Canadian Paralympian Equestrian Lauren Barwich missed out on a chance to ride in the Freestyle by a fraction of a point. But…anything can happen! One horse had to withdraw after the second veterinary inspection and here is what Lauren has to say about what happened next.
“I got the phone call [on the bus back to the Paralympic Village] and my hands got all sweaty. I was really surprised and so pleased and grateful to the universe for the opportunity to ride for my freestyle because it’s one of my favourite tests to ride,” said Barwick, who has now made it to the Freestyle in each of her five Paralympic appearances and won gold at the Beijing 2008 event with Maile. “It was a very fast five or six hours, frantically unpacking and looking for stuff – none of what we would normally do to prepare for a test happened but man, did we pull it all together as a team.”
In their performance, Barwick made clever use of the entire arena dancing to upbeat instrumentals that highlighted Sandrino’s transitions, including music from the 2017 film, The Greatest Showman. Despite a costly break into the canter, technical proficiency in movements such as compulsory circles and consistent trot work combined with a high artistic score of 74.480% to put Barwick in sixth place on a final score of 72.507%.
“Today was just an emotional rollercoaster of happiness and joy,” said Barwick. “Sandrino felt the best that he has felt in the warm-up and then just felt a little bit tense in the test, had a little spook and some tension. That’s just young horse stuff; he has very little experience in an environment like this. He goes in there and he’s still a little bit of a tourist.”
Speaking of her fellow Grade III athletes, Barwick continued, “These are the best riders in the world. They didn’t just wake up a month ago and say, ‘Hey, let’s go to the Paralympics,’ so the judges know what they’re looking for. They’re looking for that level of refinement at this stage to really reward us with those scores that we’re looking for. We just don’t have that yet so I’m pleased but not so pleased with the scores. I’m not going to let that take away from the fact that today, I got to take Team Canada into the arena and I was dancing for the other riders. At the end of the day, a lot of people say it’s such a good experience to get to go [to the Paralympics]. It’s not about the experience, which has been great, but we are earning the right to be our country’s first choice. That is what is worth the hard work and makes the journey worth it.”
Lauren and Sandrino scored 72.5 for 6th place in the Grade 111 Freestyle. I say BRAVO for getting it together and going out there and riding for Canada on such amazingly short notice. We, here at home, are proud to have riders like Lauren representing Canada.
I did not see Lauren’s ride until I saw it on the CBC evening news but I did see the Grade 1 riders on the Live Stream and , once again, it was an emotional experience for me. One of the first riders I saw was Laurentia Tan from Singapore. Her disability is Cerebral Palsy and she is also profoundly deaf. How can she ride a freestyle to music when hearing the music is so important? Today she was wearing a device, in a flat backpack, that transmits the bass vibrations into her body so she can feel the tempo and rhythm. I was amazed at how well she did . She scored 75.060 for 5th place in the Grade 1 freestyle.
The other rider who amazed me was Katje Karjalainen riding for Finland .She is visually impaired and wears a special yellow armband to let the judges know this. She has a reader stand in the center of the arena and call out the letters as she is coming to them. The caller is allowed to call the letter 3 times. Two quick calls and one longer one when the rider is at the letter. So when the rider is approaching letter C the caller says :”c…c…Ceeee”. Katje had a good test and scored 74.640 for 6th place in the Grade 1 Freestyle.
The Grade 1 Freestyle was won by Roxanne Trunnell and her horse Dolton. And they won with a World Record Paralympic Score of 86.927! This is their second gold medal of the Paralympics 2020. Their music was a medley from the Forest Gump soundtrack. Roxanne had this to say about their ride.
“I love it. I didn’t pick the music, he [Dolton] sort of did, and he really loves his freestyle,” she explained. “I thought the stretch down today was a highlight because he was really stretching.
So there you have it. The Freestyle concludes the Equestrian competition for the Paralympics Tokyo 2020. I think that many of these athletes never thought they would be disabled severely enough to qualify as Para Equestrians .Lauren Barwick was a stunt rider working in the film industry until her accident left her without the use of her legs. Roxanne Trunnell got a virus in 2009 that put her into a coma and on a long road adapting to life with a wheelchair. I have such admiration for these riders. Dressage is not easy for those of us who are able bodied so I salute these riders who adapt to such challenging disabilities and ride on to triumph over them.