British para dressage rider Natasha Baker has landed the silver medal in the grade III individual championship at the World Equestrian Games in Tryon, North Carolina.
The multi-medalled Natasha piloted Emma Blundell’s nine-year-old mare Mount St John Diva Dannebrog to a score of 72.47%, just behind Dutch pair Rixt van der Horst and Findsley, who took gold.
Natasha teamed up with the Don Schufro mare at the end of January this year, and this is their first championship together. Their test was active and rhythmic, with just a little restlessness in each of the three halts.
“Diva is just epic. To go first is so hard, and it was such a long class — I had a painful three hours watching the rest,” said Natasha, for whom this is the first medal since her triple gold at the Rio Paralympics in 2016 with Cabral.
“I can’t believe we’re second best in the world and it wasn’t even a clean test. I’m still getting to know her so it’s all a learning curve, but today will have given Diva confidence for the next few days and I’m just excited to get back in there.”
Britain’s Erin Orford finished ninth in a field of 17 with Amanda Whittet’s 15-year-old Dimaggio mare Dior, scoring 68.85%.
“I’m disappointed with the performance, for my team and everyone who’s supported me — it’s not what we came here to do,” said Erin. “She’s a super talented horse and has felt great all year and in training out here so I wanted to show that in the test but unfortunately that wasn’t possible today. I hope that experience will help to build her confidence so that we can perform the test for the team that I know we’re capable of.”
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Italy’s Sara Morganti took an emotional grade I victory riding the 13-year-old Royaldik mare Royal Delight (pictured, below).
“My horse was really wonderful and it all came together today,” said Sara, who won gold at the 2014 WEG in Normandy, but suffered heartbreak in Rio when Royal Delight failed the trot-up. “It was quite an easy ride in a way because we were very prepared for this championship. We worked really hard for it and this is just incredible for me — she was beautiful all the way.”
The para dressage team competition gets underway tomorrow, with Britain hoping to continue their unbeaten run. The British team of Natasha, Erin, Lee Pearson and Sophie Wells will be put under strong pressure by the Dutch, German and Danish teams in particular.
Horse & Hound has two journalists and a photographer in Tryon for WEG. Keep up to date with all the news onand in the magazine issues dated 20 and 27 September.