Tokyo gold medallists on top form ahead of World Championship selection

  • “Not a bad day in the office – but there’s loads of room for improvement,” said Sir Lee Pearson, after riding Breezer to a hat-trick at their last show before para dressage World Championships team selection. The pair won all three of their grade II classes at Hartpury CPEDI3*.

    The pair used this show as their last outing before the Tokyo Paralympics in 2021, but not all went to plan when the 11-year-old gelding was badly spooked by the sounds inside the atmospheric indoor arena.

    “I brought him back here a month ago to help put the demons to bed,” explained Lee. “He’s a very sound sensitive, reactive horse; even though he has been to Tokyo, the likes of Hartpury or any major championship still has him on his toes. Luckily, all three tests this week were outdoors. 

    The pair are shortlisted for the para dressage World Championships in August, and won’t rest on their laurels in the run-up.

    “We’ll be doing a lot of walk training,” said Lee, who also competed his 2018 World Equestrian Games ride Styletta in the Premier League prix st georges (PSG) and inter I here. “Breezer has also been training at advanced medium and PSG recently, so I’m guilty of not doing as much walk. But when medals rely on walk, as they do at grade II, we have to be focusing a little more on that now.”

    Also gaining a trio of wins ahead of World Championships selection was Sophie Wells, aboard her Tokyo medallist Don Cara M. The pair rounded off their week by posting over 78% in the grade V freestyle, and Sophie explained that the 13-year-old Don Jovi gelding has gained in confidence over recent months. 

    “Don has been getting more consistency with the work, and gave me a really good feeling here,” she said. “Getting that rideability in the test is so huge for him, and if we can keep progressing there are loads more marks to come.”

    Michael Murphy has already had his place on the Irish team confirmed for the World Championships, and he repeated his feat from last year with a clean sweep in the grade I ranks here aboard the 15-year-old Cleverboy, formerly ridden to grand prix by Bronte Watson. 

    “He just loves coming out competing; going from grand prix to a walk test would be a struggle for a lot of horses but he takes it in his stride and likes the new challenge,” said Michael, who had competed the Vivaldi son just twice before they went to the Paralympics in 2021. “We’re a lot more established as a partnership now and I think you can see that in the consistency of the results – we were kind of winging it back then! It’s nice to have this momentum going into the worlds and it’s just a dream to be going on a horse like Cleverboy.”

    Nicola Naylor had a great week at grade IV, claiming the team test on Del Piero and finishing second on Humberto L. Her two rides then traded places in the individual test, and Humberto also took second in the freestyle behind Marcelle Ward and Dornroeschen. 

    “It’s not been the easiest conditions as it was quite breezy and with a lot of flowers around,” said Nicola. “Humberto has done less than Piero and on the first day he was a bit tense, but then settled into his stride. They’re both super horses.”

    Natasha Baker claimed a grade III team test victory with Keystone Dawn Chorus, but sadly had to withdraw from the remainder of the week due to illness. Erin Orford came through to take the wins in the grade III individual and freestyle on LJT Diamond Crusador – although it was her first time riding to her new music. 

    “I first heard it the morning of the sound check. It’s from Fantastic Beasts, and is quite magical and dramatic and really fun to ride to,” Erin said.

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