Horror fall at Paralympic dressage in Rio

  • There was panic at the equestrian stadium in Rio when Canadian rider Ashley Gowanlock suffered a dramatic fall at the end of her individual championship test.

    Ashley, who has cerebral palsy and competes in grade Ib — the second most disabled category — had just done her final salute at the end of her 65%-scoring test when the 15-year-old Di Scansano took fright and careered towards the stadium entrance. Ashley impressively sat a large buck, but hit the ground as the black gelding leapt the arena boards near A.

    Alarm spread as the steward first to Ashley shouted repeatedly for help and black screens were swiftly erected around the rider. However, Ashley explained that, actually, it hadn’t been entirely necessary.

    “I just needed some help standing up, but everyone came running over and that’s the problem when you don’t speak Portugese,” she laughed. “Well done to them for following protocol though.”

    Ashley was taken to hospital as a precaution, but suffered no serious injuries, just bruising and a slightly sprained ankle.

    Di Scansano, a son of De Niro x Rubenstein whom Ashley has been competing for just four months, was unhurt, and looked to settle quickly after the incident.

    “It was totally out of character for ‘Disco’. I have no idea what he spooked at but he was genuinely scared, not being naughty,” she explained. “One minute we had been casually walking out, the next minute, not so casual. I was thinking, ‘what is happening?'”

    Continued below…

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    Because Ashley had concluded her test before the incident, and because she managed to cling on until outside the white boards, her 65.1% score was able to count towards Canada’s team score, although it was not enough to qualify her for the freestyle, for which the top third of each class contest. Ashley finished ninth in the grade Ib individual championship, with Canada finishing 13th in the overall team standings.

    The three-time Paralympian, 29, finished sixth in both the individual and the freestyle in London.

    While Ashley’s has been the only fall in the stadium, several horses have been startled while exiting the arena. As in London, spectators have complied with the request to show their support by waving instead of clapping, until a handler has taken hold of the horse outside the arena. Nonetheless, Sophie Christiansen’s ride Athene Lindebjerg was spooked just after Sophie gave her final salute in her individual gold medal-winning test. Sophie was unfazed, suggesting afterwards that it could have simply been the sound of commentator breaking the silence.

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