There were some great performances from British athletes today on the first day of the FEI Para-Equestrian Dressage European Championships in Deauville, France, as Great Britain finished with all five riders placing within the top-five in their respective grades.
Natasha Baker got things off to a good start for the British camp this morning as she produced a lovely test with Mr Christian Landolt and Mr and Mrs Baker’s seven year old Sookie St James. Despite a small break into canter during some otherwise super trot work, Natasha was delighted with a score of 71.294% and second place at the pair’s first Championship together.
“I’m so proud of her, this is her first Championship and she was awesome, just amazing; I expected her to be good but I never expected her to be that close. The first centre line I messed it up, I take full responsibility for that; we’ve had some disastrous halts in the lead up to this so I think I’m in over correct mode. I’m just so, so proud of her; my aim was to go in, do a nice clean round and just to do our best, she’s just awesome,” commented Natasha.
Lee Pearson got his European Championship campaign off to a good start in the Grade Ib class, as he produced some great work throughout the test with Mr and Mrs Pearson, Mrs Gillian Chinn and his own Zion to be awarded a score of 71.040% for fourth place.
Lee commented after the class; “It was really good; I was really pleased with Zion. We normally are a little bit more relaxed on day one and then we build up power and expression tomorrow and even more so for the freestyle. I’ve watched the test and it flowed and was lovely; there was a halt that was a little bit abrupt and one bit of transition where he thought about cantering, and maybe those were the areas that the judges saw, but I was really pleased with the rest of it.”
First of the two GBR Grade Ia athletes to compete in the team test was Anne Dunham aboard the Lady Joseph Trust’s striking appaloosa, LJT Lucas Normark. The duo produced a lovely fluent test to see a score of 75.261% given to head into the lead.
“He was a good boy today, he really enjoyed it,” said Anne, “there’s always something you’d quite like to go a bit better but we had a really good test overall and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I really enjoy the competition and competing alongside everyone at this level.”
Following Anne was Sophie Christiansen with her new ride and Championship debutant Athene Lindebjerg, owned by Di Redfern. With the eight year old Athene, a great test saw them finish on 76.130% for the highest score across all five grades of the day and the Grade Ia win. Sophie and Anne’s scores saw Great Britain take a one-two in the final standings of the Grade Ia class.
“I’m so pleased and so proud of her,” said Sophie, “I walked in and thought there are quite a lot of people in here watching us; I was a bit nervous when I went in because I didn’t know how she’d be but I’m so proud of my horse and my team.”
With Charlotte Hogg’s talented eight year old C Fatal Attraction, who was brought into the squad following the withdrawal of Valerius, Sophie Wells produced a superb test, with some real highlights coming through the trot work to be rewarded with a score of 72.095% and a second placed finish.
Commenting afterwards a delighted Sophie said; “He was quite worried today, there was a tree that fell down in the warm-up and because he’s so green and young it just threw him a bit more than maybe another horse but considering that, he went in and he listened and we didn’t have any big mistakes he just listened and to get a 72% with an OK test and slightly tense test I’m really pleased with that.”
All five British riders go forward to compete in their respective Individual Championship tests tomorrow. In the team event Great Britain currently lie in first place just ahead of The Netherlands, with the final day of the team competition concluding tomorrow.
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.