Natasha Baker came out all guns blazing in her team test at the Tokyo Paralympics dressage competition to keep Britain in strong contention for the gold medal. Riding Keystone Dawn Chorus, a 10-year-old Dimaggio mare, Natasha scored 76.618%, to finish second among the Grade III riders in the team rotation.
This result puts Britain at the head of the teams who have fielded two riders after Lee Pearson topped the Grade II riders with Breezer on 77.636%.
Natasha, who won individual silver in the Grade IIIs earlier in the week, was determined to ask her mare for more in this test. Whereas the inexperienced mare had been a bit surprised on her first competitive experience in the arena, today she felt more confident.
“Tonight she knew her job, she had her ears pricked the whole time and was really enjoying it in there,” said Natasha. “I am unbelievably proud of the improvement she’s made overnight. Yesterday [27 August] I wanted a nice, safe test, but today I thought, ‘no, you can handle a bit more’, and I really, really went for so much.”
British riders boost team medal hopes
“My horse felt fabulous and the fact that she allowed me to do that was just brilliant,” continued Natasha. “It would mean the world for us to get on the podium. We never expected to be in contention for the gold coming here. Even to walk away with a team medal would be incredible.
“I’m so proud of Lee, he rode a stonking test. I couldn’t have done any more, and I know that Sophie [Wells] will go in tomorrow and ride the best she possibly can.”
Natasha’s delight at her horse’s performance made up for her slight disappointment over her pirouette.
“My percentage would have been a lot higher if I hadn’t messed up the pirouette,” she said. “It’s an impossible movement for someone with no use of their legs! She just tries to take over and go so small, like she’s saying ‘I’ve got this Mum’, even though I have my leg on and my whip tapping her. I got a cracking pirouette in the warm-up, but unfortunately they didn’t count that.
“But [in the test] I could really push more – the leg-yields were really nice, she was really balanced, up and powerful. And there was more relaxation in the walk. I can’t ask for more.”
This increased confidence bodes well for the freestyle on Monday, which Natasha cites as her “favourite test by a mile.”
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