Some stunning performances from Great Britain’s equestrian athletes at the FEI Para-Equestrian Dressage European Championships saw the British Team retain their European title, and with it their unbeaten team record. Alongside the team title, there were five individual medals won in today’s Individual Championship classes, with Sophie Christiansen posting for the second day running the highest score of the day across the five grades.
Natasha Baker got things underway again this morning for Great Britain and the Grade II class with a lovely test aboard the eight year old Sookie St James, owned by Mr Christian Landolt and Mr and Mrs Baker. With some great work throughout a score of 72.857% was awarded, which saw Natasha into the silver medal position, to finish just behind The Netherlands’ Rixt Van Der Horst (75.543%).
Natasha commented; “It’s Sookie’s first medal; to come home with silver, I’m literally just the proudest mum, she’s just exceeded my expectations and taken it all in her stride and to come home with a silver is just awesome. I’m just absolutely over the moon.”
Grade IV was the next class to be contested in Deauville, France. Sophie Wells and Charlotte Hogg’s C Fatal Attraction produced some stunning work during their test which was rewarded with some high scores for the talented duo, to see them scoop the silver medal with 71.833% finishing behind The Netherlands’ Frank Hosmar (73.524%).
A delighted Sophie commented; “I’m really pleased; he was so different to yesterday, he warmed up differently, he went into the arena differently and he felt confident, he felt like he knew what he was doing in there. For a horse that hasn’t been to a major Championship before and was really nervous yesterday, for him to come in and be confident today I’m so pleased and so proud of him. He was so different to yesterday; I’m not really an emotional person but when I came out today I was.”
Anne Dunham was the first of the two British Grade Ia riders in this afternoon’s class. Taking to the arena with The Lady Joseph Trust’s LJT Lucas Normark the pair showcased some lovely fluent movements during the test to see a final score of 76.261% given.
A thrilled Anne commented; “Really pleased with him and he was really pleased with himself at the end, he turned [to the people applauding at the side of the arena] with a ‘is that for me’; he was really lovely and genuine today. It’s still a massive thrill to get on the podium; I’m sixty-seven next week, and I’m loving every minute of it, it still feels as good as when I first started. My daughters [Amber] here grooming, my sister’s [Gill] here as my carer and they’re such an important part, they’re all brilliant and without them I couldn’t do it.”
It was a tense wait for the second of the Grade Ia riders to enter the arena, as Sophie Christiansen was the last to go in the eighteen strong class. Entering with Di Redfern’s Athene Lindebjerg the pair looked at ease in the indoor arena and maintained their composure throughout the test, to see high scores awarded, in particular, for the halts. As a final score of 79.565% was announced, the British camp celebrated, as Individual Gold and Silver medals were confirmed.
“There’s been so much change and my whole team has just come together,” said Sophie, “the horse was just phenomenal. Today I knew she would be fine; I knew I needed to work on my halt and they were apparently spot on so I’m really happy.
"I kept telling myself that I will need to come here and have fun, I wanted it to be a really relaxed atmosphere for her because she’s so young; I wanted to make sure she was really relaxed, I couldn’t have asked for any more from her today, I would have been happy whatever the outcome.”
Lee Pearson with Mr and Mrs Pearson and Mrs Gillian Chinn’s Zion was the last of the British combinations to compete on day two of the Championships. With some lovely fluent movements shining during the Grade Ib test, Lee was pleased with his score of 71.724%, which saw him into the silver medal position just behind Austria’s Pepo Puch (74.552%).
Commenting after Lee said; “I’ve watched the video of my test and I’m so pleased with my horse, so pleased with how he felt and so pleased at what I’ve seen on the video, but for whatever reason they’re not giving him the scores, but I’m leaving over the moon, and a silver individually is really, really good.”
The team result sees Great Britain retain the European team title, and head into next year’s Paralympic Games as the undefeated Paralympic, World and European team champions.
World Class Performance Manager David Hunter commented; “Delighted and thrilled that we have achieved this in what has been a very tight and exciting competition for the last two days. I’m particularly pleased that it’s been achieved with outstanding scores from some new and young horse combinations, but there’s no room for complacency and the result proves how good the state of international para-equestrian dressage is, which is fantastic for the sport. It’s a great position to be in a year away from the Paralympic Games.”
Equestrian Team GBR is supported by the UK Sport National Lottery funded World Class Programme; the British teams are very grateful to the support they receive from official Team GBR suppliers Dodson & Horrell, Equi-Trek, Equiline, Land Rover, NAF, NuuMed, Point Two Equine, Tagg Equestrian and Toggi.
Full results from the competition can be found online at: http://www.handiequicompet.fr/fr/416/individual-championship-19-septembre/