Brits eye Paris 2024 hopes after team finish off the podium at World Para Dressage Championships

  • Team anchors Sophie Wells and Don Cara M’s solid performance secured Britain’s spot at Paris 2024 and fourth place in the Orifarm Healthcare FEI World Para Dressage Championships results.

    This is the first time the Brits have finished off the para team podium at a senior championships – but Paralympic qualification was always the aim and all eyes now turn to the Pairs Games in two years’ time.

    Sophie rode a masterful test, showing exactly why she has been part of every senior championship squad since 2009.

    “Obviously it’s hard to go last in the team anyway, and the other guys didn’t have their perfect rides, so I just tried to stay focused on what me and Donnie could do,” she said, adding she was mindful not to push him and “over try”, while doing everything they could.

    “Waiting to go and then trying not to think about what we might need [was hard], because you really can’t do anything about it, can you? You’ve got to go in there and ride the best dressage that you can, and to be able to look back and be proud of the ride that you had.”

    Despite applause from the neighbouring stadium as they went down their first centre line, and passing tractors during their shoulder-in, Sophie kept “Donnie’s” focus. Their score of 76.19% was just a smidge off their personal best in this “individual” test, which counted for the team results at the World Para Dressage Championships.

    Their trot extensions were a real highlight. Sophie has this horse in such beautiful balance and he showed a lovely uphill frame throughout.

    The scrimmage for bronze was close – the Brits finished 1.94 marks adrift of the US, with Belgium snapping at their heels, just 0.2 marks behind.

    “I think at my first championships, I wasn’t thinking about [being in the anchor spot] at all, and like it’s hard not to think about it now,” she said, reflecting on how the sport has grown globally in recent years.

    “Everyone is closer, and obviously further ahead of us now, so there’s much less wiggle room. We have to have almost personal best rides to be in the medals. I think someone said that we would have been in bronze with [our results from the individual competition], and we were several percent higher.”

    “Donnie”, a 13-year-old Don Jovi gelding owned by Roland Kinch, appears to have matured both mentally and physically from Tokyo, where he won Paralympic individual silver and helped the Brits to team gold. And with Paris qualification always the main aim for these championships, there is more to look forward to in future.

    “I think as our partnership grows, he will trust me more and I’ll know him more and how we have to prepare him,” she said, adding it’s “all part of the process”.

    “He’s still got loads more in there, which is what’s really nice,” said Sophie. “I don’t want to push too hard too soon, and then upset him and upset the balance.

    “Qualifying for Paris, that’s what we came in here to do. I think overnight, we were quite aware that gold and silver were out of the question, but we thought that we might be able to push for bronze.

    “Qualification for Paris is a tick. We go home, regroup, and get them into some good competitions.”

    The Netherlands took gold in the World Para Dressage Championships results, successfully defending the title they won in 2018, with Denmark in silver and the US claiming bronze. The top seven teams in Herning qualify for the Paris Paralympic Games.

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