“That was the best test he’s ever done,” exclaimed Britain’s Lee Pearson, after riding the 12-year-old gelding Zion to team test victory on day one of the Paralympic dressage in Rio.
Lee and the Flemmingh son posted 75.28% to top the grade Ib leaderboard ahead of Pepo Puch and Fontainenoir, who are considered their main rivals.
“Zion gave me everything he possibly could,” continued Lee, who has had the horse since he was a five-year-old. “He’s a big horse at 17.2hh and we were possibly a little late in some of our downward transitions but they were still balanced and flowing. We just have such a fantastic partnership.”
The gelding had a spook just prior to entering the arena, breaking into canter, but Lee wasted no time settling him back into a rhythm and proceeding straight down the centre line. Once in the arena, harmony and consistency ruled, with no score below a seven.
However, Lee’s score won’t count towards Britain’s team total, as Lee and Zion are competing at the Games as individuals. They will contest the individual competition on Wednesdsay.
‘We are in seventh heaven’
Austria’s Pepo Puch and Fontainenoir retained their focus after a stressful start to their Paralympic campaign. The Florencio I gelding was spun at the trot-up on Saturday (10 September), but passed the reinspection this morning.
“It was a surprise [to be spun] but it is very important to have this level of welfare for the horses, and I was sure he would be ok at the reinspection so I was not that nervous. I had a great feeling in there today — he was really concentrating on me.
“This is the horse’s first championship, so it’s a bit like starting from zero,” added the former eventer. “Our preparation here has gone very well — we are in seventh heaven here; everything is perfect.”
Sophie Christiansen, Anne Dunham and Sophie Wells will be in action for Britain tomorrow. Sophie Wells and Valerius will be the first team member into the arena at 2.18pm BST. Anne Dunham will ride Lucas Normark at 5.18pm BST and Sophie Christiansen and Athene Lindebjerg will be in action at 8.37pm BST.
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.
Don’t miss our full Paralympic report in the 22 September issue of H&H.