- Three individual freestyle gold medals on the final day of the European Championships
- Total medal count for Great Britain rises to 6 gold, 1 silver and 1 bronze
- Championship debutantes Suzanna Hext and Julie Payne become triple gold medallists
The final day of the para-dressage Longines FEI European Championships saw Great Britain achieve more medal success, with three Individual Freestyle gold medals to add to their impressive medal haul from this championships - six gold medals, one silver and one bronze.
After commenting yesterday that Abira, owned by Charlie and Pammy Hutton, ‘goes up a level’ when the music comes on, he certainly did, as Abira and Suzanna Hext produced a stunning routine to be rewarded with a score of 76.407% to take the lead in the Grade III class. With three riders to go, including team-mate Erin Orford, it was a nervous wait for the final placings to be confirmed.
Erin, aboard Annabel Whittet’s Dior delivered a lovely test to the soundtrack from the film ‘The Holiday’, with some great trot work and transitions, to see a final score of 73.060% awarded.
With the final rider, Denmark’s Tobias Thorning Joergensen posting 76.127%, the gold was confirmed for Suzanna but with three riders finishing on 76%, Erin was just pipped to the bronze, to finish fourth.
Taking her third gold medal of the championships, on her debut, Suzanna said: “My body let me down a bit today but thankfully Abira didn’t! He’s a special horse and we have a special bond. I’ve never ridden to that music in competition before so I’m pleased it all worked. To get three gold medals is just insane, I’m a bit overwhelmed with it all! It’s been such a long journey to get to this point and so many people have been a part of it.”
Commenting afterwards Erin said: “She [Dior] was quite hot today! I got a little behind in the first part of my trot and over corrected so caught up too much. I’d have loved a medal today but the standard is just so high. It’s been amazing here, such a good atmosphere and to think I wasn’t even meant to compete – I really hope they’ll let me back!”
Next up for Great Britain was Grade I’s Julie Payne with Di Redfern’s Athene Lindebjerg. With some lovely moments coming throughout her test, there was a heart-stopping moment as Athene tripped slightly but Julie soon settled her and the pair continued to shine, producing some of their best work to date for 80.393% - and a new Personal Best for the talented duo.
“I felt to start with she wasn’t as active in tempo as I’d have liked and it wasn’t quite to the beat but then she tripped!” said Julie afterwards, “I gave her a pat and felt her instantly relax and it was just what we needed really as she was much better and I began to enjoy it. I love the ending to our routine and today I hit it just perfect. Our floorplan is simple as Athene doesn’t need anything fancy so we focus on the compulsory movements, do them well and show her off as she’s a horse with such quality.”
Sophie Wells MBE with C Fatal Attraction, owned by Sophie and Charlotte Hogg, were the final combination to go. With some stunning movements coming throughout the test, Jorge looked in his element and produced a flawless routine. When a final mark of 78.35% was confirmed it was a tense wait with two riders to go, but with the final scores confirmed, the gold and European Grade V Freestyle title was confirmed for Sophie.
Speaking afterwards she said; “He was quite tricky in the warm up today, he sometimes goes ‘into himself’ and holds back. You can’t force him or be hard on him so I decided to just give him a stretch and thought ‘I’ll just get what I get in there’! By the time he’d walked around the arena he felt like he did yesterday so I felt better. With him, you just ride the moment and today we pulled it out of the bag when it really mattered. He’s such an exciting horse to ride and I’m really proud of him.”
The British senior teams are supported by the BEF’s UK Sport National Lottery funded World Class Programme.