United States Para-Equestrian Association
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Monthly archive for April 2011

Laurietta Oakleaf

Laurietta Oakleaf and VPRH Pegasus Vom Niehaus HOF by Lindsay Y McCallLaurietta Oakleaf and VPRH Pegasus Vom Niehaus HOF by Lindsay Y McCall at the 2011 Dressage Affaire CPEDI3*

Laurietta Oakleaf and VPRH Pegasus Vom Niehaus HOF by Lindsay Y McCall at the 2011 Dressage Affaire CPEDI3*

Laurietta Oakleaf

  • Grade Ia
  • Hometown:  Jacksontown, OH
  • Website: http://www.loakleaf.org/index.html
  • My name is Laurietta and I was born in 1980. I have CIDP/Fibromyalgia/Epilepsy/Possible MS.  I have recently been diagnosed with Bone Cancer and Stage IV Mantle Cell Lymphoma. I do know how difficult things can be and believe towards
    pushing towards my goal!

Laurietta was recently re-classified as a Grade Ia at the 2012 Wellington Dressage Sunshine Challenge CPEDI3* and the 2012 Gold Coast Dressage Association CPEDI3*.  This recent move proved successful when Laurietta dominated Grade Ia.

Excerpt from a press release on January 28, 2012 at the Wellington Dressage Sunshine Challenge CPEDI3*.:

Ohioan and Grade Ia para-equestrian Laurietta Oakleaf and her Friesian stallion, Niekele fan Busenitz, stepped up this week after a consistent second place finish in the first CPEDI3* in Florida.  After an exciting first week Laurietta and her Florida trainer, Kendra Kent, modified their already wonderful tests resulting in a first place finish on both Thursday’s Team Test and Saturday’s Individual Test.

Laurietta commented, “This week we wanted to work more on precision and being more technical. My horse has three beautiful gaits, a sound mine, and he wants to please. To get here we have been working on getting my horse fit and focusing on my personal goals. When you have cancer you realize that things aren’t as rough as you thought they were originally. For me it’s about putting a smile on, being approachable, and waking up every day realizing it’s a new day. I am so proud of Niekele, he has come into himself, his mind is focused, and now he is starting to become the horse I knew he would be.”

She continued, “My sponsors and my trainers in Ohio and Florida have been really working on keeping my focus and helping me to work towards this goal. My sponsors include Alex Gerdeng, Nutrena, Ohio Horseman’s Council, Horse Tech, Adequan Flying Horse Veterinary Practice in Newark, OH, and I couldn’t do this without my trainers Kendra and Robby Kent who are helping me in Florida, and my trainers at home at Edgewood Equestrian.”

Kendra Kent noted, “Laurietta and Niekele have shown a lot of improvement over the last two weeks. We have worked on relaxation and come into his bit and he is doing wonderfully. Laurietta is one of the most amazing people I have ever met. She has trained these stallions (Niekele Fan Busenitz and Quimerico KF herself and they are the most behaved stallions and Niekele is a great partner for Laurietta.”

Beth Levine

Beth Levine and Prince Hopeful

Beth Levine

  • Grade III
  • Hometown:

Donna Ponessa

Donna Ponessa and Otto at the 2011 Dressage Affaire CPEDI3* in Del Mar, CA by Lindsay Y McCall

Donna Ponessa and Otto

Donna Ponessa

  • Grade 1b
  • Hometown: New Windsor, NY

Dressage equestrian and 2012 Paralympic hopeful Donna Ponessa’s extraordinary discipline, perseverance and competitive spirit have propelled her through extreme physical adversity to a literal triumph of will.  The vehicle: horses.  She began her equestrian passion in childhood, riding and showing horses.  Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in college, she nonetheless graduated with an RN (registered nurse) degree, a BA in Human Services and a MA in Public Administration.  Working as an RN, she hoped to fulfill her lifelong dream of owning and showing her own horse.

But the disease intervened, with a new diagnosis: a rare form of MS called Devic disease.  All this forced her to stop working and even sell her beloved horse.  Undaunted, she rebounded and resumed sports, becoming one of the world’s top wheelchair tennis players.  Her desire to be involved with horses never wavered, so in 2007 she began riding and training again and totally immersed herself in the art of dressage.

Exploring how to achieve the highest level of the sport, she attended Para-Equestrian training camp in California, where she was told she had the raw talent to become a leading Para-Equestrian contender at the upcoming 2012 Paralympics in London.

Since then, she has been working with Wes Dunham, trainer and operator of Woodstock Stables in Millbrook, NY, riding and campaigning with his Oldenburg Mare Western Rose and Otto, a 15-year-old Dutch Warmblood owned by Sue and Kristi Niblo.  Dunham, who manages the 30-acre farm with full dressage facilities, has brought several horses and riders to reserve and champions at dressage regionals.  Donna has been internationally certified a Grade 1A Para-Equestrian by the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI), and was recently Grade 1a Class Grand Champion and Reserve Grand Champion at the USEF Para-Equestrian Dressage National Championship at the NEDA Fall Festival in Saugerties, NY.

Selected among eight riders to attend the prestigious Robert Dover Para-Dressage Clinic at the U.S. Equestrian Team Foundation (USET) center in Gladstone, NJ, Donna trained with her horse Western Rose (“Rosie”) for two days under the renowned Robert Dover, the four-time Olympic Bronze medalist who has earned more honors than any other U.S. dressage rider.

Chosen by the USEF High Performance Para-Equestrian Selection Committee, Donna travels to Mexico City, Mexico, to compete against other equestrians in her class from Canada, the Dominican Republic, Mexico and Venezuela Nov. 10-12.  Upcoming qualifying events include Australia Dec. 8-11 and Italy in January 2012.

Her training must revolve around her fulltime job as program manager for the Westchester/Putnam Independent Living Center.  In addition to her daily dressage training, she works out twice a week with a personal trainer and four additional times a week on her own.

Disability has taught her to live day by and how each one presents a clean slate.  Despite a progressive disability, she is relentlessly driven to make the most of her life while she is still able.  “I refuse to be defined or limited by disability,” Donna says.  “I have demonstrated what it takes to reach the highest echelon in the sports I’ve competed.  It would be the ultimate honor and privilege to be a medal contender for and represent the United States at the next Paralympic Games.”

For more information, please visit donnasdestiny.com

To view a video about Para-Equestrian Donna Ponessa please go to:  http://www.better.tv/view/C466979P235316V1585923



Donna Ponessa (New Windsor, NY)- Ponessa’s competitive nature made her one of the world’s top wheelchair tennis players and celebrated equestrian. Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in college and then a new diagnoses a few years later as a rare form of multiple sclerosis, called Devic Disease, Ponessa’s competitive desire remained fixed on the future. In 2011 she aimed for the Paralympics and her dreams will come true this August. Armed with trainer WesleyDunham, of Woodstock Stables in Millbrook, NY, Ponessa has been accumulating the accolades throughout 2011 and 2012. In 2011 she was the Para-Equestrian Dressage National Champion in Grade Ia. When she headed to Mexico she was part of the Gold Medal U.S. Team and was then selected to fly halfway around the world to Australia, once again capturing the Gold as part of U.S. Team. In 2012 she earned the third overall placing at the USEF Para-Equestrian Dressage National Championships and was Champion of the Grade IA division. Ponessa will be competing with Western Rose at the Paralympics who is owned by Wesley Dunham in the Grade IA competition.
Ponessa also earned an alternate spot on the Paralympic Team with PG Ganda, owned by Vinceremos Thereapeutic Riding Center. PG Ganda is a 19 year-old Danish Warmblood with a strong walk and a consistent pace.  Ponessa and PG Ganda were fifth overall at the 2012 USEF Para-Equestrian Dressage National Championships.

Eleanor Brimmer


Eleanor Brimmer and Carino H at the 2012 USEF Para-Equestrian Dressage National Championship/ Paralympic Selection Trials

Eleanor Brimmer and Carino H at the 2012 USEF Para-Equestrian Dressage National Championship/ Paralympic Selection Trials by Lindsay Yosay McCall

Eleanor Brimmer

Grade III rider
Hometown: Wayazata, MN
Age: 26

Ellie is a Grade III rider with cerebral palsy. She grew up showing hunters and in 2009 made the switch to dressage. She holds a BA in American Culture from Randolph-Macon Woman’s College and she is currently studying for her Masters in Library & Information Sciences from Wayne State University.

Horses: Vadico Interagro who is a 9 year old Lusitano gelding and Carino H (Holsteiner gelding) both owned by Eleanor Brimmer and Liza MacMillan.

Competitive Highlights: 2nd in the Team, Individual and Freestyle in Grade II competition at the 2011 CPEDI3* Dressage Affaire in Del Mar, CA.
Competed at the 2011 USEF Para-Equestrian Dressage National Championships held in Saugerties, NY on September 14-19, 2011. During this show Ellie competed on Vadico Interagro and Carino H.
Ellie can be found in Minnesota in the summer and training with Sabine Rijssenbeek of SR Dressage in Tucson, AZ in the winter.
Eleanor Brimmer on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/EleanorBrimmerParaEquestrian

Eleanor Brimmer’s Blog: http://eleanorbrimmerparaequestrian.blogspot.com/2012/01/young-rider-graduate-program-day-one.html

Eleanor Brimmer on Carino H at CPEDI3*in Saugerties, NY September 14-19, 2011 by Lindsay Y McCallEleanor Brimmer on Carino H at CPEDI3*in Saugerties, NY September 14-19, 2011

Eleanor Brimmer on Carino H at CPEDI3*in SaEleanor Brimmer on Carino H at CPEDI3*in Saugerties, NY September 14-19, 2011 by Lindsay Y McCallugerties, NY September 14-19, 2011

Eleanor Brimmer and Vadico Interagro at 2011 Dressage Affaire CPEDI3* by Lindsay Y McCallExcerpt from January 28, 2012 Press Release at the 2012 Wellington Dressage Sunshine Challenge CPEDI3*:

In the Grade III division, Eleanor Brimmer (USA) of Wayzata, MN and her Holsteiner gelding Carino H. Eleanor achieved a 61.111% completing a long awaited qualification score for the Paralympic Selection Trials.

“This has been a very long road for me,” expressed Eleanor. “My first attempt at a CPEDI3* was two years ago with a different horse and I was bucked off while waiting to enter the arena. Since that aborted first attempt, I have been training intensely. While success in the show ring has been slow in coming, I feel that each trip makes me a better rider and stronger competitor. I’m really excited about the untapped potential I have with Carino, our best days are still ahead of us.”

She continued, “I would really like to thank my Mother, Liza MacMillan who co-owns Carino with me, her faith in us as a combination means a lot to me. I’d also like to thank Roz Kinstler, who I had only met twice before coming down to Florida to work with her for the winter. It was a leap of faith on both our parts but thankfully the risk has paid off. In addition I would like to thank Pam Goodrich and her staff who have been responsible for Carino’s care since he has arrived in Florida Their meticulous work has also been instrumental in my success.”

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