Interview with PARA Dressage Rider, Roxie Trunnell

Roxie and Dolton at the CPEDI3* week 9 of the Adequan Global Dressage Festival 2021 Wellington, FL. Photo: Susan Stickle.

Roxie Trunnell & Dolton are at the CPEDI3* week 9 of the Adequan Global Dressage Festival 2021 Wellington, FL. Photo: Susan Stickle.

* Some of Roxie’s Riding Accomplishments:

2014 FEI World Equestrian Games (Normandy, France) USA Para Dressage Team rider aboard my own horse Nice Touch (Touché)

2016 Paralympic Games (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) USA Para Dressage Individual rider aboard Julia Handt’s Royal Dancer.

2018 FEI World Equestrian Games (Tryon, NC) USA Para Dressage Team rider aboard Karin Flint’s Dolton. We won bronze in the musical freestyle.

2019 Adequan/ USEF Para Dressage CPEDI3* National Champion aboard Karin Flint’s Dolton.

2020 awarded the Whitney Stone Memorial Cup by USET

2021 broke a world record in the Para Dressage Grade I Individual Championship Test aboard Karin Flint’s Dolton.

* When/where did you start riding?

I started vaulting at around 8-9 years old to help with my balance. When I was younger I had a similar illness as to the one the turned me into a Para but it was not as severe. I started out at Happy Horse Riding Camp owned & operated by Lindy Cogswell in Burbank, Washington. Oddly enough when I got out of the hospital and wanted to ride again it was Lindy that I went back to and started riding her vaulting horses since they didn’t seem to care if I flopped around. I tried a little bit of everything growing up before I settled on three-day eventing but sadly, I had a scare on a hot Thoroughbred while I was jumping that turned me off of jumping completely. And the obsession with dressage was born…

*You have a Masters in Psychology, were you riding and competing while pursuing your masters?

I had just graduated at Washington State University with my bachelors in Psychology and was deciding if I wanted to go on with more schooling when I became ill. Since I had all this extra time on my hands it seemed like the right time to go back to school. The whole time I was rehabbing I was taking classes online at Capella University, I did my final project on Equine Facilated Psychotherapy. I was riding the whole time but it wasn’t for competition, I rode able-bodied up to PSG and my muscles remember how everything is supposed to feel but riding with a balance problem is something entirely else so I had to figure out how to ride with my disability before I was going to compete. Touché was a very important part of this process, she pretty much taught me how to ride again.

* Tell us about your current trainer?

My trainer is Andrea Woodard owner of Woodard Dressage. Andrea is an accomplished able-bodied rider and trainer. Andrea branched out to train Para Dressage before the 2018 World Equestrian Games where she coached myself and current team member Kate Shoemaker to bronze medals in the Grade I & Grade IV Musical Freestyles.

Roxie having cuddle time with Dolton. On Dolton is her trainer Andrea Woodard.
Roxie having cuddle time with Dolton. On Dolton is her trainer Andrea Woodard.

*Tell us about your current horse Dolton? How many days a week do you ride him?

Oh Dolton, there is so much to say about this superstar!! What I really love about Dolton is that despite how good he’s getting he still acts like the goofy young horse I feel in love with before the 2018 World Equestrian Games. He’s plenty goofy but when I’m in the saddle he is very much all business and acts way older than his years. During our rides he’ll see something that would totally upset any other horse but with him its like he sees it, thinks about it, and then decides it’s not going to eat him so he might as well go back to work. I’ve developed quite a bond with him over the years I’ve been with him and I think the way he wants to take care of me is the reason we are able to achieve such brilliant scores. I usually ride him 4-5 times a week, but Dolton is a young guy so he likes to get one day a week to kick up his heels on a lunge line!

*Week 9 of the Adequan Global Dressage Festival 2021 in Wellington, you and Dolton competed in the FEI Para Individual Test Grade 1. You put up on the board a world record breaking score of 83.334% (Huge Congratulations!!!) How did you feel when you heard your score? Did Dalton get plenty of treats from his fans? 

I grew up with a trainer who would say “If you enter the arena on a horse and then exit the arena at the end of your test on the same horse, then it was a good ride” so under that advice I came out of the arena thinking we had a good ride. It was a surprise it was THAT good. Dolton loves food! No matter what the ride/score maybe I always make sure I give him treats & carrots, because after all I couldn’t go out and do the test myself. I’m pretty sure his mom gave him extra kisses after he went out and made her super proud.

Roxie at the medal ceremony at the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games in Tryon, NC. Behind her is Dolton and his groom Kjersten Lance. Photo: Annan Hepner
Roxie at the medal ceremony at the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games in Tryon, NC. Behind her is Dolton and his groom Kjersten Lance. Photo: Annan Hepner

*What has the journey been like pursuing the Summer Paralympics in Tokyo 2021? Explain to everyone the process (how many shows you have to do, scores, travel, etc.)

The journey to get to the Tokyo Paralympics has definitely been a little different than expected with the postponement but it actually turned into more training time which was not a bad thing at all!

To qualify for the Tokyo Paralympics the rider has to be born before January 1, 2005 and the horse that is trying to qualify has to have been born before January 1, 2015. When I was doing the 2018 World Equestrian Games with Dolton he was just eligible at 6 years old! First to be considered for the USA Para Dressage team must earn a FEI Certificate of Capability by getting a score of at least 62% or higher in either the Para Equestrian Team Test or the Individual Championship Test at a FEI Para Equestrian 3* or above between January 1, 2019 and July 5, 2021. Once the certificate is achieved the horse & rider must compete at a minimum of 2 CPEDI3* completing all 3 tests in the athlete’s grade (Team, Individual Championship, and the Freestyle) between October 1, 2020 and July 5, 2021. Once all of those things are checked off, it goes into the hands of the selection committee, which create the team out of 3 riders and 1 individual rider. The selection committee looks at the consistency of scores over 72%, international competitiveness & experience, medal potential, fitness of horse & rider, and behavior of the athlete.

* What advice would you give aspiring Para riders coming up through the system?

My advice for Para riders trying to break into the Para Equestrian Dressage world stage is that it is a big misconception that just because you have a handicap or a disability that the judges will take that into account when they are judging a test. They don’t. You are a Para Equestrian with a dispensation certificate, and they expect you to make the test look just as good as the FEI able-bodied tests.

Another piece of advice is that, it is thought that just because Grade Is just walk during the whole test it is very easy to get high scores. That kind of thinking is wrong. The para rider/horse our walking in that show ring for 4 and a half minutes under microscope lenses from 3-5 different judges. Any little bobble that may happen can’t really be hidden from them, so that makes the time in the ring seem forever sometimes. The Grade I class is highly competitive, so you must do your time in the saddle!

Becoming a Para Equestrian is easy but excelling at it does require work & dedication.

More information on the United States Para-Equestrian Association can be found here:

* Who is one of your mentors in the Horse World?

I don’t have just one mentor in the horse world. You can learn so much from so many people that I tend to just soak up information from anyone around me!!!

* What do you do on your days off from riding?

I own a little business with my mother called Roxifi Embroidery and it’s what it sounds like, an embroidery business. I have a big industrial embroidery machine that allows me to do things like saddle pads, blankets, boot bags, stall guards, shirts, jackets, etc. Pretty much anything I can put a needle through, I’ll give it a go!


Here are the links to her Etsy shop where Roxie makes lunge lines with embroidery & her Facebook page for the embroidery business.


Thanks Roxie you are an inspiration!!! We are all going to be watching the 2021 Summer Games this year …. Rooting for YOU ! Go Team USA!!!


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