Eight-time Paralympic individual gold medallist Lee Pearson put Britain in a commanding position with the first of our riders’ tests at the para dressage team competition at the Tokyo Paralympics. But it wasn’t plain sailing.
Grade II rider Lee, who holds the record for the most Paralympic individual gold medals won, demonstrated his excellent horsemanship throughout the test. His tactful riding ensured a polished test from his own home-bred Breezer, who appeared less relaxed in the arena today than in his individual test, to score 77.636%.
“I am over the moon with that and a lovely score, but Breezer does not like the Olympic arena,” Lee said. “I am so proud of him because I held his hand and he trusted me – I could be sitting here with a different story completely. I rode him on eggshells.”
Lee explained that although Breezer was relaxed when he trained in the arena in the morning, the “competition environment” set him alight.
“He was on the verge of exploding,” said Lee, who explained he has been playing clapping sounds to the horse in the stable to familiarise him with the atmosphere. “In that way, I’m grateful that we don’t have 10,000 people in the arena. As a horseman you just have to deal with what comes your way. He has a much bigger walk, but I just let him dribble around and said ‘as long as you stay in walk, mate, we’re fine’. I’m dead proud he did.”
Breezer did just touch the board with a hind leg in halt, resulting in him not quite standing square, but as Lee puffed his cheeks out with a smile at the end, he showed his relief at a job well done. This feat of horsemanship put Britain well into the lead above Austria and Denmark at this early stage.
The judge at H, Sara Leitch (GBR) awarded the pair 80.455%, contrasting with the Italian judge at M, Katherine Lucheschi giving 74.242%.
As for the future, Lee is appealing to the big shows in England to allow more para riders to do demos to help them train their horses to cope with the atmosphere they will face at championships.
“If any of the big venues like Horse of the Year Show and Your Horse Live can have us doing some displays, you’re possibly going to be helping us win gold medals in Paris,” he said. “To go from no environment to 10,000 spectators in three years’ time is a big step for a sensitive horse. But at the same time, that sensitivity is what makes him fabulous.”
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