Report by Madeleine Hill in Deauville
After an intense first day of competition at the FEI Para Equestrian European Dressage Championships, Great Britain are top of the team rankings in Deauville, France.
Team GBR is just over three points ahead of the Netherlands with 223.487, while the Dutch team is on 219.738, followed by the Norwegians on 216.581.
The Brits know they are always the ones to beat and the pressure was on from the start with the Dutch taking the first honours of the day in the Grade II test. Double WEG gold medallist Rixt Van Der Horst won the class with over 72% on Uniek N.O.P, beating British individual rider Natasha Baker on her new horse Sookie St James into second.
The veteran German multi-gold medal-winning combination, Hannelore Brenner and Women of the World, won the Grade III on 71.47%. The British squad does not include a rider in this grade.
Lee Pearson and Zion were knocked into fourth place in the Grade 1b after some very close marking; Nicole Den Dulk of the Netherlands scored 73.12% on Wallace N.O.P to take the class.
The Dutch also won the Grade IV when Frank Hosman and Alphaville N.O.P scored 74% to beat Sophie Wells and C Fatal Attraction by just under 2%.
But Britain’s great strength in Grade 1a triumphed when multi-gold medallist Sophie Christiansen and Athene Lindebjerg (pictured top) notched up the highest score of the day, winning the class with an emphatic 76.13%, with team veteran Anne Dunham (LJT Lucas Normark) close behind on 75.26%. These two scores helped secure Britain’s lead position at the end of day one.
“Tomorrow we’ll go in a lot more confident,” said a delighted Sophie Christiansen. “The 1a was a very strong class – the top four all scored more than 75%, which shows how the sport is growing and the great depth of the British riders.
“But as a team all four of us know we are really good and that we can get the top percentages, just because other countries do well doesn’t mean we can’t get the top scores.”
The team competition continues tomorrow with the individual tests, which also count towards the overall team results.
Read the full report from the FEI Para Equestrian European Dressage Championships in H&H magazine, on sale 24 September