Team GB Win Paralympic Team Dressage Gold For Seventh Consecutive Games!
Team GB win Paralympic Team Dressage Gold for the seventh consecutive games!
After three performance over two days of team test action, it was a nervous wait for the Team GB trio. With Sir Lee Pearson, Natasha Baker, and Sophie Wells, all taking to the Paralympic stage once again, only time would tell if they could retain their title.
Lee Pearson & Breezer
First up were the grade two rider, with Sir Lee Pearson taking the stage for Team GB.
Riding homebred Breezer, the pair had already achieved gold in the individual takings. However, entering the arena this time was a slightly fresher horse, the gelding by Barcardi being a ‘really sensitive soul’.
Lee’s pin-point accuracy and flowing ride did not disappoint though. Although judges scores were mixed, ranging between the mid-70’s up to the 80’s, the pair brought their test to an end with a fabulous four-square halt and a score of 77.636%. This put Britain into an early lead.
After his performance, Lee commented;
“I’m over the moon with that. It’s a lovely score, but he really doesn’t like that Paralympic arena! He was quite frightened in there – he’s a really sensitive soul and a horse like that tightens when he feels intimidated. Walking is about the worst thing! I’m so proud of him, though – I held his hand and he trusted me. It could have been a different story completely! I rode like we were on eggshells, he’s that sensitive. That said, when he’s on-side, that sensitivity is good.”
As the day went on, grade one competition also commenced. This further shuffled the leaderboard with the USA and Italy both in the mixed for top contention.
Natasha Baker & Keystone Dawn Chorus
The final rider of day one for Team GB was Natasha Baker, riding Keystone Dawn Chorus.
Following their sterling silver medal-winning performance yesterday, the pair entered the arena with confidence. Needing 75% to keep Britain in the lead, all attention as drawn inside the dressage boards.
Taking on a tricky test, full of twists and turns, the pair’s execution was almost effortless. The all-important transitions up and down were clear and well-presented with good crossing in the leg yields too. However, there was just a single blip in one of the walk half-pirouettes.
Talking to the media afterwards, Natasha explained;
Tonight she went in there and knew her job – ears pricked the whole time, she was really enjoying it in there today. I’m annoyed about that pirouette, but it’s an impossible movement for somebody with no use of their legs. I’m just thrilled, she went in with so much more confidence and that was my ultimate goal for her. She really let me ride her today and the trot felt so much better, and we had a bit more relaxation in the walk. The final centre line was a bit wobbly but I’m really happy.”
Their final score was announced as 76.618%, a great boost for the team total as Team GB looked toward day two of competition.
Sophie Wells & Don Cara M
Sophie Wells was the final rider for Team GB to take to the Paralympic stage. On day two of team competition, she took 12-year-old Don Cara M, who she previously won silver riding in the individual competition at this year’s Games.
With a horse who had never experience championship level competition before entering this year’s Paralympics, Sophie needed to bring every ounce of her experience to the table.
Reassuring pats and a forward trot got the novice horse onboard with Sophie, settling him into the overwhelming atmosphere.
Relaxation looked fair, with great suppleness and crisp, obvious transitions. Any difficulties Sophie was still feeling were well disguised. Despite an extra flying change, a stunning finale of extended trot and a four-square halt sealed a new personal best for the combination, 75.651%.
Afterwards Sophie said;
I feel it was a miracle that we did the test and he came back to me. I went in and he calmed down and settled, but I wasn’t going to ask for anymore. I got more the other day, but I’m so pleased what I got today, I’m thrilled. Something really scared him in there and the pressure was on without a drop score.”
“To get that score with what I felt I had just shows what a horse he is. It gives me faith that as a rider I can ask for less and still get plenty, which is amazing. I’m thrilled for the team – we came with no expectation, just hope.”
A Nervous Wait…
A nervous wait was inshore for the Team GB riders, with the rest of the field still to go.
The British riders had done all they could. Their final score was set at 229.905% and now it was down to their rivals to better it. Top medal rivals were the USA, the Netherlands, Denmark and Belgium.
Kate Shoemaker for the USA got the Grade 4 underway with Solitaer 40. Their score of 71.825% was enough to keep them in the medal hunt, which would be a historic first Paralympic team medal for the country who hosted para-dressage for the first time at the 1996 Atlanta Paralympics.
For Dutch team, current World and European Champions, hopes of adding the Paralympic title fell to the experienced combination of Sanne Voets and Demantur. Their test was relaxed and polished, however just not enough to beat the Brits.
After an agonising wait, Sanne’s score was confirmed as 78.200% . This kept Team GB ust 0.656% in front to claim Paralympic Team Dressage Gold!
Team GB’s Lee summed up the team’s efforts;
We don’t have a horse on the team who’s done a championship before and two have never even been abroad. We didn’t think we would win gold and weren’t expected to. The team behind the scenes have been incredible, we couldn’t have done it without them. To even get us here is amazing, and to keep me under control too! To be here, to compete and do as well as we have is a fairy tale. The Selectors have put great faith in us riders to send these young horses, which shows they do believe in us as riders to get the best score, and we’re grateful for that.”
Many hurdles and challenges have been thrown at Team GB’s rider over the past 18-months. However, they walk away the unbeaten Paralympic champions for the seventh consecutive time!
Header Image; Lee Pearson and Breezer – Tokyo Paralympics Team Dressage Grade II test (FEI/Liz Gregg)
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