Angelika Trabert, a German competing in the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, was born without legs. Her right hand has only three fingers, and they are missing the middle joints.
Trabert's teammate Hannelore Brenner was a competitive rider who broke her back in an accident during an eventing competition in 1986. She is paralyzed.
Both women say horses in the para-dressage competition have an innate understanding that their riders have disabilities.
"There is harmony between the horse and the rider," said Trabert, 43, who competes aboard Ariva-Avanti.
"The horses want to compensate for our problem," said Brenner, 47, who rides Women of the World. "When there is a missing leg or an arm, it doesn't matter. They learn to go with your special riding in a very short time."
Brenner competes with riders who are moderately disabled in the Grade III division. She was in first place Friday morning in the individual freestyle event, in which she performed prescribed movements to music, and her score held up the rest of the day to earn her second gold medal of the Games.
Brenner took gold Wednesday in the individual championship, during which she rode a prescribed test. She uses a wheelchair, but does some walking. An economist, she played wheelchair basketball for 14 years before she began competing in para-dressage.
Trabert is an anesthesiologist. She has traveled to West Africa to provide medical treatment for villagers.
For several years, Trabert has fought for para-equestrians to become equal partners in the international equine world.
Trabert was 6 years old when when she began to ride, but she had difficulty finding the right horse and the right teacher.
At first, Trabert rode with artificial legs. A major breakthrough came on a trip to California in 1985 when she visited for five weeks with a girl who lost a leg to cancer. That girl rode without an artificial leg. Eventually Trabert found that it was a better option for her, too.
She uses two whips to make up for the loss of her legs and uses a device that helps her hold the whips. She has an adapted saddle with cushions, and a strap that she can hold onto but that comes loose if the horse stumbles and falls.
Trabert competes again Saturday in the individual freestyle competition in Grade II, which mainly includes wheelchair users. She sees having the para-dressage event in the World Equestrian Games for the first time as a major accomplishment.
"I want to show what we are capable of."
In other action Friday, Emma Sheardown of Great Britain earned the gold medal in the individual freestyle test for the Grade I-a division for the most disabled. Sheardown has cerebral palsy.