‘I was riding on eggshells’: Sophie Wells on handling the unexpected to secure Britain’s team chances

  • Sophie Wells said she felt “relieved to finish the test” in the Tokyo Paralympic team dressage competition after a spicy warm-up with Don Cara M.

    Sophie and the Roland Kinch’s Don Jovi gelding pulled off a huge new international personal best score in the team test of 75.65% to secure team gold for Britain.

    The new format of three to a team, with all scores counting, was playing on Sophie’s mind as she went into the arena.

    “I’m so relieved to have survived, stayed on, started the test and finished the test today,” she said, explaining “Donnie” had been spinning around in the final warm-up, which was “completely out of the blue”.

    “He warmed up in the other arena amazingly and felt awesome. Then for some reason when I came [into the 10 minute box] I think the shadows of the people walking behind things [spooked him].

    “There’s pressure going last in the team anyway, especially without a drop score.

    “I just thought I’ve got to complete the test because without completing the test we haven’t got a score. So, yeah, I’m not going to lie, I didn’t enjoy a single second. That was stressful.”

    There was one notable error, where Donnie added an unintended flying change during the canter work.

    “I just thought, don’t panic – take your time and pick it back up,” said Sophie, adding she was delighted with how the mistake didn’t rattle Donnie, which it had the potential to do.

    “I’m surprised the mistake didn’t happen earlier, if I’m absolutely honest. I was very much on eggshells, it was like sitting on a bomb. I mean, an awesome bomb, don’t get me wrong. But that’s horses, isn’t it? At the end of the day something happened in [the 10 minute box] that scared him.

    “It just shows what an awesome horse he is to still get that score. It gives me faith that as a rider, I can ask for less, and it will still be plenty, which is amazing,” she said.

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