‘That’s why we ride horses; to become one’: Belgium takes grade V freestyle gold in Herning, plus a medal for Britain

  • Belgium’s Michele George rode a challenging floorplan to score 82.86% in the grade V freestyle to claim the gold medal at the Orifarm Healthcare FEI World Para Dressage Championships results.

    Her beautiful bay mare Best of 8 soaked up the atmosphere and made light work of their routine, choreographed to a fun collection of 1980’s tunes.

    “I think it’s a personal best for the mare, and I’m so, so proud of her,” said Michele. “She behaved like a queen, and it was very difficult to ride because the noise from the showjumping arena was loud with clapping and cheering, so it was very tense, but I managed it and she was really dancing.

    “That’s why we ride horses, you know, just to become one, and to feel the harmony. It’s my second world title and I’m so happy that I can do it again with another horse, because it’s not always easy to stay on the top. But I’m back, and that is only the start.”

    The Netherland’s Frank Hosmar and 17-year-old gelding Alphaville N.O.P took silver after performing a 80.78%-worthy test. The expressive dark bay gelding coped brilliantly with the tense atmosphere and listened intently to his rider’s commands for a pleasing round.

    Britain’s Sophie Wells and Don Cara M gave it everything they’ve got to pull off a stunning test for just shy of 80% to land grade V bronze for Britain.

    It was clear Sophie had a medal on her mind as she entered the arena. Bringing her A-game, her test showed powerful extensions, balanced and fluid simple changes and bold extended canters. ‘Donnie’ gave such a lovely picture throughout the entire test, the judges couldn’t help but award top marks.

    “The trot felt just amazing,” said an emotional Sophie. “If I can get that and keep it consistently throughout the test, he’s got so much potential. It’s all about the timing – I don’t want to ask too much too soon and then lose his confidence. It’s taken so long to get him confident.

    “Last year in Tokyo, it went really quite wrong, and we’ve done loads and loads of work on it. To get 6% more today is just fab. He’s far exceeded last year in every test.”

    Sophie admits that her mindset has changed over the years, and although she is still as competitive as ever, what matters to her now more than medals is how her horses perform for her.

    “I never thought I’d get to a place where, if I didn’t win gold on the first day, it actually didn’t matter,” she added. “I literally had no disappointment inside of me when I found that out, and that’s a really nice place to be. I’m still competitive, but I’ve got so many other things that are more important to me now. I’ve won 20 golds in my career, but actually, has it made me happy? No. But the horses going amazingly and seeing them progress and building confidence is what makes me happy now, regardless of the score.”

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