The squad of five riders who will be heading to Rio to represent Britain at September’s Paralympics has been unveiled.
The following combinations have been selected:
- Anne Dunham (grade Ia) with the Lady Joseph Trust and Henrietta Cheetham’s Lucas Normark, a 15-year-old stallion by Ravaldi.
- Sophie Christiansen (grade Ia) with Diane Redfern’s Athene Lindebjerg, a nine-year-old mare by Gribaldi.
- Lee Pearson (grade Ib) with David and Lynda Pearson, Gillian Chinn and his own Zion, a 12-year-old gelding by Flemmingh.
- Natasha Baker (grade II) with Christian Landolt, Phil and Lorraine Baker and Dorothy Alder’s Cabral, a 15-year-old gelding by Bujak.
- Sophie Wells (grade IV) with her own Valerius, a 14-year-old gelding by Flemmingh.
Anne said: “It felt amazing to get the call – it gave me as much fizz and excitement as the very first time. There’s been such strong competition for a place on this squad.”
From this squad of five, four pairs will be chosen at a later date to form the team, while the final combination will compete as an individual at the Games.
Sophie Christiansen, Sophie Wells, Natasha and Lee were all members of the British squad that scooped 11 medals at the London 2012 Paralympics, while Rio will be Anne’s fifth Paralympics. Her first was Atlanta in 1996, when dressage made its debut as a Paralympic discipline.
Sophie Christiansen, 28, made her Paralympic debut in Athens in 2004, aged 16, and since then has racked up 21 championship medals for Britain. She will be joined in the grade Ia section, for riders whose disability most severely affects their riding, by Anne, 68, who has partnered the striking Knabstrupper stallion Lucas Normark since 2013. They recently claimed a hat-trick of high-scoring wins at the Hartpury CPEDI3*.
Grade Ib rider Lee Pearson, 42, has represented Britain at four Paralympic Games to date, accumulating 10 gold medals, as well as six world and three European titles.
Double Paralympic and five-time European champion Natasha Baker, 26, will be partnering her London ride Cabral at their second Olympics together. The grade II pair have enjoyed a great run of form recently, and are unbeaten since March 2015.
2016 is the year grade IV rider Sophie Wells’ London reserve ride Valerius gets the chance to strut his stuff on the Paralympic stage. Sophie, 26, and the 14-year-old, whom she owned for over nine years, recently posted an 80% personal best freestyle at Hartpury CPEDI3*.
“It’s very exciting and there’s an element of relief too – you work towards this for four years and selection is the first hurdle,” she said. “Now the really hard work starts! We had a really good week last week at Hartpury and I think that cemented it in the selectors’ minds.”