A squad full of exciting new combinations have formed the short-list for the British para dressage team at this September’s World Equestrian Games.
Just two of the pairs listed have been to a championship before — Sophie Wells (grade V) with Charlotte Hogg’s 11-year-old C Fatal Attraction, double gold medallists at last year’s Europeans, and Erin Orford (grade III) with Annabel Whittet’s Dior, who also helped Britain to gold in 2017, picking up individual bronze along the way. Sophie is also listed with a second ride, the seven-year-old KWPN stallion Gladstone, who is owned by Sophie, Jackie and Neil Walker, and Valerie Woolford.
Sophie Christiansen (grade I) is back on a championship short-list after a year out of competition, this time partnering her ride of less than a year, the nine-year-old Danish warmblood Amazing Romance, known as Harry.
Natasha Baker (grade III) is another multi-medallist to be back in team contention after a year off, again on a super exciting new ride, Mount St John Diva Dannebrog (pictured above). The nine-year-old mare, by Don Schufro x Brentano II, is owned by Emma Blundell of the Mount St John stud, and has been with Natasha since January this year.
Lee Pearson (grade II) is another championship veteran to bring forward an exciting new ride in his home-bred nine-year-old mare Styletta, a dainty, black Sandros Dancer daughter.
The 2017 triple European gold medallist Suzanna Hext is once again in contention for a team place, but this time not with her Gothenburg partner, the Huttons’ Abira, who is currently out with injury. Instead, H&H blogger Suz, who was reclassified from grade III to grade II at the start of the year, is listed with the Lady Joseph Trust and Henrietta Cheetham’s LJT Enggaards Solitaire. If selected, this will not be the 13-year-old blue Hors Soprano son’s first championships, however — “Sid” won medals for Britain at both the 2013 Europeans and the 2014 WEG under Ricky Balshaw.
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The remaining three shortlisted riders would all be championship debutants. These include two pupils of Sophie Wells: 17-year-old Izzy Palmer (grade IV), who was also shortlisted for the Europeans last year, riding the Wells family’s Touchdown M, and 22-year-old Georgia Wilson (grade II) with her own Midnight Z.
Grade IV rider Nicky Greenhill completes the shortlist, riding her own nine-year-old black mare Betty Boo, a Benetton Dream daughter bred by Lynne Crowden.
One omission form the list is Julie Payne, triple gold medallist at last year’s Europeans with Athene Lindebjerg, and the only member of that team not to be shortlisted this year. Julie, who has since been reclassified from a grade I to a grade II, has been piloting her own Pandora in competition so far this season, with Di Redfern’s Athene having suffered some soundness issues.
The team of four, which will be announced at the end of July or beginning of August, must include at least one rider from grades I, II or III, and cannot include more than two riders from the same grade.
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