A rider ‘in shock’ and a sparkling silver: Brits in the medals at para dressage Europeans

  • Britain’s two riders to compete on the first day at the European Para Dressage Championships in Riesenbeck, Germany, each secured a medal in the individual grades I and II tests. In the latter, Georgia Wilson, riding her nine-year-old Supertramp mare Sakura, scored 72.97% to win silver behind Germany’s Heidemarie Dresing on Horse24 Dooloop.

    British team debutante Gabriella Blake produced a personal best of 74.58% with her part-bred Connemara, Strong Beau, to take bronze in the Grade I.

    Georgia already had a clutch of bronze medals from previous championships outings, but this was her first silver.

    “I’ve always got a bronze on ‘Suki’ so it’s nice to finally get a silver and hopefully I can carry on the week how I’ve started,” said Georgia. “I was very pleased with my test, but there were some bits I can improve on. I want to polish up my halts and then I’ll be over the moon.”

    Georgia, who has cerebral palsy, had been working on gaining more expression in Suki’s trot.

    “The good crowd helped me with the trot,” she said. “I need more clapping.”

    Gabby Blake makes stunning debut at European Para Dressage Championships

    Gabby Blake and Strong Beau at European Para Dressage Championships

    Gabby Blake and Strong Beau en route to the bronze medal in the Grade I individual test

    Gabby Blake was almost speechless after her scintillating championship debut. The 14-year-old grey Strong Beau – who leads racehorses up the gallops at home – produced a soft and settled performance. While he may not be as flashy as other grade I horses with his more pony-ish walk, he was loose, supple and foot-perfect, deservedly scoring high marks. Just the long-rein walk saw the marks drop.

    Gabby narrowly missed out on the silver, with Germany’s Martina Benzinger edging ahead by 0.3%. The reigning world champion Rihards Snikus won gold, on King Of The Dance, scoring 75.25% despite forgetting his test midway through.

    “I’ve never forgotten my test before,” said Rihards, who rides for Latvia. “I felt lost and the horse was confused, but the judge was very nice to explain what to do, but it was difficult, in English. Anyway, the horse has fantastic movement, fantastic walk, and he’s great in his mind. He wasn’t always easy; he used to go round with his neck up, but we’ve worked together for eight years now and he is a happy horse.”

    Gabby can take encouragement from her bronze medal – Rihards was the reigning European bronze medallist, and has pretty much swept the board with gold medals since.

    I’m in shock,” Gabby said. “It’s the best test I’ve ever ridden and he went absolutely beautifully today. He loved it. He couldn’t have done any more. [Beforehand] I would have liked to have got a medal, but I just wanted to come and have a confident ride. I was very nervous this morning – but I kept my cool.”

    Gabby lives with a condition called Mucolipidosis Type III. This is an inherited metabolic glycol protein storage disease that affects all her joints. She started riding at a very young age, and got her first pony, Silver, when she was six.

    Runaway winner in grade III category

    There were no British representatives in the grade III individual test, which also took place on the first day of the European Para Dressage Championships (Tuesday, 5 September).

    Denmark’s Tobias Thørning Joergensen scored an easy win on his grey mare Jolene Hill, by Blue Hors Schufro Hit, to post 77.76%. They were in a league of their own with their soft, expressive and consistent work, reaping 8.4 and 8.3 for the serpentine and medium trot.

    It was a tussle for the remaining medals, with second to fourth bunched within 0.4%. France’s Chiara Zenatti, who was born with limited movement on her right side and rides one-handed, took silver on 72.9%, riding Swing Royal IFCE. Germany’s Melanie Wieland (Lemony’s Loverboy) had a mixed test with some big highlights to take bronze.

    The final two British team riders are Sophie Wells and Charlotte Cundall, both in grade V, who will perform their first tests on Wednesday.

    Horse & Hound has a team of reporters covering all the European dressage action. To keep reading on our website after five articles, readers will need to buy a subscription. Visit horseandhound.co.uk/join to buy a Horse & Hound website unlimited subscription or, for great value, visit magazinesdirect.com for a combined magazine and website subscription. If you are already a magazine subscriber, the cost to upgrade your subscription to include full website access is minimal – call 0330 333 1113 to find out more.

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