Roxanne Trunnell Talks Tokyo Golds, Bronze, and Breaking World Records

The StreamHorseTV™ Interview with Team USA’s Newly-Crowned Paralympic Dressage Double-Gold Champion, World Number 1 Roxanne Trunnell

―StreamhorseTV™ (facilitated by EQuine AMerica)

Roxanne Trunnell is the world’s number one Para Dressage athlete. She competed at the Tokyo 2021 Paralympic Games, bringing home two individual Gold medals (one on a world-record-breaking score) and a team Bronze. Her quickly-mounting experience and accolades point toward an exciting and long-lasting athletic career, but what shines through the most is Trunnell’s love of the horse and this sport that she’s dedicated her life to. Read the full interview below, as she sits down with StreamHorseTV™ recent episode, where she shared her thoughts on her team, her horse, and her three Paralympic medals.

Roxanne Trunnell and Dolton at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
(Photo courtesy of Roxanne Trunnell and USEF)

SHTV: How does it feel to have captured not 1, but 2 gold medals, while also being such a crucial part of the team winning bronze? Are any one of these medals the most special out of all of them? If so, why?

RT: It’s pretty cool being a double gold medalist & getting the Team Bronze. I felt like the tests were good but having the judges affirm with the score that they weren’t just good but really, really good was pretty awesome. I think I would have to say that the Team Bronze is the most special because it has been a dream of my teammates, Rebecca Hart, to stand on the podium. With her disability, she is going to be completely wheelchair-bound and she has been working on this goal of hers for 16 years, being part of that moment with her was pretty special.

Roxanne Trunnel on Dolton.
(Photo courtesy of Roxanne Trunnell)

SHTV: Tell us about Dolton’s performance and the fact that you didn’t read the scoreboard of your opponents going in.

RT: I didn’t have any expectations on the individual championship test, my goal was just to ride a solid test and see what the judges have to say about it. This is the way I approach all my shows, the 1st day is the feel-it-out day and then you try to give the judges chills on the 2nd and 3rd days. I was excited to see that the individual championship was first because I think that it is a more technically challenging test and that on the first day Dolton is really ready to strut his stuff.

I was excited about how he was really through and marching during the test. My main problem with the masks is I can’t see my coach’s mouth after the final halt so I don’t know if she’s smiling or frowning! During the ride down to ‘A’ I just kept saying well it felt like a good test, so we’ll see how they score it.

On Team Test day we had an absolutely fabulous warm-up, he was through, up in his headset, and reaching for the bridle, and marching. Just when the steward told me it was time to go in, the first siren from a fire engine sounded and that’s when I first smelt smoke!! In the field of play, the sirens were much louder and the smoke in the air was more noticeable. Dolton didn’t like it one bit! He turned into a black ball of tension but what could I do? We had to do the test.

It was by far not the best test we’ve ever done together but I couldn’t control what was going on with the fire. I was just relieved Dolton was such a good boy that he stuck that test out with me and didn’t do anything naughty in the ring. He truly does try to take care of me up there, he’s quite a special boy.

Para Dressage Team USA standing on the podium at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
(Photo courtesy of Roxanne Trunnell and USEF)

Team USA had already captured the Bronze medal and I had captured the Gold medal in the individual when the freestyle rolled around so at that point in the competition I was really relaxed and ready to go and have fun in the freestyle. Dolton really loves his “Forrest Gump” freestyle and I was so excited we were in the exact right spot when the music changed. This had only happened one other time so I didn’t even care about the score- I was just so dang proud of my furball!

I went in thinking “whatever happens, happens” and just went out to ride the same exact test I ride at all my shows in the same exact arena. When you think about your rides like that there really isn’t any need to get all stressed out and seeing how well someone did right before me could burst my happy little bubble so I just avoid that.

Para Dressage Team USA showing off their bronze medals at the Tokyo 202 Paralympic Games.
Para Dressage Team USA showing off their Bronze medals at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
(Photo courtesy of Roxanne Trunnell)

SHTV: What do you feel was the most important factor going into Team USA’s Para Dressage success in Tokyo?

RT: I feel like having Michel Assouline as a coach really gave us the winning edge. He had been massively successful with the British Para Team for several years so we are benefiting from all that knowledge!

SHTV: While you were riding the freestyle, did you think you would be breaking the record, and what did it feel like when you found out you did?

RT: I had no clue we had broken a world record at the time. I just saw that huge score and petted Dolton and told him he did good. I found out we broke a record in the line waiting for the award ceremony. It was unbelievable, he’s broken world records at home in the USA, but to do it on a world stage is pretty dang cool. Dolton is one hell of a horse!

A jumbotron leaderboard displaying Roxanne Trunnel's world record breaking score at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
The jumbotron displays Roxanne’s world record-breaking score at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
(Photo courtesy of Roxanne Trunnell)

SHTV: How did the Forrest Gump music get selected, and why was it perfect for Dolton? How important do you think music selection is for Dressage routines?

RT: Dolton picked out the Forrest Gump music himself. He really loves music! It fit his walk perfectly and Dolton is our little Forrest Gump, really weird but at the same time completely loveable.

Karen Flint, Dolton's owner, wearing all of he and Roxie's medals to celebrate her horse's Paralympic success.
Karin Flint, Dolton’s owner, celebrates her horse’s Paralympic success.
(Photo courtesy of Roxanne Trunnell)

I think the music selection is extremely important. Most judges will be in their upper 40s to 50+ years old, so you want to have music that they are familiar with, that suits your horse’s gaits, and music that you as a rider like and that has plenty of cues in it to help you know where you need to be in the floor plan.

SHTV: You’ve mentioned that you “fought for Dolton” to be your horse.  What is the backstory?

RT: The backstory is that Karin (Flint, Dolton’s owner) was only leasing him for me at the time of the 2018 WEG, he was still owned by my teammate Kate Shoemaker. She had purchased Dolton as a 2-year-old for herself but he didn’t have the muscles to do the Grade IV work yet so she offered him for a Grade I to use since he had that walk, and then when he developed more she would start riding him again.

After seeing what he did at the WEG, it was clear he was going to be fantastic as a Grade I horse. Instead of just leasing him, Karin outright bought him from Kate so that he could keep doing this and we wouldn’t end up missing out.

Dolton and his groom celebrate his incredible success at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. (Photo courtesy of Roxanne Trunnell)

SHTV: What is next for you and Dolton?

RT: I think we are just going to show locally for a while and let him settle after he had to fly clear around the world! He flew from Florida to Germany, Germany to Tokyo, Tokyo to Germany, and finally Germany to Florida. We might hit up a show in Virginia sometime next year, and we will hopefully have the World Championships in Denmark in August. Dolton is a very sensitive horse and so it is best for him if we just kind of lay low and keep things stress-free for him.

Watch the Tokyo Takeaways Episode

Read more about Roxanne and US Para/Dressage at the Tokyo 2020 Games:

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