A multiple Paralympic gold medallist who has qualified for the British Dressage (BD) national championships in an able-bodied class said she would not have dreamed it could happen “in a million years”.
Natasha Baker told H&H she could not believe she had received a wildcard qualification in the novice silver class with mare Keystone Dawn Chorus, known as Lottie, for the nationals (12 to 15 September). Wildcards are given by BD to the highest-scoring unqualified combinations based on how many unfilled spaces there are in each class following the regional qualifiers.
“I competed at the summer regionals on 8 August and I had a very big mistake in my test. I got a wrong canter strike-off which cost me dearly and I ended up sixth so I thought my chances of going to the nationals were over,” she said.
“I’ve only had Lottie since March; it’s still really early days of riding her so I was really happy even to get to the regionals. When I saw my name on the wildcard list I was absolutely over the moon – hopefully I don’t mess up my canter leads at the nationals!”
Natasha said able-bodied competitions are a good tool for training and allow her to compete “for fun”.
“I’ve always done a little bit of able-bodied competitions on the side because with para we only have two tests, and because of my grade I’m only in walk and trot. Some horses get so used to riding the same tests and when they go into a competition they start to anticipate things,” she said.
“You learn so much about the horse at every competition so it’s good to be able to go out and do something different. I’ve got no pressure doing able-bodied stuff but as soon as I do a para competition I’m expected to win. It’s really nice to go out and be able to do the canter work, which is something that I never do in competition normally.”
Natasha bought eight-year-old Lottie, whom she owns with her family, Child’s Farm and Christian Landolt, in March from Beth Bainbridge.
“We started looking in December and she was the 12th horse I tried. I put an advert on Facebook and Beth contacted me. I’ve known Beth for donkey’s years and she said ‘I think my horse would be perfect for you’,” said Natasha.
“I went to Devon during Storm Gareth and the weather was horrendous. The second day I took Lottie on a hack and it was blowing a gale and pouring with rain. I hacked a mile and a half down the road, used an arena and then hacked her back and she didn’t put a foot out of place. I said to my mum ‘that’s it – this is our horse, I know it’. It can take a really long time to find a good para horse so I was incredibly lucky to find her so soon.”
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Natasha plans to campaign Lottie for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.
“Lottie is such a cool person – I think her life’s motto is ‘that’s ok’. She goes into everything with an open mind and she wants to try her absolute hardest. I’m a real sucker for mares, I think once they’re on side they give you so much and she has a heart of gold. It’s only been five months and I’m still learning about her, but it’s nice because she’s such a relaxed horse. She doesn’t get nervous, tense or spooky which is lovely because I’m getting to do things I haven’t done on horses in a really long time. I can take her in the field and go for a canter – on other horses I haven’t felt safe enough to do that,” she said.
“Our first international competition will be in October and I’m going to contend her towards the Paralympics next year. It’s so exciting. She’s definitely got the right attitude for the job and she’s got all the ingredients to make a great horse so I hope we can have a fantastic journey together.”
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