‘He’s never given me a ride like that’: para debutante overwhelmed by part-Connie in pursuit of team medal

  • Today (7 September) was the turn of the grades I, II and III team tests at the European Para Dressage Championships. This was not an individual competition, but a contest to decide the team medals and, for those competing as individuals, to qualify for the freestyle. At this stage, with the grades IV and V riders to compete tomorrow, it’s unclear which nation is in the lead, due to the different allocation of team riders across the grades – meaning some nations have logged more scores than others.

    It was a repeat of the individual placings in the grade II championship, where Britain’s Georgia Wilson once again took second on nine-year-old Sakura behind Germany’s Heidemarie Dresing (Horse24 Dooloop) despite gaining nearly 2%.

    “Suki is feeling great and really wanting to work for me out there,” she said. “She’s quite level-headed and she was up for the job today, it was more my legs that were misbehaving but she helped me through it. She’s a really kind mare and I can trust her completely.”

    Georgia Wilson and Sakura at the European Para Dressage Championships

    Georgia Wilson smiles after a job well done with Sakura in the Grade II championship at Riesenbeck

    Some horses seemed a bit sluggish in the 30ºC temperatures, but not Georgia’s chestnut mare, who also excelled in the heat at the Tokyo Paralympics.

    “I live in Wales, and when it’s raining she doesn’t come out as she doesn’t like it, she’s not a winter horse.

    “The team is getting along really well. We’re rooting for Sophie and Charlotte tomorrow but it’s nice to have a good score down for the team today.”

    Heidimarie was extending her unbeaten record with Dooloop to 17 from 17 starts together. Norway’s Ann-Cathrin Lubbe took bronze on La Costa Majlund, as she did in the individual.

    European Para Dressage Championships: Gabby Blake impresses again

    In the grade I team test, Britain’s Gabby Blake was overwhelmed by the performance of her bonny 15hh part-Connemara, Strong Beau. His free and active walk remained purposeful and he maintained a lovely attitude and outline throughout, despite the stifling temperatures. They scored 74.5% for fourth place.

    “It was amazing, I don’t think he’s ever given me a ride like that. He gave me everything! Things that I’ve always struggled with he nailed today.”

    They had the tiniest of errors in their halt.

    “I think he wanted to correct himself, it was just a little blip,” said Gabby. “I’m excited for the freestyle now.”

    Italy’s Sara Morganti turned the tables on Tuesday’s winner Rihards Snikus. Rihards was only competing anyway for a qualifying slot, and Sara boosted Italy’s chances – the nation is now third behind Spain and Germany of those who have three riders to complete. Sara’s team-mate Francesca Salvade was fourth in the competitive grade III section with Escari  on 72.23%.

    Grade III features familiar faces

    At the top of Francesca’s class, Denmark’s grade III superstar Tobias Thorning Joergensen continued where he left off in the individual test, winning by a comfortable 3.5% margin on 77.43%. The silver and bronze positions flip-flopped with Germany’s Melanie Wieland and Lemony’s Loverboy leapfrogging ahead of France’s Chiara Zanati and Swing Royal IFCE. Tobias’ lovely grey mare Jolene yet again produced a soft and consistent test to earn virtually the same as Tuesday’s mark.

    “Today was even better; it was more elastic, better trot, better frame, so I’m not sure why the marks don’t reflect that,” said Tobias. “But I am super satisfied with my ride, it’s just the percentage which annoys me a little bit, but that’s how it is sometimes.”

    There were no British representatives in this grade. Ireland’s Jessica McKenna, 22, laid down a solid mark of 68.63% on Davidoff 188 as part of her nation’s bid to qualify for the Paris Olympics. This is Jessica’s first year competing in international para classes.

    “It’s my first championships, so I am just happy with how it went,” she said. “I felt like we improved from Tuesday to today – we’ve only been together just over a year.”

    Sadly Jessica’s compatriot Katie Reilly, a 15-year-old debutante, retired mid-test on Impulz W.

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