US Riders Shine at 2020 Virtus Equestrian Video Championships
Athletes Without Limits US National Equestrian Team makes strong showing and claims first medal in the sport
Congratulations to Athletes Without Limits’ US riders, Katherine Richards and Anna Beem, for representing their country against the top dressage riders in the world at the 2020 4th Virtus World Equestrian Video Championship.
This year’s trailblazer, Anna Beem and her partner Leap of Faith, represented not just the US, but also the world as one of the first category II3 Autism+ riders to compete in the event. Not only has she earned her place in history, but for her effort, was rewarded with the Gold medal with a score of 59.942%. Beem trains in her home state of Georgia with Kristin Moreland at Beyond Limits Riding where she recorded her video entry in September.
U.S. rider Katherine Richards (II1), who trains with her new horse Cash at Reining Strength in Richmond, Texas, earned a personal best score this year placing her among the top 6 riders in the event (7th place overall), just 3 points out of the Bronze medal with a score of 62.644%. A trailblazer in her own right, it was Richards who first put the US on the map as our country’s first athlete to compete in the highly competitive international championship when it launched in 2017.
In the category for Intellectual Disability (II1), Spain’s Sonia Villalba’s two rides won both gold and silver ahead of Germany’s Tatjana Raible who won bronze, as each athlete may enter up to two videos on different horses.
To enter the event, riders perform a series of pre-defined moves in strict conditions at their local equestrian facility. The performance is recorded and assessed by a panel of international judges, making the competition accessible to many more people – particularly at a time when international travel and competition has not been possible.
Virtus International Equestrian Sport Director, Uta Rindfleisch-Wu, congratulated all the athletes for the accomplishment. “The coronavirus pandemic affected the number of people who could participate this year, but we are delighted to see some strong entries and I would like to thank all those riders and their trainers who supported the competition.”
Despite unprecedented challenges all of the riders who entered — whether representing Australia, France, Great Britain, Germany, Spain or the United States — dedicated countless hours to be able to enter the highly competitive international championship.
Both US athletes understand the dedication it takes to succeed in high-level sport, having previous International experience competing on Athletes Without Limits National Teams at other Virtus World Championships.
When asked about their personal experiences competing in this year’s Equestrian Championships the riders shared not just their thoughts, but a level of sportsmanship that may likey be the secret to their success:
“The Virtus Equestrian video competition allowed me to compete safely with other riders all over the world during this pandemic. It was a pleasure to show off my riding skills. My horse Faith was a pleasure to ride and responded to all my movements,” said Beem. “I would like to thank my riding instructor, Kristin Moreland at Beyond Limits Riding who prepared me for the competition. It was also helpful that I participated in two other virtual competitions in the last 6 months and knew what to expect. It is an honor to be the first Autism Plus (II3) Equestrian. I hope more will be inspired to ride for Athletes Without Limits and Virtus.”
Now in her fourth year focusing on Dressage, Richards shared similar sentiments: “My heart feels very accomplished now that I am finished with my test. I really appreciate everyone who cheered me on while I practiced. I love riding at ReiningStrength and representing the USA.” As for her new partner she added, “I really enjoyed riding Cash — we made a great team and it feels awesome to be #7 in the world!”
With a show of that kind of dedication, heart and gratitude it’s no wonder Athletes Without Limits National Equestrian Director Courtney Haber is so encouraged by this year’s event. “It has been an honor to be a part of the Athletes Without Limits US Equestrian program since its inception in 2017, but never before have I felt so inspired by the mission of this team.”
“Beyond showing strong competitive drives, it is clear Anna and Katherine have both mastered the true art of horsemanship, which is to inspire the love and dedication of their equine partner. You do not have to be an expert to see that those horses love working with these young women.”
“We are extremely excited about their current contributions and futures as top-class dressage riders on the Athletes Without Limits National Equestrian Team.”
Athletes Without Limits (the US Member of Virtus) helps athletes with intellectual impairment (including Autism, Down Syndrome and Intellectual Disability) compete at their highest level in mainstream and Paralympic sports. Our inclusive DC Rowing program also partners with disabled Veteran Leaders.
Virtus, the International federation for athletes with intellectual impairment and a founding member of the International Paralypmic Committee (IPC), provides high-performance opportunities for athletes in 10+ sports. Virtus member countries share the belief that athletes with intellectual impairment across the world should have the should have the opportunity to achieve excellence in their sport.