WEG: Para-Equestrian Dressage squad announced

14th Jul 2014

British Dressage selectors have today announced the UK Sport National Lottery funded Great Britain squad for the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, which takes place in Normandy, France (23 August – 7 September, with the para-equestrian dressage competition taking place 25-29 August 2014 at La Prairie Racecourse in Caen).

The selected squad comprises (in alphabetical order):

  • Grade II: Natasha Baker (24) from Uxbridge, Middlesex with Mr & Mrs P Baker, Mrs Alder and Mr Christian Landolt’s Cabral
  • Grade Ib: Ricky Balshaw (27) from Donnington, Telford with The Lady Joseph Trust’s LJT Enggaards Solitaire
  • Grade Ia: Sophie Christiansen (26) from Maidenhead, Berkshire with her own Janeiro 6
  • Grade Ib: Lee Pearson (40) from Leek, Staffordshire with Mr & Mrs D Pearson, Mrs Gillian Chinn and his own Zion
  • Grade IV: Sophie Wells (24) from North Harbury, Nottinghamshire with her own Valerius

Selected non-travelling reserve:

  • Grade II: Erin Orford (25) from High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire with Clare Porz’s Candi KA

Sophie Wells (Grade IV) is also selected with Dr Neil and Dr Jackie Walker’s Pinocchio and Charlotte Hogg’s C Fatal Attraction, as direct reserves.

Chef d’Equipe David Hunter commented; “After a good final competition at Hartpury last week, I’m delighted for the five riders who’ve been selected to go to this summer’s Games. We look forward to heading to WEG with a strong team to defend our reputation and achieve the main aim of qualifying for Rio 2016.”

Chef de Mission, Will Connell commented; “The British para-equestrian dressage team have enjoyed many successes over recent years and it is clear that there are a number of nations working hard to push us off our perch. We travel to WEG with a very experienced squad that will be focussed on securing Rio 2016 qualification and winning medals for Great Britain.”

Commenting on their selection;

Natasha Baker: “I’m very excited; I’m heading into it as the WEG newbie so it’s even more exciting. JP [Cabral] has been such a star and has been getting better each year; this will be the fourth successive Championship I’ve been selected with him for, so that really shows our partnership. I expect WEG will have more of a feeling of the Paralympic Games, especially as there’s eight sports there competing; to be able to watch the other disciplines will make it even more special. Herning was a fantastic experience alongside dressage and jumping so to have that one big family feel, all supporting each other will be great. It will be my trainer Lisa’s [Lisa Hopkins] first Championships with me so am really excited for her as well.”

Ricky Balshaw: “Absolutely thrilled to be selected on the team and with such strong horse/rider combinations. I’m very thankful to Henrietta and the Lady Joseph Trust for giving me the ride on such a fantastic horse; because we’ve had him from such a tender age he really feels like he’s now coming into his own. This is the first time I’ve worked alongside Michel [Michel Assouline, who trains Ricky], and we’ve literally flipped my riding on its head; I’m really excited to be working with him at a major Championships.”

Sophie Christiansen: “Very chuffed. I’ve recently come back from a hip operation in January and had three months off, and then went straight into qualifying competitions so it makes this Championship even more special. It’s my third Worlds but also will be my third Championship with Rio [Janeiro 6] – I’m hoping to make it a triple, triple, particularly for Clive [trainer Clive Milkins]. I’m very excited; it’s been a tough year, coming back from injury and starting a career but we’ve made the first stage and will now dig deep for the Worlds.”

Lee Pearson: “I’m kind of in a state of shock; I’ve been really focussed to get Zion going to the best he can be, he’s an absolute superstar and is just so easy to compete. I don’t think we’ve got below 74% over the last two months, I get so much enjoyment from riding him, at Hartpury I just couldn’t stop smiling. I’ve owned him since he was five years old, having bought him from a previous groom and it took quite a few years to improve the basic paces but we’ve got there. I’m really flattered and excited, but aware that we need to go in and do the job. I’m sure the audience out there will be phenomenal but we just need to stay focused; I have lots of friends and family coming out to support me which will be really special.”

Sophie Wells: “Really excited. Our aim for this year was to get Reece [Valerius] selected, so hopefully we can now crack on with training post Hartpury. It will be Reece’s first WEG and my second; I think it will be quite different to Kentucky but will be good as it’ll be more accessible for people to go and watch. Having three listed is a testament to how hard we’ve worked over the past couple of years and I’m really grateful to the owners of both Noki [Pinocchio] and Jorge [C Fatal Attraction] for their continued support. Ange (Angela Weiss) has helped to bring on all three over the past seven years now, it’s been a long road with Reece to get to the point he’s at now.”

All riders compete as individuals at the Championships; a team of four riders will be announced before the start of the competition to contest the team event (the results of the rider competing as an individual will not have any weighting on the overall team score). Great Britain’s para-equestrian dressage team are the current and undefeated World, European and Paralympic champions.

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 and Horrell, Land Rover, Mears Country Jackets, NAF, NuuMed, Point Two Equine, Tagg Equestrian and Toggi.