‘Gutted doesn’t cover it’: British medal contender forced to withdraw top horse from Europeans selection race

  • Sophie Wells said she is “gutted” to have to withdraw her Tokyo gold medallist and current top ride Don Cara M from contention for the European Para Dressage Championships in September.

    Sophie and “Don” were the most experienced of eight combinations that were announced last week as Britain’s nominated entries for the championships, which run alongside the European Dressage Championships at Riesenbeck, Germany.

    The grade V pair were favourites for team selection and among Britain’s chief medal hopes for the Europeans, having picked up individual bronze and silver medals at last year’s World Para Dressage Championships in Herning.

    Sophie and Rowland Kinch’s 14-year-old Don Jovi gelding made a super start to their 2023 international campaign, with wins at Hickstead, Kronenberg and Hartpury CPEDIs. They were on particularly strong form at Hartpury in early July, but Sophie explained that “Don knocked himself after getting 76% on the second day of Hartpury, and it’s now clear it will take a little more time to heal and be fit than first hoped”.

    “Gutted doesn’t quite cover it,” she said.

    Following Don’s injury at Hartpury, Sophie rode her younger mare, the seven-year-old LJT Egebjerggards Samoa (Diana) in the final day’s freestyle, winning the class with 74.84%. Diana, who is still in her first season of international competition, remains on the list of British nominated entries for the Europeans.

    Don has grown in strength and confidence over his time at top level, and Sophie said that it “felt like we could start to push this year and his confidence has grown so much the last few years, we were just about ready to go for it”.

    “I’m so sorry for Don, and for Rowland, as it takes so much time, effort and investment to get any horse to that point – a huge team effort from a small number of important people – and particularly the timing to peak at one competition. Thank you as always to my team and sponsors,” said Sophie.

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