In the first ever disabled World Championship at WEG, Great Britain continued its historical domination of the Para Dressage World Championships by taking the team gold, and sweeping all three individual medals in the Grade Ia division, as well as the individual gold and silver in grade Ib. Dunham, Pearson, Christiansen and grade II rider Jo Pitt, 31, contributed scores to the winning British team performance (395.456). Team silver went to Germany (390.277), and team bronze went to Denmark (418.389), which edged the Netherlands (417.480) late in the day.
Leading the British charge was Sophie Christiansen, 22, who took individual gold in the grade Ia test with a score of 76.100 percent and provided a crucial score for her team. Christiansen was overcome when her score was announced. “My trainer decided I should ride for longer today. I normally ride for 15 minutes, and today I rode for 30 minutes,” she said. “I’m so happy with him because he just took care of me. That score is the highest I’ve ever gotten in the individual test. The feeling afterward is so wonderful. I was so nervous this morning!”
Joining Christiansen on the all-Britain individual medal podium were Anne Dunham with silver (73.200%) and Emma Sheardown (71.900%) with bronze. “I was pleased,” said Dunham, 61, after her ride. ”It went very well. This one was better than the other day. He was freer and more forward. I try not to let the pressure affect me. I simply try to do the best I can, just do my best and let people catch up afterwards.” Sheardown, 25, was equally pleased with her performance. “I was really happy with it. I am even happy with the score,” she said. “This is my first championship, and it feels absolutely amazing, and I so like all the disciplines being here.”
Also mining British teamgold was grade Ib rider Lee Pearson, 36, who performed a nearly flawless ride on the handsome bay Gentleman to score 76.435 percent. British rider Ricky Balshaw, 23, joined him on the podium to accept the individual silver medal (72.870). Pearson, a 12-year team veteran, found himself surprisingly anxious. “I was really nervous today. I had to tell myself to take a breath before I entered—for the first time. It was because of my expectations of myself and because I warmed up 10 minutes short. He felt ready, but my mind wasn’t.” He added, “Every gold medal is special, but this one is different because it’s our first time at the WEG. So we will go down in history, even though we weren’t as comfortable as we like to be with the other teams breathing down our backs.”
Balshaw survived a spooky moment with the flashy chestnut Academy Award to ride a strong, clean test. “I don’t know quite what was with the spook. He was coughing,” he said immediately after his ride. “I was quite pleased with the test. The pirouettes were good. I may have backed off a little bit in the extensions because of what happened.”
Danish rider Stinna Tange Kaastrup’s score of 70.174 percent clinched team bronze for Denmark and also garnered her individual bronze in grade Ib. “I felt awesome out there,” said Kaastrup, 16. “My horse was a little turned on. He was very proud of himself to be out there, and I was very proud of him.” It might have been a disadvantage for the Dutch not having a Grade I-rider in their team for their teamscore.
Individual gold Grade IV
British riders have traditionally dominated the medals at the Para Dressage World Championships, and Sophie Wells lived up to that history by taking individual gold in the grade IV individual test, aboard the flashy chestnut Dutch Warmblood, Pinocchio. Her score of 71.677 percent gave her the definitive lead over the Netherlands’ Frank Hosmar, and Denmark’s Henrik Weber Sibbesen at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games for silver and bronze.
“I was quite pleased with my test,” said Wells, 20. “ My horse was a little difficult to warm up, but I thought that the trot work was actually quite good. He came against me a little bit when I picked up the canter after the walk, but then he came back to me again, which was good. When we were in here on Monday, he was quite distracted by the open corners, but today he was much better.”
Hosmar, 42, was equally thrilled with his score of 70.129 percent aboard his bay Dutch Warmblood Tiesto, taking the silver. “Today my horse felt really good. Yesterday he was a little bit tense because he was reacting to the sound of the sand hitting the plastic fence, and it was distracting him because the arena is so quiet. So today we asked if they could turn up the music so that we couldn’t hear that noise,” said Hosmar. “Also today the test was a more difficult test, which is better for him because otherwise he gets bored easily and starts looking around. Today he was so relaxed, and I could feel him waiting for me, and so it was a really good feeling.”
Danish Sibbesen and his handsome black Hanoverian Rexton Royal secured the bronze with their score of 69.419 percent.
In the grade III individual test, the final standings mirrored those of the grade III team test, with Germany’s Hannelore Brenner and her chestnut Hanoverian mare Women Of The World taking gold (72.400%), over Denmark’s Annika Lyke Dalskov on Preussen Wind (71.067%) and Australia’s Sharon Jarvis on Applewood Odorado (68.867%).
One big family at WEG
Brenner, 48, the reigning Paralympic champion in this test, was pleased with her performance. She believes her long-standing relationship with Women Of The World is the key to their success. “We are like an old couple,” she said. “She knows what I think and I hope I know what she thinks. She was so free and very happy.”
Dalskov’s Trakehner stallion Preussen Wind is by Gribaldi, the same sire as dressage superstar Moorland’s Totilas, and he shares Totilas’ charisma and floating gaits. Jarvis was the highest score for her Australian team yesterday, and she continues to lead the way for the Aussies aboard her bay Dutch Warmblood.
The individual championship for grades II was won by Dutch Petra van de Sande. it was 16 year old Stinna Tange Kaastrup who clinched team bronze for Denmark. Kaastrup was under huge pressure going into the ring to do her Grade 1b test, but her mark of 70.174 with her 14 year old bay gelding Labbenhus Snoevs was greeted with roars of approval from the spectators in the Covered Arena because they knew they had seen something extraordinary. "I have no legs, but on a horse I feel equal to all the other riders and it's the coolest feeling in the world!" she said.
Gift from God
In Grade 2, The Netherlands Petra Van de Sande pipped Germany's Britta Napel while Caroline Cecilie Nielsen took bronze. Van de Sande was delighted with her horse who she said has been "very good all week - light and wanting to go". She was thrilled about winning gold - "it's very special, you dream about it" but she gave a lot of the credit to her grey Dutch bred mare. "I call her the Gift from God" she said, "she's so special!".
Special moment for paradressage to be integrated at WEG
All of the athletes were in agreement about one thing - the integration of Para Dressage into the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ is an important, historic and special moment for this sport. Hannelore Brenner added the unity of all athletes to her World Equestrian Games experience. “It is amazing for me to compete here,” she said. “Since 1999 the Para Sport has really taken a step forward. It’s great, really great. It’s the first time for us to be with the other German riders. We are like one big German family now. Before we arrived, the German dressage riders were already here, and we met each other. But we are not one yet. This is the first time we are together with them, and I hope there will be more!”
And Lee Pearson was at pains to point out that one of the highlights of the athlete's experience has been the support and enthusiasm of the Kentucky volunteers. "They have been phenomenal - they've gone beyond their duties to help me personally and all the riders and on behalf of everyone I want to say a big "thank you" to them" he said.
To be continued with individual Freestyle
At the moment after one day individual Freestyle tests in grade II and IV discussions are taking the lead when was discovered that the size of the arena had not been precisely measured. The length exceeded the size and now it has to be resized. Decisions have not been taken yet, but preliminary thoughts are to reschedule the Freestyle finales of today for next Sunday.
For more information and for starting lists and results on the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games please visit, www.alltechfeigames.com.