Competing in temperatures approaching 40°C in Hungary at the weekend, the British Paralympic Dressage team successfully retained the European title, winning team gold ahead of Germany and Norway, who took silver and bronze respectively.
Adding individual glory to the team success Sophie Christiansen, riding Martini Maybe, won two individual gold medals in the grade 1 competition, becoming Grade 1 European Champion at the age of just 17. Christiansen was a bronze medallist at the Athens 2004 Paralympic Games.
Speaking from Hungary Sophie said: “I’m absolutely ecstatic. I wanted to do my best, but three gold medals were not what I expected. I’m going on holiday to America with my family now, so I think there’ll be plenty of celebrating!”
Nicola Tustain and Prinz Heinrich added another individual gold medal, plus a bronze medal for the freestyle in grade 2, to the British squad’s medal haul.
Lee Pearson (pictured) chose once again to ride Blue Circle Boy (Gus) in the grade three tests, against riders with less of a disability than himself, and produced tests worthy of two more silver medals. Pearson was beaten to the gold by Germany’s Bettina Eistel on this occasion.
“I’m really pleased,” said Lee. “The difference in difficulty between the grade one and grade three tests is the equivalent of going from novice to medium. I even had some advanced medium movements in my freestyle. I had beaten Bettina Eistel at a previous show, but Gus found the heat really tiring.”
Hot on his heels in the grade 3 freestyle were Debbie Criddle and Pompidou II, who took the bronze, with top 10 placings for squad members Michelle Crunkhorn riding Painted Affair and Jo Pitt with Lambrusco.
David Hunter, chef d’equipe of the GB squad and World Class Performance Manager for British Paralympic Dressage, was very pleased with the squad’s performance, particularly as several riders were riding new horses.
“We’re delighted,” he said. “It’s been a bit of a testing event, but the results were very encouraging and the heat has provided us with some good training for the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing.”