Great Britain saw off a formidable challenge from the Netherlands to take the lead in the first part of the Team competition today at the FEI European Para-Equestrian Dressage Championships 2015 in Deauville (FRA).
The Netherlands’ riders won three of the five tests on offer today, but strong performances from Great Britain’s Sophie Christiansen, Anne Dunham and Sophie Wells gave the British team a slight advantage after the first day of competition.
Competing in Grade Ia, Christiansen obtained the highest score of the day with 76.130% on her new horse Athene Lindebjerg, a sweet victory as this is their first major championships together. Teammate Dunham placed second with 75.261%, a fraction ahead of Norway’s Jens Lasse Dokkan. These scores, combined with a strong performance from Wells, were enough for Team GBR to gain the lead at the end of day one.
“I knew we had to raise our score and ride a solid test,” said Christiansen. “When I went into the arena though, that was not what I was thinking about. I was thinking about my horse and hoping to get the best out of her, and I knew that would come. I was quite nervous going in there today not knowing how she would react. I’m so proud of Athene and my team.”
Such was the strength of the Grade Ia competition that its top four placed athletes were the highest scoring athletes across all grades today.
In Grade Ib, Nicole Den Dulk led the charge scoring 73.120% on Wallace N.O.P. to take the win. Second place went to Stinna Tange Kaastrup of Denmark, while Austria’s Pepo Puch took third.
Den Dulk said: “I won! It doesn’t happen often that I beat two Olympic and world champions. It was a great ride and my confidence was there, and I know we can do it. You need a bit of luck as well, but I was still up two per cent and I hope to do it again tomorrow. We have a tough group with a lot of competition, but competition makes you stronger, and for me it’s just a great day.”
Den Dulk’s teammate Frank Hosmar, individual, freestyle and team bronze medallist at London 2012 and double bronze medallist at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2014, scored his very first European Championship victory in today’s Grade IV. Riding Alphaville N.O.P. his healthy 74.00% put Great Britain’s Sophie Wells into second place, with Germany’s Carolin Schnarre and Denmark’s Line Kongensgaard joint third.
Hosmar said: “This is my first European Championship win! We’ve trained a lot and Alphaville is getting stronger. Now we can really get into the details and that’s working out really well. I’ve had him since he was four, and he’s now 10. All the pieces are falling together now.”
Making her European Championship debut, current Grade II world champion Rixt Van Der Horst (NED) won her class just ahead of Great Britain’s Natasha Baker and Belgium’s Barbara Minneci. Riding Uniek NOP, Van Der Horst scored 72.618%.
“I’m very happy. I was relaxed and he [Uniek NOP] gave me a really good feeling and felt great,” said Der Horst. “We had a really good test. I’ve won all my international tests this year and he is getting better and better. We improve every time.”
Germany’s Hannelore Brenner won the Grade III on Women of the World. The multi European, World and Paralympic Champion scored 71.474%, to finish just ahead of Anne Katrin Lubbe from Norway, and the Netherlands’ Lotte Krijnsen. Germany currently lies in third place for the Team competition.
By Rob Howell
Next stop – Team & Individual medals
The FEI European Para-Equestrian Dressage Championships 2015 continue tomorrow, when the Team and first Individual medals will be won. The Team medallists will be crowned based on the top three scores for each nation from tomorrow’s Individual tests, combined with the top three scores from today’s Team tests.
See today’s full results here: www.handiequicompet.fr/en/419/