Overcoming Disability To Ride Para Dressage: My Story, My Dream

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My name is Bryanna and I am a 24-year-old Grade 1 Para Dressage Rider from Trinity, FL. I live with spastic diplegic Cerebral Palsy and I am a full-time wheelchair user.  

I have loved horses since I was a child, but I did not get to ride and be around them consistently until I was 17 years old in 2016, when my parents gave me a voucher for 4 therapeutic riding lessons at Quantum Leap Farm for Christmas. 

My passion for horses started when I met a palomino pony on a preschool field trip, and from there I spent my childhood learning as much about horses as I could through books, movies, and video games.

I leapt at any chance I had to go on a pony ride.

I discovered para dressage at age 11 by searching the internet to see if there were any professional riders with a disability, and to my pleasant surprise, there were. 

I watched riders like Rebecca Hart and Roxanne Trunnell shine in the arena with their horses, and I knew I had to be part of the sport too. 

Here is Paralympian Rebecca Hart preparing for her 4th Olympics. You will see why she is such an inspiration.

I already loved watching able-bodied dressage riders, so it was a match made in heaven. Knowing that para dressage existed lit a fire in me like nothing else.

When I first started riding, I wanted to give myself more time to learn and get used to riding and caring for horses, because I did not have many real-life experiences. 

I took my first independent ride on an Appaloosa-Quarter Horse named Sonic, and have been riding independently since. In 2019, I made the transition from therapeutic riding to Para Dressage.

bryanna petting her horse

I received my national para dressage classIfication as a Grade 1 Para Dressage rider in January 2020 at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival, and have been working hard to grow in the sport since. 

I have met other para dressage riders online, and have had the opportunity to meet Lisa Hellmer, the USEF Para Dressage Development Coach. I hope to ride with her consistently one day, she is so encouraging and believes in my ability.

TRY READING: Good Horse Quotes

I entered my first show in Dec 2020 through the USEF Para Dressage Virtual Judging program and received a score of 55%.

I have been putting in the work to improve my technique to get a better score, and hope to enter again in June of this year. 

The horse I entered with, an American Paint Horse named Shane, was my first para dressage partner. He passed away on February 28th, 2022 and I am so grateful to him.

I am now working with a Quarter Horse cross named Griffin.

My ultimate goal is to compete in the Paralympics and other international events. I have been working towards these goals by setting a series of smaller ones for myself. 

These include improving my 20 and 10 meter circles, learning the separation of aids so that I can ride more effectively, and entering my first in-person show. 

Currently, I am working on qualifying to be on the Emerging Athletes List for Para Dressage. To do this, I have to receive 2 scores of 60 or above at a USEF recognized show or through the virtual judging program.

bryanna tennese petting her horse

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I practice elements of our test every lesson with Griffin, and we are improving steadily. We also had the opportunity to ride in a clinic with Major Jeremy Beale, a two time Olympian on the British Equestrian Team, and he gave us some awesome training advice.

To further my dressage skills and have more time in the saddle, I also ride and train at Emerald M Therapeutic Riding Center. There I ride a Welsh Thoroughbred cross named Cappy. 

Cappy and I entered the Little Bit Virtual Dressage show last March and won our class with a 69%. I also receive physical therapy weekly to keep my body in-shape.

Para-dressage is not just a dream for me, it is my passion. I am doing as much as I can to achieve my goals and I hope that is evident.

By being a para-equestrian, I aim to show others just how much people can achieve if they put their mind to it! (the red here is because the sentence wasn’t completed. So I added sometiming. Hope it’s ok.)

Here are me and Shane doing our Grade 1 Novice Test A in December, 2020.

What’s your inspiring story? Please share with us below!
Bryanna Tanase
Bryanna Tanase

Bryanna is a 23-year-old Florida-based Grade 1 Para-dressage rider based in Florida and she has been riding for 5 years. Horses are her passion and her ultimate goal is to be selected for the US Para-Equestrian Team and represent the US at the Paralympics. She rides at Quantum Leap Farm and Emerald M Therapeutic Riding Center and her equine partners are Shane, an American Paint Horse, and Cappy a Welsh x Thoroughbred. When she is not helping at the barn, riding, or training, she is learning about horses, writing articles about them, and using her social media platforms to raise awareness for therapeutic riding and para-equestrianism, shares her journey, and advocates for greater inclusion of para-equestrian in the media and equestrian sport at large.
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