The FEI European Para-Equestrian Dressage Championships, held under the patronage of Her Royal Highness Princess Astrid of Belgium, got underway yesterday in Moorsele with 79 riders from 19 countries set to compete at the Club Quadrille in Belgium. Great Britain have been the Para-Equestrian Dressage power-house of recent times and are current Paralympic, World and European title holders, but with recent announcements that both nine-time Paralympic gold medallist Lee Pearson and Beijing silver medallist Ricky Balshaw will not be competing due to injuries, Germany and Denmark will be looking to shift the traditional British domination of the sport.
“Due to the absence of Pearson and Balshaw, outsiders Germany, who finished second at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ in Kentucky, and Denmark, who came in third, have a golden opportunity to finally take the European title,” said Quadrille’s founder and Belgian Dressage Champion from 1977 until 1982, Anne D’Ieteren who is also the current President of the Belgian Paralympic Committee and member of the FEI Para-Equestrian Committee since 2010.
Belgium also has a strong team, “Bert Vermeir, bronze medallist in Athens 2004, should be considered a serious candidate for the Grade III medals, despite having suffered a severe injury in Deauville four months ago. The same applies for José Lorquet in his come-back in Grade Ib. And I hope Ciska Vermeulen, one of our rough Belgian diamonds, will wow in her first European Championships,” added d’Ieteren.
These are the second FEI European Para-Equestrian Dressage Championships to be held since Para-Equestrian joined the FEI Family in 2006. The first FEI European Para-Equestrian Dressage Championships were held in the southern Norwegian town of Kristiansand in 2009 with a total of 78 athletes from 22 countries participating.
“When the FEI embraced Para-Equestrian Dressage, it became one of the first International Federations to govern and regulate sport for both able-bodied and disabled athletes,” said HRH Princess Haya, FEI President. “True horsemen and horsewomen are judged, not just by the medals they win, but by the manner in which they conduct themselves and the strength of the relationship they establish with their horses. Championships such as this one demonstrate just how strong that bond can be.”
Para-Equestrian Dressage is one of 20 events at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, for which over one million people have registered for tickets that go on-sale on 9 September 2011.
“This time next year, many of us will be in London. The Paralympic Games will be well and truly underway and I expect Para-Equestrian, at the stunning Greenwich Park, to be a must-have ticket for many spectators,” said Philip Craven, President of the International Paralympic Committee, at the opening ceremony on Thursday.
Thursday 1 September 2011
10:00 Veterinary Inspection
17:00 Opening Ceremony
Friday 2 September 2011
09:00 Team Competition (Grades Ia, Ib, II, III, IV)
Saturday 3 September 2011
09:00 Individual Championships Test (Grades Ia, Ib, II, III, IV)
Sunday 4 September 2011
08:00 Individual Freestyle Test (Grades Ia, Ib, II, III, IV)
17:00 Prize-Giving Ceremony