Britain has clinched team European gold after a dramatic day at the European Para Dressage Championships in Gothenburg.
With one rider left to go, Britain was sitting in the silver medal position behind Denmark, a very unusual position for the team that has never been beaten in the para dressage competition.
The pressure was on championship first-timer Julie Payne to pull a cracker out of the bag – she and Athene needed a score in excess of 74.627% for Britain to move up to gold. But the 10-year-old Gribaldi mare was the epitome of elegance to score 78.107%.
“That was the hardest test I’ve ever done – it took everything I had, and bless her, Athene gave me everything,” said Julie, had been feeling unwell prior to the test. “I wanted to do so much for the team. This has been the absolute pinnacle of my life.”
The experienced Sophie Wells kicked off proceedings this morning with an excellent grade V test aboard C Fatal Attraction, banking 73.58%.
“He came out in a much better place compared to yesterday, and I was able to show off what he can do,” said Sophie, who coped well with a very tense “Jorge” in yesterday’s individual championship.
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Individual bronze medallist Erin Orford was delighted with the performance of Annabel Whittet’s 14-year-old Dior in her grade III team test, but admitted she was disappointed with a score of 68.85%..
“The quality of work felt better today than yesterday but I’m a little disappointed with the mark; I really wanted to put something stronger forward for the team,” said Erin, who was a late call-up to the British team after the withdrawal of Natasha Adkinson.
Suzanna Hext and Charlie and Pammy Hutton’s Abira also produced a valuable grade III performance, posting 72.08%.
Denmark finished in silver, just three marks behind Britain, with The Netherlands just squeezing Germany out of the medals to take bronze.
Don’t miss the 31 August issue of Horse & Hound, with full reports, analysis and expert commentary from the para dressage, dressage and showjumping European Championships in Gothenburg.