Sophie Wells and Julie Payne add to Britain’s medal haul with freestyle golds

  • Britain has claimed freestyle gold in every possible grade at the European Para Dressage Championships, with Sophie Wells and Julie Payne adding victories to Suzanna Hext’s grade III gold this morning.

    Julie Payne rode Di Redfern’s Athene Lindebjerg (pictured, below) to a euphoric victory at grade I, producing a stunningly beautiful test to score the highest mark of the championship, 80.39%.

    It wasn’t foot-perfect, with a trip and half stride of canter coming into the early serpentine. But the pair showed great professionalism, quickly recovering their rhythm.

    “As we moved off from the halt she wasn’t quite as active as I would have liked,” explained Julie. “She tripped and panicked a little, but the second I patted her she relaxed, and that actually gave her a little more activity in the rest of the test.”

    Rihards Snikus and King Of The Dance slotted into silver for Latvia, with 77.36%, and Elke Phillipp took bronze for Germany aboard Regaliz.

    Continued below…

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    Sophie Wells went one better than her individual silver to take the grade V freestyle title. The Dutch rider Frank Hosmar set the bar high with a 76.95% but a powerful and emotive routine by Sophie and C Fatal Attraction (Jorge) shot them straight into the top spot with 78.35%.

    “It was my first freestyle gold medal since the 2013 Europeans, since then I have been tipping away at the silver medals. It is just such an achievement every time you win a medal — each one means something slightly different,” said Sophie.

    “He was tricky in the warm-up – he goes in on himself and holds back. I had no idea what I was going to get in there. But he pulled it out the bag when it mattered.

    “My canter music is very dramatic, but the trot music is much lighter to help balance things out as he is a very elegant horse,” added Sophie of her goosebump-inducing Tom Hunt music. “I love riding this freestyle and I know it inside out.”

    Don’t miss the 31 August issue of Horse & Hound, with full reports, analysis and expert commentary from the dressage, para dressage and showjumping European Championships in Gothenburg.

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