Britain hold the gold medal position after the first round of the team competition at the Paralympic dressage in Rio. With all four riders — Sophie Christiansen, Anne Dunham, Natasha Baker and Sophie Wells — having completed the team test in their respective grades, Britain top the leaderboard on a current score of 225.884.
The German team of Elke Philipp, Carolin Schnarre, Stefan Zeibig and Alina Rosenberg, are currently in silver on 218.602, while the Netherlands (Frank Hosmar, Nicole den Dulk, Rixt van der Horst and Demi Vermeulen) are just a whisker behind them with 215.558.
Natasha Baker was the final rider to contribute a British team score, posting 71.88% with Cabral to top this morning’s grade II competition. It proved to be the closest class so far, with just 0.5% covering the top four combinations, two of which were Dutch and one German.
The 15-year-old Bujak son didn’t make things easy for Natasha, spooking badly just before entering the arena and causing Natasha to have to drop her whip.
“He was really nervous,” explained Natasha. “The atmosphere got hold of him and I had to work really, really hard. But after the first handful of movements he relaxed and started working with me and the fact he settles so quickly has given me confidence for the next few days.”
This is Natasha’s debut on a Paralympic team, having ridden as an individual when she claimed her double gold in London.
The second half of the team competition gets underway this afternoon with the grade III individual championship, but the next Brit in action will be Sophie Wells and Valerius in the grade IV individual test tomorrow at 3.09pm BST. Natasha, Anne Dunham and Sophie Christiansen will be in action on Thursday. The individual championship scores are added to the team test scores to decide the final team standings, as well as generating the first set of individual medals.
Britain’s Lee Pearson will have his first shot at a medal tomorrow, in the grade Ib individual championship aboard Zion. Lee, who has 10 Paralympic gold medals to his name, will be hoping to go one better than in London, where he took individual silver.
More information about how to follow the Paralympic dressage can be found here, and don’t forget to stay tuned to the H&H website for the latest news, results and scores.