The British were in stunning form in the Para Dressage Championship at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ in Kentucky, USA, when winning the team title, taking a clean sweep of the medals in the Grade 1a Individual, and gold and silver in Grade 1b. It was The Netherlands Petra Van de Sande who put a stop to their gallop when winning Grade 2 ahead of Germany's Britta Napel, while Denmark's Caroline Cecilie Nielsen took bronze. Britain's Para Dressage record is outstanding - they have never been beaten in the battle for the World title since taking team gold on their home turf in Hartpury in 1991. But their shining star, the formidable Lee Pearson who predictably also took the Grade 1b gold in convincing fashion today, said tonight that the standard of the sport is improving rapidly and that he and his team-mates no longer have the advantage they have grown accustomed to - the margins are getting tighter all the time.
Germany took team silver and 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.
Pearson's score of 76.435 in the Grade 1b test never looked like being overturned - his nine year old gelding Gentleman putting him in first place with all five members of the Ground Jury. But his fellow-countryman, Ricky Balshaw, also produced great work from his handsome bright-chestnut gelding Academy Award to slot into silver medal position with a mark of 72.870. Kaastrup's lovely test racked up a mark of 70.174 and that saw her sharing individual bronze with Norway's Jens Lasse Dokkan and Lacour and securing that team bronze in style.
Grade 1a was a runaway success for the British contingent as Sophie Christiansen (Rivaldo of Berkeley) took gold, Anne Dunham (Teddy) took silver and Emma Sheardown (Purdy's Dream) slotted into bronze medal position. Christiansen's great score of 76.100 saw her burst into tears. "It's amazing. I'm so happy with my horse because he just took care of me. That score is the highest I've ever gotten in the individual test and now I can't wait for my Freestyle!" she said.
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 mare. "I call her the Gift from God" she said, "she's so special!".
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. And Lee Pearson was at pains to point out that one of the highlights of the athletes' 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.
Para Dressage resumes tomorrow morning with the first of the Individual Freestyle tests.
FEI TV - As well as live competition coverage throughout the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™, FEI TV will make all competitions available post-event via VoD, plus an exclusive daily 30-minute VoD highlights show from the Kentucky Horse Park featuring the best of the day’s action, interviews, previews and reviews. There will also be lots of behind the scenes footage available. Check out www.feitv.org
Facts and Figures:
18 competed in the Grade 1a Individual Test
22 competed in the Grade 2 Individual Test
Great Britain made a clean sweep of the medals in Grade 1a
17 competed in the Grade 1b Test
16 nations competed in the Team Championship
Anne Dunham GBR - "I try not to let the pressure affect me, I simply try to do the best I can. I've been with Teddy (her horse) for four years now. He was a naughty boy when he came, but he loves to be a showman!"
Missy Ransehousen , US Chef d'Equipe "We would all have loved to have won a medal, but we had some pretty green riders and we need more exposure to the European judges. I'm pleased with the way all my riders have ridden".
Britta Napel, GER "That was the spooky version! I am surprised by my score. I know it was not my best ride and I am a little disappointed, but if I am able to get a medal that is OK".
ALLTECH FEI WORLD EQUESTRIAN GAMES™ - PARA DRESSAGE
Team Championship Final Result: 1 (Gold) Great Britain 440.376; 2 (Silver) Germany 420.337; 3 (Bronze) Denmark 418.389.
Individual Grade 2 - 1 (Gold) Toscane (Petra Van de Sande) NED 69.238; 2 (Silver) Aquilina (Britta Napel) GER 67.905; 3 (Bronze) Rostorn's Hatim-Tinn (Caroline Cecilie Nielsen) DEN 67.238.
Individual Grade 1a - 1 (Gold) Rivaldo of Berkeley (Sophie Christiansen) GBR 76.100; 2 (Silver) Teddy (Anne Dunham) GBR 73.200; 3 (Bronze) Purdy's Dream (Emma Sheardown) GBR 71.900.
Individual Grade 1b - 1 (Gold) Lee Pearson GBR 76.435; 2 (Silver) Ricky Balshaw GBR 72.870; Equal 3 (Bronze) Jens Lasse Dokkan NOR, Stinna Tange Kaastrup DEN 70.174.
Full results and startlists at www.alltechfeigames.com