Britain’s para dressage team retain their unbeaten status at championship level* after claiming gold at the JYSK FEI European Para-Dressage Championships in Herning, Denmark earlier today.
Individually, there were European individual titles for Natasha Baker in the grade II and Sophie Christiansen in the grade Ia, with Anne Dunham taking silver today. These were in addition to gold for Sophie Wells and silver for Ricky Balshaw (riding as an individual) yesterday.
Britain’s 2012 Paralympic heroine Sophie Christiansen set the standard from an early draw with a purposeful and accurate test to score 76.609% on Janeiro 6. Italy’s Sara Morganti produced a polished test for 74.478%, but British team veteran Anne Dunham and the Lady Joseph Trust’s eye-catching spotted Knapstrupper stallion LJT Lucas Normark impressed the judges to claim silver on 75.174%.
Sophie said: “I’m definitely more pleased with that today. On Thursday when I rode round the arena before I went in, I realised they were some of the judges from London who knew what I was capable of and that un-nerved me. Today, I stayed relaxed and let Rio do his thing. I’m really happy. “
A clearly delighted Anne said: “He was much softer, more engaged and he stayed so calm. I’m really pleased with him today. He was fantastic and it felt like the best test he’s done with me — he was accurate and off the leg. My favourite part is to come, the music tomorrow!”
After a disappointing performance in the grade II on Thursday when Natasha Baker’s usually reliable Cabral was unsettled by the crowd, a change of warm up tactics and new plan of attack was implemented. This clearly paid dividends as a ‘safe’ test was rewarded with 72.114% and the gold medal.
A relieved Natasha said: “I played safe today. I wanted to get through and make it look like it should! It was important he was a good boy and enjoyed it after Thursday. I didn’t over ask for anything as I didn’t want him to blow and he responded brilliantly.”
With all the tests complete across 4 days of competition in 5 grades, the British team of Sophie Wells (Grade IV), Sophie Christiansen (Grade Ia), Natasha Baker (Grade II) and Anne Dunham (Grade Ia) came out as victors once again. A team total of 453.585 gave a comfortable margin of victory over silver medallists Germany of over 24%. Hosts Denmark snatched bronze from a up-and-coming Italian quartet.
*The British para dressage team has been unbeaten since 1996.
Full report on all the action from the European para dressage championships in next Thursday’s Horse & Hound magazine (29 August, 2012)