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and her mother recognized the difference horses made in her life, and despite the financial challenges, they started looking for a horse with which Jennifer could compete. She wanted to be able to return to the show ring and had decided to focus on dressage. An old friend of her mother’s, someone the Bakers had helped in years past, called to say she could offer her dressage schoolmaster to Jennifer at an affordable price. Because grade IV riders are considered the least

disabled, they also have the most challenging tests. Movements include pirouettes and flying changes, as well as collected and extended gaits. As a result, grade IV riders need the most experienced horses, ones that have progressed farther up the levels than those needed by other para-equestrians.

NEW KIND OF HARLEY “We immediately jumped in the car and drove to Kentucky to see ‘Harley.’ And that’s kind of crazy, because I almost died on a Harley,” Jennifer remembers. This Harley, however, was different. He was a big, bay Dutch Warmblood gelding. The two “clicked” almost immediately. “He became my four-legged savior,” she says now. “I really knew he loved me.” Within a year, in May 2009,

Jennifer and Harley went to their first para-equestrian national championship. Impressively, the pair finished fourth. But still disappointment lurked. On the fourth of July, just two months later, Harley came up lame. Sadly, he had torn the suspensory ligament in his right hind leg. Jennifer spent six months helping Harley recover from his injury—and desperately hoping that he would. Unfortunately his lameness persisted and she came to the reluctant conclusion that he would not be able to compete at this level again. Faced with being horseless, she contacted the University of Findlay in Ohio to see if they felt Harley would be a good addition to their program. She also asked if they would consider a swap, trading Harley for a horse she could continue to compete.

SECOND CHANCE Officials at the University of Findlay offered her Duel, a 14-year-old black Rhinelander gelding. The pair had only a few weeks to get acquainted if Jennifer planned to pursue

44 January/February 2011

her dream of competing at the World Equestrian Games. “When Jennifer came to visit us, she tried three

different horses,” says Janet Harms, the director of the university’s dressage program. “When she rode Duel, it was an obvious perfect match—you could see the instant connection. Duel is a wonderful talented horse in our program, and we were thrilled to help Jennifer in her journey to the WEG.” In May of 2010, the two competed at the Cincinnati

Dressage Traditions Spring Show, where they earned scores of 68.44% and 70.65%. Next, Jennifer and Duel travelled to Canada to take part in the WindReach International Para-Dressage CPEDI 3*. In Canada, they placed third in the Grade IV Team Test scoring a 62.917%. The pair was also second in the Grade IV Freestyle with a score of 73.667%. In June, they finished ninth at the USEF Selection Trial/National Championship for the US Para- Equestrian Team for the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. The top ten competitors would qualify to compete at the Games. This meant Jennifer was on her way! However, Jennifer noticed

that Duel didn’t seem quite right during their freestyle performance at the selection trials. She couldn’t put her finger on the problem, but sensed there was something wrong. The vet diagnosed a suspensory injury. With little time to oversee his recovery, Jennifer


sent Duel to Skip and Anne Thornbury’s EquiSports facility for rehab. Once he recovered, he would return to the University of Findlay. Jennifer now faced a heartbreaking dilemma.

Although she had qualified for the World Equestrian Games, she no longer had a horse on which to compete. “I told Hope Hand, the president of U.S. Para-Equestrian Association, what had happened and she encouraged me not to give up. Through all of this, she’s been just wonderful,” Jennifer says.

THIRD TIME’S A CHARM After checking the rules, Jennifer realized she had until August 13 to replace Duel under USPEA selection trial procedures. Despite the overwhelming odds against her, Jennifer hung on to her competitive dream. And once again, she was lucky enough to be offered a new mount.

Above: Jennifer ‘test riding’ Kranak in California. Photo by Sheryl Ross

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