Natasha Baker completed Britain’s full house of medals from the individual paralympics dressage competitions at the Tokyo Games, dancing to silver with the rising star Keystone Dawn Chorus in the grade III class.
Natasha’s partnership with the “generous, kind and loving” 10-year-old Dimaggio mare, known to her friends as Lottie, shone through and the pair were rewarded with a score of 76.32% to grasp individual silver.
It is a sign of the bond that these two have formed in a short space of time that the mare had the confidence to show what she is capable of. Natasha took over the reins a little over two years ago, with the intention of aiming her at these Games. Then Covid hit and with it went their competition plans.
But what the mare lacks in competition experience, she makes up for in heart and the time the pair has had together has given a strength to their partnership that was evident in their performance under the Tokyo spotlights.
“I think if we were here 12 months ago, I don’t think I would have got 76%,” said Natasha, who co-owns the mare with Joanna Jensen, Christian Landolt and her parents Lorraine and Phil Baker.
“We’ve really become established. It’s been since March this year, when we were able to start competing again – that’s when things have just got better and better. Each time out, I’ve just improved that a little bit more.
“I guess this was probably a back-step from where we were at Hartpury, but that’s fine. You know it’s our first competition together like this. So that means next year I can go into the World Championships with more confidence and really fight for that gold medal. Fighting for the gold medal was never a thing coming here – it was just if I win a medal, then awesome.
“I just want to give her a really positive experience.”
The 31-year-old came into these Games as a five-time Paralympic gold medallist and defending champion from both London 2012 and Rio 2016, aboard the late Cabral (“JP”). While Tokyo is Natasha’s third Paralympics, she likened the experience of Tokyo to being back in London.
“When I went into London, I was completely unknown and there was no expectation, no pressure,” she explained.
“And although I’ve won five Paralympic gold medals, this is a new horse you can’t carry that forward. I did carry that forward in Rio and I did have that expectation and that pressure. Luckily, JP was incredible and really delivered. But this time it was like starting afresh. Lottie has been a blank canvas, I’ve been able to build her from the beginning, and so it’s been actually really lovely.
“I think all of us [on the British squad] have said the same – we’ve all come here with young, inexperienced horses, just to give them a nice confidence building time. Our main aim is Paris and it always has been with these horses that are here. So the fact that the guys did, so incredibly well yesterday – I was just so proud of everything that they did yesterday – was amazing.
“We can all take that home and build on that and then come out in Paris and be all guns blazing ready to pick up those gold medals.”
Natasha pointed out the hot favourites she was up against all have world and European Championship experience under their belts, whereas for Lottie, this was an entirely new ask.
“You know they’ve been in these atmospheres, they travelled – she went on hunger strike when she was travelling over here so it’s just everything has been new,” she said. “I’m so proud that we were able to go in there and deliver that kind of performance.
“She had a little spook at the commentator speaker when I went past on the way in, and so I was like, ‘Oh, she doesn’t normally do that!’ But you know, I just tried to give her as much confidence in the arena as I could.
“I don’t think it was the best test we’ve done this year. But the most important thing was that she went in there, she let me ride her, and I gave her a nice confidence-giving round.
“It’s the first time she’s been out the UK, it’s the by far the biggest arena she’s ever been in, and I’m just proud of how she’s dealt with it. She’s just been amazing.”
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