(Jonathan Wentz riding NTEC Richter Scale, owned by Kai Handt.)
DALLAS (SMU) – Born with cerebral palsy, Jonathan Wentz began riding horses for therapy at the tender age of two. He credits the sport he loves for the ability to overcome the balance, coordination, flexibility and strength problems that accompany cerebral palsy – and allowing him to defeat doctors’ predictions that he would never walk.
“On a horse, you’re doing the same motions as walking – but without the weight,” Wentz said. “Your body learns the mechanics without having to achieve the muscle mass.”
Now, the 21-year-old SMU senior from Richardson will compete on the United States Para-Equestrian team at the 2012 Paralympics in London Aug. 30-Sept. 4. One of four equestrians on the U.S. team, he will compete for individual and team medals in para dressage.
Wentz has a straightforward definition of dressage: “It’s like ballet for horses,” he explains. It takes a very special kind of horse to compete successfully, and his four-legged partner, NTEC Richter Scale, is making the trip to London with him.
The Paralympic Games are a multi-sport event for athletes with physical, mental and sensorial disabilities. The Paralympic Games are held every four years, following the Olympic Games, and are governed by the International Paralympic Committee. The equestrian events are judged on the ability of horse and rider to display athletic prowess and elegance.
Wentz is a determined athlete who set his sites on the 2012 Paralympics when he was only 13. As he explained in a video produced by the United States Para-Equestrian Association, “The reason I ride horses is nobody can really tell I have a disability until the judge looks at my dispensation certificate…it’s a very broad and level playing field.”
Now that he’s on his way to the Paralympics, Wentz says he’s probably most excited about getting to stay in the Olympic Village in London. But once the competition is over, Wentz says there won’t be time for playing tourist.
“Not really – I’ve got to get back to class,” said Wentz, who is majoring in political science, history and medieval studies. “I’ll graduate in the spring.”
Visit www.jonathanwentz.org for more information on Jonathan and his preparations for the Paralympics.