The British team have made a great start in the team competition at the Rio Paralympics, with Sophie Wells, Sophie Christiansen and Anne Dunham all posting excellent scores in today’s team tests.
Sophie Christiansen and Athene Lindebjerg posted a whopping 77.52% — just short of her own personal best score — to top the grade Ia leaderboard by 3.5%.
“I’m over the moon with her — she’s so young and for her to go into that loud, atmospheric arena and do that is so nice,” said Sophie of Diane Redfern’s Gribaldi mare, who is only nine. “The test felt a bit tentative — we took her round the arena slowly for her to take it all in. There’s so much more to come.”
Sophie’s preparation for the Games has been less than ideal: Athene has suffered from an infection in recent weeks and it wasn’t until the day the mare flew that Sophie knew whether she would be riding her, or her London partner, the multi-medalled 19-year-old Janeiro (Rio).
Long-time class leader Anne Dunham finished second behind Sophie with 73.95%. The striking Knabstrupper stallion can become sluggish in hot weather, but Anne was pleased with his performance in today’s 29 degree heat.
“He was fine today, although the arena did feel enormous — I felt like a tiny dot,” said Anne, who is contesting her fifth Paralympics. “I like big atmospheres — they pick me up and get the adrenaline going. Rio has been everything I expected and hoped for.”
Sophie Wells was the first rider into the arena for Britain, and her 14-year-old liver chestnut gelding Valerius was on his toes to score 74.4%. They finished second in the grade IV class, with Belgium’s Michele George and Rainman just creeping ahead.
“Reece really concentrated and listened to what he had to do in there. We had no mistakes, which is important for day one,” said Sophie. “I was aiming for a clean, safe test, which we got, and I’ll be able to ask a little more in the individual test on Wednesday.”
Natasha Baker is the final British team rider to begin her Rio campaign. She and Cabral will contest the grade II team test tomorrow (13 September).
More information about how to follow the Paralympic dressage can be found here, and don’t forget to stay tuned to the H&H website for the latest news, results and scores.