Britain proved that they still have the edge and remain the team to beat when it comes to Para-Equestrian Dressage. Indeed, as Britain's first all-female quintet scooped team gold and 5 of the 15 available medals in the individual test, with three of the grades won by a British rider, there was little doubt left that they are in a league of their own. Anne Dunham, Great Britain's most experienced Para-Equestrian Dressage rider who has participated in every Para-Equestrian Dressage event of the Paralympics since it was introduced on the programme in 1996 went on to win her 15th and 16th gold medals at a Championship (Paralympic, World and European), while new member to the British squad, Natasha Baker, convincingly took gold in Grade II.
At just 21 years of age, Natasha is a passionate and determined professional, with four horses on the go and plans for Rio 2016. She has been on a gold medal spree since the beginning of the year, with gold at the national Championships in June, followed by more gold in Hartpury in July and then a spot on the British squad for the Europeans here in Moorsele. She has her sights clearly set one of the few spots on the British squad for 2012, but will be up against some tough competition. When Natasha was 14 months old, she contracted transverse myelitis- a virus that destroys the insulating substance that surrounds the nerve cell fibres in the spine. The virus has left her with insufficient power in her legs to control her horses so she has devised a unique way to compensate. "I have retrained them to do everything from my voice. In my tests, I literally have to whisper", Natasha explains.
"It's been a thrilling year for Great Britain to have achieved the success that we have in both Dressage and Para-Equestrian Dressage. We have exceeded all expectations and now have to focus on getting ready for 2012, both in terms of preparing our athletes and also preparing to host the world's best equestrians", said Amanda Bond, Chief Executive of British Dressage, following today's prize giving ceremony.
Denmark were thrilled with their silver medals - the all-important and first team silver medal at a Para-Equestrian Championship, silver for Denmark's 17 year old member Stinna Tange Kaastrup (DEN) & Labbenhus Snovs in Grade Ib and silver for Henrik Weber Sibbesen & Rexton Royal in Grade IV. Stinna Yange Kaastrup was born without legs, and rides in a soft, treeless saddle for a closer feel. She carries two whips as compensatory aids and says she is unable to explain exactly how she is able to ride. "I don't know how I ride. Like bees just fly, I just ride!"
Denmark's 17 year old member Stinna Tange Kaastrup (DEN) & Labbenhus Snovs
Henrik Weber who is an amputee said: "If you want something bad enough, you will find a way". He owns his own stable in Denmark. For Denmark, already qualified for the 2012 Paralympic Games following the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™, the result was a confirmation that they are on track and a force to be reckoned, just like in regular dressage.
Too bad that today the bronze individual medal in grade IV had to be taken away from Frank Hosmar as a mistake had been made in the counting of the results. "It is fair play and according to the rules Danish Line Jorgensen deserved the medal as she had a better score", Jan Meermans of the appeal committee said. The timing was not a very good example however of fair play as Frank Hosmar of course got distracted by the fact. Fortunately enough he was able to concentrate for the Freestyle and now deserved the bronze medal, and no recounting changed this.
The youngest competitor of the para-dressage championships, 16 year old Dutch Demi Vermeulen, deserved the bronze medal in grade II showing Chiara H, a horse owned by German trainer Johann Hinnemann. "This is the greatest example how our sport can move forward when the toptrainers of the regular sport integrate with para-dressage", Trond Asmyr commented.
Demi Vermeulen also received a special Prize for her age. She is a true example for a topsport attitude, not showing any nerves at all at her first championschips. She only knew this week to have a chance to compete after illness of Dutch teammate Gert Bolmer.
There is growing talent and ambition within the Para-Equestrian community. "It's a really important competition and to win a medal against such a strong field of competitors is a dream come true" said Britta Napels, following her silver medal performance in the Individual test.
1. Gold – Great Britain (Anne Dunham & Teddy; Emma Sheardon & Purdy's Dream; Deborah Criddle & LJT Akilles; Sophie Wells & Valerius)
2. Silver – Denmark (Stinna Tange Kaastrup & Labbenhus Snovs; Caroline Cecile Nielsen & Leon; Henrik Weber Sibbesen & Rexton Royal)
3. Bronze – Germany (Britta Napel & Aquilana; Angelika Trabert & Ariva Avanti; Hannelore Brenner & Women of the World; Lena Weifen & Don Turner)
Individual Grade Ia
1. Gold – Anne Dunham (GBR) & Teddy
2. Silver – Emma Sheardon (GBR) & Purdy's Dream
3. Bronze – Helen Kearney (IRL) & Mister Cool
Individual Grade Ib
1. Gold - Pepe Puch (AUT) & Good Boy's Feeling
2. Silver - Stinna Tange Kaastrup (DEN) & Labbenhus Snovs
3. Bronze – Jens Lasse Dokan (NOR) & Sisco
Individual Grade II
1. Gold - Natasha Baker (GBR) & Cabral
2. Silver - Britta Napel (GER) & Aquilana
3. Bronze – Petra Van de Sande (NED) & Valencia Z
Individual Grade III
1. Gold – Hannelore Brenner (GER) & Women of the World
2. Silver - Deborah Criddle (GBR) & LJT Akilles
3. Bronze – José Letartre (FRA) & Warina ene HN
Individual Grade IV
1. Gold – Sophie Wells (GBR) & Valerius
2. Silver - Henrik Weber Sibbesen (DEN) & Rexton Royal
3. Bronze – after a protest and given the next day: Line Thorning Jorgensen & Di Caprio
4. Frank Hosmar (NED) & Tiesto.
Freestyle grade Ia
1. Gold – Anne Dunham (GBR) & Teddy – 79,200
2. Silver – Emma Sheardon (GBR) & Purdy's Dream – 74,100
3. Bronze – Anita Johnsson (FIN) & Donar – 73,950
Individual Grade Ib
1. Gold - Stinna Tange Kaastrup (DEN) & Labbenhus Snovs – 76,60
2. Silver - Pepe Puch (AUT) & Good Boy's Feeling – 75,15
3. Bronze – Katja Lainen (FIN) & Rosie 79,25
Freestyle individual Grade II
1. Gold Natasha Baker GBR – 76,25
2. Silver Britta Napel GER - 72,429
3. Bronze Demi Vermeulen (Zevenaar) – Chiara – 73,45
Freestyle individual grade IV
1. Gold Sophie Wells GBR 77,75
2. Silver Line Thorning Jorgensen DEN 75,750
3. Bronze Frank Hosmar – Tiësto – 74,900
Freestyle grade III
1. Gold Deborah Criddle GBR – 77,250%
2. Silver Hannelore Brenner GER 76,200%
3. Bronze Sanne Voets (Berghem) – Vedet 72,100%