Sophie scored 74.4% to book her place on the podium in between her long-time grade V rivals, Belgium’s Michele George and Best Of 8, who took gold, and the Netherlands’ Frank Hosmar and Alphaville in bronze.
Sophie was riding the up-and-coming Don Cara M, a 12-year-old Don Jovi son who is, like the other three British horses, here at his first championship. He was a late substitution into the team in place of Sophie’s top horse and multi-medallist C Fatal Attraction.
Sophie was the reigning individual Paralympic champion, having taken gold in Rio in 2016, but arrived in Tokyo with the pressure to defend her title somewhat lifted, bearing in mind Don’s lack of experience.
“I’m so overwhelmed with emotion because, I came into this having absolutely no expectations,” said Sophie. “I had a little bit of fear of what he could do in there, for the bad, but also belief that if he relaxed and he was with me, he could win a medal.
“In London and Rio I was looking at the gold and nothing else would come close, but this time I didn’t feel as much pressure. There was expectation on me, but of course half the partnership is the horse,” added Sophie, pointing out that Don Cara had not even competed abroad until now.
“For Don Cara to be here with me and perform like he did, and I know that’s just the start – I’m so proud of him. He is a sensitive and anxious character, and my hope for him is that he becomes more confident and believes in himself. I just want him to believe that he deserves to be here. That he trusted me in that arena is huge.”
Michele set an early standard with a chunky score of 76.54%, and was delighted with how her 11-year-old mare, a daughter of Bonifatius performed, even before her gold medal was confirmed. Frank’s test featured a lot of highlights with the experienced Alphaville, but some tension from the 16-year-old gelding led to a couple of mistakes.
Sophie’s medal makes it three out of three for the British riders in action today, with Lee Pearson having won gold and Georgia Wilson bronze in the grade II individual championship earlier in the evening.
The fourth member of the British Paralympic dressage squad, Natasha Baker, competes tomorrow with Keystone Dawn Chorus in the grade III, with the team competition getting underway on Saturday.
You may also be interested in…
Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday, is packed with all the latest news and reports, as well as interviews, specials, nostalgia, vet and training advice. Find how you can enjoy the magazine delivered to your door every week, plus options to upgrade your subscription to access our online service that brings you breaking news and reports as well as other benefits.