The final day of competition at the FEI Para-Equestrian Dressage European Championships in Deauville, France, saw the Individual Freestyle medals contested across the five grades. Great Britain’s athletes replicated their performances from yesterday’s Individual Championship tests, securing an Individual Gold and four Silver medals, to head home with a total of eleven medals.
Getting things off to a good start this morning was Natasha Baker aboard Mr Christian Landolt and Mr and Mrs Baker’s Sookie St James. Showcasing some lovely work in the Grade II test on the seven year old, at this their first Championship together, the pair saw a score of 74.450% given, for the silver medal.
Commenting afterwards Natasha said; “She was absolutely awesome; this weekend, for us as a pair, it’s really cemented how amazing she is. Even more so, she’s exceeded everything I dreamt of and it proves to me that with more time and training she’s going to be an absolute superstar. If she can achieve what she’s done this weekend, and actually what she’s done this year at seven years old, bring on Rio.”
Up next for the Brits were Sophie Wells and Charlotte Hogg’s C Fatal Attraction who put the misty weather aside to produce a sublime test in the Grade IV class. With some masterful work demonstrated from the duo, including some half canter pirouettes (the first time Sophie has included them in their competition test), the team were delighted with a score of 79%, to take the silver just 0.95% behind The Netherlands’ Frank Hosmar.
“He’s [C Fatal Attraction] done music before, but this year we thought we need to get one sorted for Rio and I spoke to Tom Hunt [music arranger] and he agreed to do it; it was finalised two weeks ago and I ran through it at squad training and just loved it. I thought come on Jorge, European Championships, do your first pirouettes. I’m beyond chuffed with him, that’s his PB; once he’s matured a bit more and he’s even stronger I hope that’ll be an plus eighty test.”
The Grade Ib competition saw Lee Pearson with Zion, owned by Mr and Mrs Pearson and Mrs Gillian Chinn, produce a lovely test to be rewarded with 74.050% as the Freestyle title went again to Austria’s Pepo Puch.
Lee commented on his silver medal winning test; “He [Zion] was a little bit tired today. We’ve experimented a little with the warm-up a bit this week, but today he didn’t feel on full form and I didn’t actually expect to be in the medals, so to get a silver I’m over the moon.”
Last but not least was the Grade Ia competition. Sophie Christiansen was first up for the British camp and aboard Diane Redfern’s Athene Lindebjerg posted a huge score after some expressive movements from the eight year old mare to storm into the lead with 80.700% – the only +80% score of the entire week.
“I came out of the arena thinking I could not have asked Athene for any more, she was absolutely fab. It wasn’t as good as yesterday but she’s just amazing; even if I hadn’t won she’s just an amazing horse. It’s given me so much confidence; our team work’s amazing, Linsay [Sophie’s trainer] makes it fun for me but she also knows when to give me a telling off but now really looking forward to next year.”
Anne Dunham and LJT Lucas Normark, owned by The Lady Joseph Trust, were the last of the British combinations to go. Producing some lovely work a final score of 76.300% was given and the medals were decided, with the gold going to GBR’s Sophie and silver to Anne.
A thrilled Anne spoke afterwards; “I’m delighted, he was a good boy today. Really pleased, it’s been a good weekend and a good stepping stone for next year. It’s been a lot of fun here, there are things to build on and I’m looking forward to having a short break when we get back.”
Full results from the competition can be found online at: http://www.handiequicompet.fr/
All photos © John Stroud Media