Natasha Baker produced an excellent test in the Paralympics dressage team competition to strengthen Britain’s hopes of team gold after Lee Pearson produced a personal best earlier in the day at the Tokyo Games. Natasha was in the 10-strong Grade III section, and her score of 76.618% was just shy of her personal best with Keystone Dawn Chorus.
Natasha had the confidence to ask for more from her mare than in the individual, and it paid off.
“She was on it, she had her ears pricked the whole time; she was loving it,” Natasha said. “My ultimate goal was for her to feel happy in the arena, and I could ride her so much more today. I pushed more, and she felt really up and powerful.”
Natasha was ruing the walk pirouette, in which she said the mare “took over and went really small”, but was proud of the leg-yields and increased relaxation in the walk.
“I knew she could handle a bit more today, and so I went for it,” she added. “I know it’s the same percentage [as my individual], but it would have been a lot higher if I hadn’t messed up my pirouette. I am so excited about the freestyle now!”
Denmark challenges for team para dressage medals
The placings in this section mirrored the Grade III individual medals. Denmark’s Tobias Jørgensen led with 79.559% on his flamboyant grey mare Jolene Hill, with Natasha second, just ahead of Dutch rider Rixt van de Horst on 76.235%.
Tobias, 21, expressed his gratitude to his mare, after she helped him out when he was in pain today.
“I don’t know what I’ve done [to myself], but it was Jolene doing what she does best and just carrying me around,” he said. “Today she was even better than yesterday. I hope we could maybe be a medal contender, or at least take [the chance] if anyone else makes a mistake.”
Rixt produced a balanced and fluid test on the scopey Findsley to post a personal best.
“She was really confident, maybe a little bit too much, so I had to hold her back a little,” Rixt said. “We made up for some little mistakes we had yesterday. The pressure is high, but the Dutch team is very strong and we really want the chance to take gold. I think this is a good start.”
Britain’s gold medal challenge looks strong
With the team competition split over two days, and each team fielding three riders from different grades, the standings are still hazy at this stage. Great Britain is leading the pack of those who have had two riders post a score, after Lee Pearson topped the Grade IIs on a score of 77.636%. Team GB is in third overnight, behind Canada and Singapore, which have had all three of their team riders complete.
The US is second of those who have had two riders go (fourth overall), thanks to Grade I champion Roxanne Trunnell posting the day’s top score of 80.321%.
Four nations – Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and Australia – have only had one rider come forwards so far, hence their positions at the bottom of the table. The Netherlands remain Britain’s biggest rival for gold, especially after Rixt’s super score.
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