will continue tomorrow (Tuesday).