British para dressage riders gunning for European gold

  • British riders have arrived in France and all horses have all passed the trot up in advance of this week’s FEI European Para Equestrian Dressage Championships in Deauville, France (18-20 September).

    The team is made up of:

    • Grade Ia, Sophie Christiansen with Athene Lindebjerg
    • Grade Ia, Anne Dunham with LJT Lucas Normark
    • Grade Ib, Lee Pearson and Zion
    • Grade IV, Sophie Wells with C Fatal Attraction
    • Grade II’s Natasha Baker will compete as an individual with Sookie St James.

    “It’s a great atmosphere here in Deauville,” Natasha told H&H today (Thursday, 17 September). “The horses are very relaxed and have been going very well.

    “We have a very young squad of horses with three new horses at championship level so it’s exciting to do see how they get on tomorrow.

    “I have the youngest horse so I’m just hoping to have a nice confidence-giving clean test tomorrow and fingers crossed the judges love her.”

    Seventy-two riders from 20 nations will compete in the championships

    Team GBR has dominated championships in the past, and the riders will be hoping for similar results this year.

    At the last Europeans, in Herning, Denmark in 2013, Great Britain topped the medal table with seven golds.

    However, in this year’s competition there is likely to be strong competition from Germany and the Netherlands.

    Sophie Christiansen will be representing Britain in Grade Ia. She took three gold medals at both London 2012 and at the Europeans in 2013, as well as picking up two at last year’s World Equestrian Games.

    However, she’ll be up against team mate Anne Dunham, who won consecutive gold medals at four Paralympic Games starting in Atlanta in 1996.

    In the grade Ib 10-time Paralympic gold medallist Lee Pearson will face tough competition from Austria’s Pepo Puch, the Netherlands’ Nicole Den Dulk and Stinna Tange Kaastrup of Denmark.

    In grade II Natasha Baker goes against Holland’s Rixt Van Der Horst, who took both individual titles at last year’s World Equestrian Games.

    In Grade IV Belgium’s Michèle George is the rider to beat, with the Netherlands’ Frank Hosmar and Britain’s Sophie Wells aiming on doing just that.

    H&H blogger Sophie Wells is now riding her direct reserve horse, Charlotte Hogg’s C Fatal Attraction, an eight-year-old gelding.

    The change comes after Sophie’s original ride Valerius “did not feel quite right” and it was decided in the best interests of the horse to withdraw him from the upcoming competition.

    The competition gets underway tomorrow (Friday, 18 September) with the team test.

    The individual tests take place on Saturday (after which the team and the first individual medals will be decided) before the weekend’s competition concludes with the individual freestyle test on Sunday.

    Keep in touch with all the action with daily reports here on HorseandHound.co.uk

    For more information and times visit: www.handiequicompet.fr

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