The Netherlands made history at the World Equestrian Games in Tryon today by becoming the first team ever to beat Britain at a para dressage championship.
Britain have taken gold at every championship since para equestrian became a Paralympic sport in 1996. However, the Dutch team of Frank Hosmar and Alphaville NOP (grade V), Sanne Voets and Demantur NOP (grade IV), Rixt van der Horst (pictured, above) and Findsley (grade III) and Nicole den Dulk with Wallace NOP (grade II) produced remarkably consistent performances to edge the Brits off the top spot by just 0.6%, with Germany taking bronze ahead of last year’s European silver medallists, Denmark.
“This result is simply unbelievable; it is so exciting,” said the Dutch national coach, Joyce Heuitink. “I am so incredibly proud of them all, and not just the riders, but the whole team. They all had their form at the right time. That is something special. It is so difficult to get that done, just at the right time.”
Britain’s Sophie Wells put in a phenomenal performance with her individual gold medallist C Fatal Attraction (pictured, below), laying down a personal best and WEG record of 77.23% in the grade V division. Natasha Baker also achieved a personal best with her new ride, Mount St John Diva Dannebrog, in the grade III, putting 74.12% on the board for Britain.
Lee Pearson recovered well from a disappointing ride in the grade II individual championship — when he had to retire the nine-year-old mare Styletta — and posted 71.6% for the team. Erin Orford also improved on her score in the grade III individual, earning 69.03% with Dior.
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“We came here with a relatively new and inexperienced team, and my sense is that we were not at our max everywhere because some of these horses, particularly Lee and Natasha’s horses, are new to this, and are very new combinations,” British chef d’equipe Sarah Armstrong told H&H.
“At some point this was going to happen, and all this will do is make us come back stronger. It’s great that the competition is there — we had really tough competition and that’s so good for the sport.”
Britain’s Sophie Wells and Natasha Baker will be in action again tomorrow (Saturday, 22 September), contesting the freestyle championship in grades V and III respectively.
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Horse & Hound’s bumper magazine reports from WEG will be in the issues dated 20 September (dressage and eventing) and 27 September (showjumping and para dressage).