‘It doesn’t feel real’: Medallist named equestrian of the year

  • Multi Paralympic gold medallist Sophie Wells has become the first para rider to receive the prestigious Equestrian of the Year Trophy at the Horse of the Year Show (HOYS).

    Sophie followed in the footsteps of the likes of Charlotte Dujardin, Pippa Funnell, Zara Phillips and last year’s winner Nick Skelton when she was presented with the trophy under the spotlights in the Andrews Bowen International Area at HOYS on 4 October.

    “I found out I had won the award a couple of weeks ago — it was a massive surprise as it’s a very general award,” said Sophie, who won double gold at this year’s European Championships in Gothenburg.

    “It’s huge for para dressage, as we’re always trying to get it on the map. I’m very, very honoured.

    “It doesn’t feel real — I remember reading Pippa Funnell’s autobiography when I was a kid, and I don’t consider myself in that league at all!”

    Grade V para rider Sophie, 27, was born with amniotic band syndrome, leading to the loss of several fingers, and nerve damage in her lower legs due to severe scarring.

    Over the course of her career she has won 17 championship gold medals, including gold at the 2012 and 2016 Paralympics. This year she led Britain to European victory in Gothenburg and also claimed the individual freestyle gold riding her own and Charlotte Hogg’s British-bred 10-year-old C Fatal Attraction (Jorge).

    She has also competed successfully up to grand prix in able-bodied dressage, becoming the first person to ride for Britain on both able-bodied and para teams when she represented Britain at junior and young rider Europeans in 2010 and 2011.

    This year Sophie finished ninth and 10th in the inter I freestyle at the British Dressage national championships, with her own Rio partner Valerius and Jorge.

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    She returned to the HOYS international arena last night with Jorge, finishing third behind Charlotte Dujardin and Maria Eilberg in the Future Elite inter I freestyle, posting a personal best score of 76.34%.

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