Report by Madeleine Hill in Deauville
Team GBR reigned victorious at the FEI European Para Dressage Championships in Deauville, France, extending their unbeaten run at international championships once again.
The scores were tight after yesterday’s team tests, but some outstanding performance in the individual tests today saw the British team pull away to a decisive victory.
The British triumph was secured by their strength in grade 1a (grade I riders have the highest degree of physical impairment, and the grade 1a test is walk only).
Sophie Christiansen on Diana Redfern’s eight-year-old-mare Athene Lindebjerg scored the highest mark of the competition so far to win individual gold with 79.565%. That combined with her score of 76.13% yesterday gave her a cumulative score of 77.848%.
Team veteran Anne Dunham, riding the Lady Joseph Trust’s 14-year-old Knapstrupper stallion Lucas Normark, was close behind. She scored 76.261% today which added to yesterdays 75.261% gave her a cumulative score of 76.261%.
These two rides sealed the team gold for the Brits, who hold on to their impressive record of being undefeated European, World and Paralympic team champions.
Chef d’equipe and World Class programme manager David Hunter was pleased to be overseeing another outstanding team occasion.
“I’m immensely proud,” he said. “We came here with some very experienced riders and horses and some younger horses too, but everyone rose to the occasion.
“The outstanding results of the 1a riders gave us this great result and they make a massive difference to us, and of course Lee Pearson and Sophie Wells, who both won silver today and the commitment of everyone behind the scenes has all contributed.
“Team success comes from individuals coming together and this and our lottery funding makes a fantastic difference. We also have a wonderful back up team of owners, grooms and other staff and the strength and rivalry of the other teams makes it more interesting for us.”
Riding as an individual at her first major championship on her young horse Sookie St James, a seven-year-old Oldenburg mare owned by Christian Landholt, Grade II rider Natasha Baker was genuinely surprised and pleased to be second in both the team test and the individual, winning her an individual silver medal.
“I never expected her to be that close,” she said after the first test. ” I knew she was good and I’m so proud of her, she’s inexperienced and my aim was to go in and do a nice clear round. I didn’t expect to go home European Champion, she’s my long term plan really, so I am thrilled with her.”
European team medals
- Gold: Great Britain 451.146 75.191%
- Silver: Netherlands 439.425 73.238%
- Bronze: Germany 432 .557 72.093%
Read the full report from the FEI Para Equestrian European Dressage Championships in H&H magazine, on sale 24 September