Category Archives: Dressage

The Discipline of Riding Dressage

Germany Takes All Gold in U25, and a New Dutch Star Shines

Semmieke Rothenberger and Flanell. (FEI/Lukasz Kowalski)

German U25 riders matched their Senior counterparts when claiming all the gold medals in the FEI Dressage European Championship U25 at Hagen (GER) where a new Dutch star was born.

Semmieke Rothenberger (Flanell), Raphael Netz (Elastico), Ellen Richter (Vinay NRW), and Ann-Kathrin Lindner (FBW Sunfire) grabbed Team gold, pinning The Netherlands’ Devendra Dijkstra (Hero), Febe van Zwambagt (Edson), Jessica Poelman (Chocolate Cookie RDP), and Jasmien de Koeyer (Esperanza) into silver medal spot.

Sweden took the bronze when Nathalie Wahlund (Cerano Gold), Jennifer Lindvall (Midt West Casino), Elin Mattson (Beckham), and Lina Dolk (Languedoc) pipped Denmark by a narrow margin.

Germany’s Rothenberger and Netz and The Netherlands’ Poelman posted the three highest scores in the team competition and continued to be locked in battle for the individual and Freestyle titles over the last two days.

Grand Prix

In Saturday’s Grand Prix which decided the Individual medals, Netz squeezed Rothenberger off the top step of the podium by just 0.052%. This a young man with a remarkable story. His family had no connection with horses, but he was born with a passion to ride.

“When I was four, I was allowed to get on a horse for lunging lessons; they lunged me for over one year and then my father said if he’s tough enough to do it for a year without reins, then he really wants to do it! So we rented horses a lot and when I was nine they bought me my first pony. They had no idea what they were doing and neither did I, so they bought a three-year-old Haflinger! We grew together, we learned together, and then when he was seven and I was 13, we did our first Small Tour together and got our first Prix St George placement,” Netz explained.

He was talent-spotted by Germany’s Jessica von Bredow-Werndl when he was just 17. “She sent me an email asking if I wanted to ride for her – I thought it was a fake! But we ended up having a call and I took the train to Bavaria and stayed there for four days. And I just fitted in perfectly. So I finished school, packed my things, and moved,” said the young rider who has been working for the German star for the last five years.

Partnered with Elastico, who is owned by Japanese rider Akane Kuroki, Netz’ career is blossoming. He describes the stallion as “a cool dude! It’s a great feeling just to enter the arena on a beautiful horse like this. Growing together with him wasn’t that easy because he was used to different training, but we did our first competition one year ago and we finished third,” he explained. Kuroki saw the special relationship the young German was building with her horse and generously offered to let him ride it.  “I’m very thankful to her. She said go for it and we went for it and here we are!” Netz said.

Freestyle

Rothenberger had her day to shine when taking Freestyle gold. Netz’s end result was a score of 81.210 while Rothenberger’s mare Flannel posted 81.955 for a brilliant performance.

This 22-year-old rider, who hails from a family steeped in the Dressage world, already has a lifetime of Championship experience, winning multiple titles over the last decade at Pony, Junior, and Young Rider level and she is continuing in the same vein in U25.

“This has been such a perfect Championship; it’s super organised here and the Kasselmann family did an amazing job!” Rothenberger said.

She was thrilled with her mare. “I’ve always believed that Flanell has no limits and I still do. This horse is absolutely incredible. I’ve never had anything like her and it’s such a blessing to go in there with such a horse knowing that as long as I, the rider, don’t make a mistake, this horse can go for it. She’s shown it in this Championship; yesterday we had a rider mistake, but I’m incredibly happy with how she’s done at her first European Championship.

“I got her in May last year and due to Corona, we had a lot of time to get to know each other. But the show season didn’t quite get going, so this is only her fourth competition with me, and she just keeps getting better!” she added.

Bronze went to Poelman whose Freestyle ride was a pleasure to watch, filled with lightness and harmony.

A big surprise

“I never expected a medal – it’s a big surprise even to ride here!” said the 20-year-old who hails from close to Amsterdam. “I have this horse only since November last year and we only went to one international show together before. I rode international in Ponies and Juniors but never at a really high level; this is my very first Championship,” Poelman explained.

She says her sudden rise to stardom is all due to the lovely gelding Chocolate Cookie RDP, which was previously competed by Dutch counterpart Dana van Lierop. Poelman’s trainer Lotje Schoots put the pair together and it’s clearly the perfect partnership.

“He is really nice and very easy to ride, and I have a great connection with him. He is always very willing,” said the young rider who produced wonderful piaffe and passage from the 14-year-old gelding.

She only competed for fun until last year when she was invited to ride in an observation trial by Chef d’Equipe Monique Peutz. “We had winter training for riders and Jessica told me she had Chocolate Cookie and I said bring him along, and it looked so nice. First she was thinking she’d start slowly, but I said no, there’s an international competition in Exloo, so just give it a try, and she did and she did very well – now she has one silver and two bronze European U25 medals!” said the Dutch team manager.

Results here.

by Louise Parkes

Media contact:

Shannon Gibbons
Manager, Media Relations & Media Operations
shannon.gibbons@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 46

Fairytale Finish in Freestyle for von Bredow-Werndl and Dalera

(L to R): Denmark’s Cathrine Dufour (silver), Germany’s Jessica von Bredow-Werndl (gold), and Great Britain’s Charlotte Dujardin (bronze). (FEI/Liz Gregg)

Germany’s Jessica von Bredow-Werndl was filled with emotion after clinching her third gold medal of the week when topping the Freestyle at the FEI Dressage European Championship 2021 in Hagen (GER).

“It’s like a fairytale; the ride today was the best I ever felt!” said the 35-year-old athlete who also swept all before her at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games this summer. “It may not have been the highest points ever, but for me it was the best feeling I ever had with Dalera. I was very emotional after finishing. No matter what points or what place I got, I was so happy!” she added.

Scoring 91.021 when third-last to go, she finished almost three percentage points ahead of Denmark’s Cathrine Dufour who took silver with Bohemian, and it was Great Britain’s Charlotte Dujardin and Gio who grabbed the bronze.

Going fifth from last, Dujardin put 87.246 on the board, and she might have expected that would not be enough for a podium placing with the final German partnership of Isabell Werth and Weihegold OLD still to come. But second-last into the arena, Werth’s multiple medal-winning mare was clearly lacking energy and power, and their score of 84.896 left them in fourth place.

Pleased

Dujardin was hugely pleased with her result. At only 10 years of age, Gio is still very much on a learning curve, with little exposure to top sport other than his sensational results at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games where he won double-bronze. This performance was even more impressive.

“I’m so proud of him; it’s only his second time through that music and as you could see the degree of difficulty is immense. The Olympics was the first time I rode it and it was mistake-free there; unfortunately I made a mistake in the ones on the centre line today – rider error, not horse error – and I thought that would have cost me a medal. It’s still frustrating that I made that mistake and I’m so cross with myself because he tried so hard – but obviously we have medalled!” said the 35-year-old athlete.

She really pulled out all the stops, including taking all the risk in extended canter. “All week I hadn’t pushed him full out because he is a young horse and I want him for the future and he did the Olympics. He tried for me every day here; he did a great Special (on Thursday where the pair finished fourth). I was so proud of him, and we just missed out on a medal. So I thought today, I’ll just put that extra bit in,” she said.

Competitiveness is in Dujardin’s DNA. “I went in there wanting a medal for sure. I wasn’t going down without a fight! And being the first of the last five combinations, you know you have to give it a good go, set the standard. I felt we did that, even with a mistake. We got 87 percent with those mistakes; without those mistakes, who knows what it might have been? I asked him to step up and he sure did! she added.

And having finished his test, the little horse, whose rider calls him Pumpkin, was completely relaxed as he left the ring.

“That’s the thing with him: he just gets more and more confident and that’s his first time in an arena with that atmosphere; he’s not used to crowds. He’s just brilliant; he switches on and does his job, and then he switches off and off he goes home!” she said.

A joy

Dufour was equally pleased with Bohemian, whose test was a joy to watch, filled with energy and power.

‘I’m really happy, first because I had a super ride – almost flawless – we had a tiny mistake in the ones at the end and that was totally my mistake. We have grown a lot since Wednesday this week and today he felt so happy, so ready to deliver. It was just so super-easy going. I was back to no pushing, no forcing, just enjoying and dancing with him!” said the dynamic 29-year-old Dane.

Her emotional music from Les Miserables added a poignancy to her performance. “It expresses something about where I am in my life. It delivers a kind of message – that I’m really enjoying life and I’m in a good place now and that my horse and I have found our path together. I feel really comfortable with what I’m doing with my team, with the people I have around me. I have a super family, an extra family, and it feels fantastic!” she pointed out.

But the new European Freestyle gold medallist was happiest of all.

Talking about Dalera’s magical Freestyle performance, von Bredow-Werndl said, “She was 100 percent focused, she was light, she was on fire, but not too much. Two days ago (in the Grand Prix Special) she was a bit too hot so I couldn’t ride for example the extensions fully, and then it looked a little bit tense sometimes, but today it was a perfect, perfect kind of energy.

“She loves what she does, and I feel it in every second and every movement. Even my collected walk felt super today. The feeling was the best I’ve ever had so far, in my whole life, on any horse!

“That’s why I was pretty emotional when I finished because this is not normal – that a horse improves during a competition. Today she had no wet hair (sweat), either in the warm-up or after the competition, and that’s crazy!” she said.

Atmosphere

The spectators at Hagen certainly added to the great atmosphere and the new European triple champion, who also has two Olympic gold medals in her trophy cabinet after this extraordinary summer, commented on the difference it makes to have them there.

“It’s so great to ride in front of an audience again; it feels completely different; we were carried by them I think, and they were so supportive of all the riders during the week. I hope it will stay like this; it’s so good to have this back!”

Von Bredow-Werndl has led Germany to a glorious summer of gold, and now has next year’s FEI World Equestrian Games in her sights. However, Dufour gave her fair warning that she and her Danish compatriots will be ready and waiting when the action begins on their home ground in front of their home crowd in Herning next August.

She intends narrowing the gap between herself and the German star over the next 11 months.

“Right now, we can only aim at Jessica’s marks, and congratulations to her on a great season this year. It’s exciting with the WEG next year in Denmark. I’m sure the Danish audience will put pressure on the Germans!”

For now, however, the Hagen hosts can continue to bask in a golden glow.

Results here.

by Louise Parkes

Media Scontact:

Shannon Gibbons
Manager, Media Relations & Media Operations
shannon.gibbons@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 46

Von Bredow-Werndl Untouchable for Special Gold

(L to R): Germany’s Isabell Werth (silver), Germany’s Jessica von Bredow-Werndl (gold), and Denmark’s Cathrine Dufour (bronze). (FEI/Liz Gregg)

Germany’s Jessica von Bredow-Werndl scooped her second gold medal of the week when coming out on top with TSF Dalera BB in the Grand Prix Special at the FEI Dressage European Championships 2021 in Hagen (GER).

Firm favourites after their spectacular performances at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games this summer, the 35-year-old rider and her 14-year-old mare produced the highest score to help their country claim the team title for the 25th time. And they won again, this time pinning team-mates Isabell Werth and Weihegold into silver while Denmark’s Cathrine Dufour and Bohemian took the bronze.

Team silver medallist, Britain’s Carl Hester, set the early target score when posting 77.310 with En Vogue. “That was as good as Tokyo, if not maybe a little bit better – I got the ride I really wanted to get,” said the man who also took team bronze in Japan a few weeks ago.

“He was steady, relaxed, and calm. I always know that if he’s going to be funny, it will be in the piaffes. That’s what he did yesterday (in the team competition) and he gets wilder and wilder. But tonight he was fine. All you want in a championship really is for the horse to grow. I don’t expect to win when he’s this young, but I do it in the hope that he gets better every day.

“The changes tonight were spot on; the piaffes were showing the future of what he can do, because I think there’s a 10 in there for those – not tonight, but they were going the right way, so I was just pleased they are progressing. And the pirouettes,” he pointed out.

In front

Hester was still in front when Werth set off with her mare, fifth-last to go. It was clear from the outset that the German pair who took European Special and Freestyle gold in Gothenburg (SWE) four years ago meant business again. Before starting, Werth made sure Weihegold was listening, practically galloping down the long side of the arena before beginning her test.

“It gives her the fire, and me too!” she said. “I knew I had to fight and take all the risk I could; she’s so experienced in this business, more in the Freestyle than the Special, but this was one of her best Specials, no big mistakes, and I’m very happy with her,” said the lady who won her first European Grand Prix Special title with the great Gigolo back in 1991 in Donaueschingen (GER).

Big marks for piaffe, passage, and pirouettes put her on a score of 81.702 for a strong lead going into the closing stages.

Great Britain’s Charlotte Dujardin followed with 79.787 from her sweet little 10-year-old chestnut Gio, slotting temporarily into bronze medal spot. “It’s only his third Special and I couldn’t ask for much more. He needs more time to strengthen up; he’s getting better and better at every show, and he went in there and tried and did his best, and that’s enough for me,” said the rider who took all the European Individual titles in both 2013 and 2015 with the record-breaking Valegro. However, Denmark’s Cathrine Dufour immediately overtook her with a cracking test from Bohemian that was filled with power, energy, and excitement.

Dufour looked well set to oust Werth from pole position but, although quickly rectified, a mistake on the final centreline proved costly. The quality of the performance was so strong, it still earned a healthy mark of 81.079.

Reflecting

The 29-year-old Dane has been reflecting over the last few weeks. “What I felt in the last few tests was that I had to push him a bit too much in Tokyo, and that’s not at all the way I want to ride him. Today I wanted to build more trust so he doesn’t feel that I push him one thousand percent every time he goes in the ring, because I had the feeling he might not continue to perform with me if I continue to ask for more. But today he was so confident. I could have asked for more, but I want to rebuild that trust and show him that it’s super-nice to be in the ring.

“What Tokyo has taught me is that less is more,” Dufour said. “He will give me the moon as long as I offer trust and space for him to grow, which I feel I forgot the last few times. Yesterday I had a nice feeling but today was even better,” she added.

Britain’s Charlotte Fry was second-last to go with Everdale whose 78.146 slotted them in behind Dujardin, and then only von Bredow-Werndl and Dalera stood between Werth and the tenth Individual European title of her long and illustrious career. But the new world number one was placed first by all seven judges. With marks ranging from 81.277 to 86.596, their final tally was 84.271 for victory.

“Winning in front of the home crowd was great; we’re not used to it anymore.

“When we entered the arena, Dalera became even bigger, put her ears up; she was really excited and when I did the trot extensions, I tried not to move because it could have brought her out of balance, because she was so on fire! It’s a great feeling, especially after the Olympics, that she’s so fit and so happy again,” said von Bredow-Werndl, who seems to have the world at her feet right now.

Leading combinations

While the leading 15 horse/athlete combinations go through to Saturday’s Freestyle, only three can represent each country. However, the new Grand Prix Special champion certainly won’t miss the cut. Von Bredow-Werndl looks set to make it a golden hat-trick, with Werth chasing her all the way.

Werth admitted that the last couple of days have been a huge strain for a different reason entirely. Her beloved mare Bella Rose, who took triple-gold at the European Championships in Rotterdam two years ago, has taken ill. But fortunately, there’s good news.

“I’m glad to say she’s fine,” Werth said, when asked about the mare who was due to be officially retired at the CHIO Aachen next week. “Yesterday I got a call from my vet to say she had a colic, so I was really worried. Yesterday evening we had to take her to the clinic because this kind of colic meant you have to operate, because something is in the wrong position. It’s just bad luck; it’s not a typical colic situation. So I’m really happy and very thankful to the vets. She woke up yesterday evening and this morning she ate some grass and looked really good and like normal. She will stay at the clinic a few days and if everything is normal, we will then bring her home. I didn’t get much sleep last night!” Werth admitted.

She should rest well in the knowledge that Bella is fine. And she and Weihegold are likely to come out with all guns blazing when the Freestyle begins.

Result here.

by Louise Parkes

Media Scontact:

Shannon Gibbons
Manager, Media Relations & Media Operations
shannon.gibbons@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 46

Germany Grabs Team Gold Yet Again

(l to r) Isabell Werth, Helen Langehanenberg, Dorothee Schneider, and Jessica von Bredow-Werndl. (FEI/Liz Gregg)

In the history of the FEI Dressage European Championships, Team Germany has a formidable record. There have been 29 editions, and they clinched the team title for the 25th time.

Dorothee Schneider (Faustus), Helen Langehanenberg (Annabelle), Isabell Werth (Weihegold OLD), and Jessica von Bredow-Werndl (TSF Dalera BB) joined forces to pin Great Britain into silver and Denmark into bronze. It was the same side that took team gold at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games less than two months ago, but Langehanenberg was an alternate there and didn’t get to compete. Only von Bredow-Werndl was riding the same horse, and she posted the biggest mark in this Grand Prix to put the result beyond doubt.

The British were in the lead as the action resumed, and Carl Hester was first into the ring for them, partnering En Vogue who earned a score of 74.845.

Brilliant in parts

“The test was brilliant in parts and disappointing in others,” he said. “Last night (leading the scoreboard) it actually looked quite exciting! That horse gets very big scores, so we did think it would be good to have a really good shot at it; it doesn’t always work like that and it didn’t work like that today, but he’s come right back from the Games where he did three amazing tests with no experience. Some of the things he does are so brilliant that he makes himself a bit nervous,” the British rider explained.

“I didn’t deserve more points; there were too many mistakes, and I’m just disappointed I made mistakes because they weren’t huge mistakes,” he added, but he sees great development in the 12-year-old bay gelding now that he is getting more competition exposure. “What he’s done in one year – he’d never have gone into that arena a year ago!”

It might have been a nervous night for some teams in Germany’s situation, lying third after Schneider and Langehanenberg took their turn when Denmark slotted into silver medal spot. Daniel Bachmann Andersen was the first Dane to go, producing a lovely test for a score of 76.366 with the gelding Marshall-Bell who is only nine years old.

But then Werth and her mare Weihegold came into the ring, and you could feel the changing tide even though the German legend clearly wasn’t happy with her score. She had ridden a technically brilliant test for a mark of 79.860.

Superb

“We had just a little mistake at the end of the two-tempis where she was bit quick at the end, but the last centreline was superb, so I was really happy. But a score under 80 percent. In the last three years I had just one competition with her under 80 percent and that was in Paris at the World Cup Final. But of course, you have to take it sportingly,” she pointed out.

Denmark’s Cathrin Dufour and Bohemian came really close to Werth’s leading score, always forward and brave and chasing every mark. A blip in the first canter pirouette held them back from an even bigger result, however.

Dufour was a bit like Britain’s Hester, happy and frustrated all at the same time. “It might be the best warm-up I’ve ever had; he felt fantastic, and it was almost hotter than Tokyo, but he felt really super!” she said. Several riders commented on the incredible heat that descended on the showgrounds at Hof Kasselmann.

“We had a little misunderstanding earlier and I just managed to save it, and then in the canter pirouette left, he wanted to turn a tiny bit too much and I tried to correct him, maybe a little bit too roughly – he’s a hot horse so he reacts really quickly, but I think I managed to sort it quickly and we had a really nice second pirouette,” she explained. The mark for the first was 3.6, but she was awarded a whopping 8.9 when the second pirouette came off really nicely.

“Overall, I’m really happy, of course a bit annoyed with that big mistake, but we always have to try something new every time we go into the ring because we always want to develop. If you do the same you get the same so we have to try to push ourselves,” she pointed out wisely, adding, “My team-mates have been great here; it’s been a pleasure to watch them and it’s a pleasure to have three of our riders above 75 percent – I can’t remember when that happened last time for Denmark!”

Brilliant mark

Germany’s von Bredow-Werndl was fourth-last to go in the final group and sealed the German deal with a brilliant mark of 84.099 for a test that oozed the kind of class that spectators have come to expect from her 14-year-old Olympic double-gold mare.

“She is amazing! She was on fire but still so focused and concentrated that I couldn’t have asked for more. From the very first second to the very last second she didn’t give me any doubt!” said the lady who has recently been named world number one.

When asked if she felt under pressure because her team really needed a good score, especially with Britain’s Charlotte Dujardin yet to start, she admitted she did, because the margins were still a little too close for comfort.

“It was not as easy as it was in Tokyo because in Tokyo, I only had to achieve 72 percent to win gold for the team. Today was a little bit more, but anyway I’m always giving my best and so is Dalera!” she said.

Like so many of the other horses competing at the Championships this week, Dalera returned from Tokyo full of beans and still rearing to go, so much so that von Bredow-Werndl had to sit tight when starting her back in work after a short break.

“I had to make her keep walking for a few days because she was really bucking when we were hacking out!” she said. As Hester explained earlier in the day, the trip to Japan certainly didn’t seem to take much out of the Tokyo equine athletes. Peden International got permission for the horses to fly over Russia, so their travel time was reduced by almost seven hours. “It made it so much easier for them,” he said.

A huge pleasure

Last of the British to go, Charlotte Dujardin and her super sweet little 10-year-old, Gio, produced a lovely test that put 79.829 on the board. It slotted her into third individually, behind Werth in second and von Bredow-Werndl at the top of the order. Germany finished on a final tally of 238.944 and Britain’s closing score was 232.345, while Denmark finished a very close third in bronze on 231.165.

Britain’s Hester insisted his silver medal finish was “a huge pleasure for all of us. Last night Charlotte did talk about the gold and hopefully it will happen again one day, but looking at the top you can see how experience carries the horses. Our team (of horses) at this age – we are thinking of the World Games in 2022 and Paris (Olympics in 2024) and we are just feeling so lucky to be winning medals!” he said.

With the team medals now out of the way, attention turns to the Grand Prix Special. The rivalry is going to be really intense again, especially since the horses are now much more familiar with the lovely Hagen arena. There’s lots more history to be made, and while von Bredow-Werndl and Dalera look set to sweep all before them, you could sense her senior compatriot’s trademark determination to continue in her role as the Queen of international Dressage.

Results here.

by Louise Parkes

Media Scontact:

Shannon Gibbons
Manager, Media Relations & Media Operations
shannon.gibbons@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 46

British Lead the Teams after Exciting Opening Day

Charlotte Fry and Everdale. (FEI/Liz Gregg)

On a day full of fascinating stories and great sport, Great Britain took the early lead in the Team Competition at the FEI Dressage European Championship 2021 in Hagen, Germany. Gareth Hughes was first to go for the British side, posting 74.394 with Sintano van Hof Olympia, but it was their second-line rider, Charlotte Fry, who boosted them to pole position when producing a brilliant test with her Olympic bronze medal winning ride, Everdale, when second-last to go.

Judges Susanna Baarup (DEN), Thomas Lang (AUT), Maria Colliander (FIN), Isabelle Judet (FRA), Isobel Wessels (NED), Henning Lehrmann (GER), and Mariette Sanders van Gansewinkel (NED) awarded the pair a mark of 77.671 to leave them over two percentage points ahead of next-best horse/athlete partnership, Denmark’s Nanna Skodberg Merrald and Atterupgaards Orthilia, who put 75.078 on the board. To the surprise of many, it is the Danes who lie second going into the second half of the Team event ahead of the defending champions from Germany in third.

Skodberg Merrald was delighted with the result she produced with the 16-year-old mare formerly ridden by both Britain’s Fiona Bigwood and Danish star Agnete Kirk Thinggaard. “I’ve had her for less than a year and this was the best Grand Prix I’ve ever done with her! I’m very happy that I did all I could for the team, and I couldn’t ask for more. It was what I’ve been dreaming about!” she said.

For Germany, however, things didn’t quite start as expected, although Dorothee Schneider set the early target with a nice performance with Faustus for a mark of 74.965. “It’s the first championship for him and I think it was a good start for the team,” she said.

Mistakes

Her score might have been higher but for two mistakes in passage. “Sometimes when he’s not confident he tries to come behind me, and then I want to ride to the bit and there’s one or two moments when he’s not directly going to the bit and we have a mistake,” she explained. “His highlights were really the canter. It needs a bit of time to close this big canter and to balance him, but he comes more and more in a good balance. I’m proud of him!” Schneider added.

However, compatriot, Helen Langehanenberg, followed with a score of 73.960 with Annabelle.

“She started super good but then there were some expensive mistakes, so it is different than we hoped, but that’s OK – this is the sport!” said Langehanenberg’s team-mate, double-Olympic gold medallist and new world number one Jessica von Bredow-Werndl.

Hughes, who slotted into individual fourth place at the end of the day, was happy to have given the British a solid start. He travelled all the way to Tokyo as team alternate but didn’t get to ride, so entering the ring was a big relief.

“I woke up 30 times last night; it feels like we have been building up to this for three months. It was great to be in Tokyo but emotionally it was really difficult because you have to prepare to ride and then you don’t ride. Your adrenalin goes up and down. It’s weird because you didn’t get what you want to do which is help the team. And then we had the build-up to this,” he explained.

Running on adrenalin

Fellow-Briton Fry admitted that she’s just running on adrenalin right now. After Tokyo she travelled to Verden in Germany, where she claimed the Six-Year-Old title at the FEI WBFSH Dressage World Breeding Championship with Kjento, posting incredible scores. Just over a week later, she is making the headlines at the European Championships.

“It’s been a great few months and Everdale has been amazing,” she said. “He came home so fresh from Tokyo, excited and ready to go again. He had a week off last week. I got back on Sunday and he was feeling great still. His energy never runs out; he goes all day and he loves to work,” she pointed out.

She said he has definitely grown up since travelling to Tokyo and that he has grown more secure in the arena. “He hasn’t been tired at all, and today it really felt like we could just wait and enjoy it. I could take my time a bit more. It was a really nice feeling,” she said.

There is still another whole day of sport ahead before the Team medals are decided, and with the incredible Isabell Werth yet to go for the host country with Weihegold and British stars Carl Hester (En Vogue) and Charlotte Dujardin (Gio) also yet to strut their stuff, there’s a lot more to look forward to.

But some athletes achieved something great just by competing at Hagen.

Mixed emotions

For Sweden’s Jacob Noerby Soerensen, there were mixed emotions. Just two months ago a terrible fire destroyed his farm, and he’s still shocked from the experience.

“I was in Denmark qualifying two horses for Verden, and on my way home I got a call from the stable that there was a fire. They didn’t think it would get so big but the whole stallion stable and the apartments and the Rehab Centre with a spa and gym for the horses were burned down. It was awful. In half an hour everything was gone. No horses were killed and the staff were super; they rescued 26 horses in half an hour, but it was a horrible, awful day,” he recalled.

So posting 68.431 and lying individually 20th. he was hugely happy with his 11-year-old stallion Moegelbejergs Romeo. “He’s a big horse; he’s only 10 and it’s my first championship, so I was really, really nervous. But today made everything feel good again!” he said.

Also feeling good was Ireland’s Carolyn Mellor, who steered Gouverneur M to a score of 64.395. She’s 59 years old, groomed for some of Ireland’s top riders, grooms her own horse, lives in Comber in Northern Ireland, has competed mainly on the relatively modest Irish circuit throughout her career, and is riding a 10-year-old horse who she bought as a three-year-old and who, like her, is competing in his very first championship. And she became a granny last month.

“It’s very surreal. I never thought I’d make it to this stage but it’s brilliant and I think with this horse there is much more to come!” she said.

Results here.

by Louise Parkes

Media Scontact:

Shannon Gibbons
Manager, Media Relations & Media Operations
shannon.gibbons@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 46

Europe’s Dressage Superstars Head to Hagen

Jessica von Bredow-Werndl and TSF Dalera BB. (FEI/Christophe Taniere)

Just a few short weeks since they claimed all gold at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, Team Germany will line out at next week’s FEI Dressage European Championships 2021 on home ground in Hagen where they look set to claim their 25th team title.

There may have been brief lapses in their domination of the European team gold medal leaderboard – the Dutch coming out on top in 2007, 2009, and again in 2015, and Great Britain victorious in 2011 – but in the 58-year-history of this event that takes place every two years, the German record is phenomenal.

They posted their 24th team victory in Rotterdam (NED) two years ago where longtime legend Isabell Werth brought her personal European medal collection to a staggering 24 when adding both the individual Grand Prix Special and Freestyle titles riding Bella Rose. In the Special it was a German one-two when Dorothee Schneider (Showtime) lined up in second, and they were completely dominant in the Freestyle when Schneider and Jessica von Bredow-Werndl (TSF Dalera BB) took silver and bronze.

Compatriots

At the 2021 edition, Werth is joined by the same two compatriots, although von Bredow-Werndl is the only one who will ride the same horse – the fabulous Dalera with which she won triple-gold in Tokyo. This pair is now the dominant force in the sport and the ones everyone else have to beat.

Werth will partner Weihegold, the 16-year-old mare with which she won Olympic team gold in Rio de Janeiro (BRA) in 2016 and triple-gold at the FEI European Championships in 2017, while Schneider will compete Faustus 94, the 13-year-old gelding with which she has been posting some big results this summer.

Rounding up the formidable German side will be Helen Langehanenberg, who rode on the winning European team in Gothenburg (SWE) in 2017 and who was individual silver medallist in Rotterdam in 2011 and Herning (DEN) in 2013 partnering Damon Hill. In Hagen she will ride Annabelle, the 13-year-old mare with which she won the Grand Prix Special at the CDI3* in Aarhus, Denmark last October and who finished fourth behind team-mates Schneider (Showtime), von Bredow-Werndl (TSF Dalera BB), and Werth (Bella Rose) at CDI4* Kronberg (GER) in June.

A total of 72 athletes from 23 countries will contest the medals this time around. And of the 15 participating teams, the biggest challenge to the defending champions look set to be the British who clinched Olympic team bronze.

Olympic side

They are fielding their full Olympic side and, in the four-horse format, their Olympic reserve partnership of Gareth Hughes and Sintano von hof Olympia will get to perform this time around.

Charlotte Dujardin’s 10-year-old Gio set hearts fluttering in Tokyo, with the emergence of another dream partnership to follow in the footsteps of the great Valegro always a possibility. Carl Hester’s En Vogue and Charlotte Fry’s Everdale will complete their line-up and, fresh and rested after their trip Japan, the British horses will be on familiar territory in Hagen having competed there before.

There is plenty of experience in both the Dutch side of Adelinde Cornelissen (Governer-STR), Hans Peter Minderhoud (Glock’s Dream Boy), Marlies van Baalen (Go Legend), and Dinja van Liere (Hermes) and the Swedish selection of Jeanna Hogberg (Lorenzo), Therese Nilshagen (Dante Weltino), Juliette Ramel (Buriel KH), and Jacob Noerby (Moegelbjergs Romeo).

Cathrin Dufour and Bohemian headline the Danish foursome while Beatriz Ferrer-Salat and Elegance will lead the Spanish team when the action gets underway with the first group of riders in the Grand Prix on Tuesday, 7 September. The Team medals will be decided when the Grand Prix concludes on Wednesday and the Grand Prix Special will take place on Thursday followed by the Freestyle on Saturday 11 September.

The FEI Dressage U25 European Championships will also take place at Hagen during the week, coming to a close on Sunday 12 September.

Details here.

by Louise Parkes

Media contact:

Shannon Gibbons
Manager, Media Relations & Media Operations
shannon.gibbons@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 46

Dutch and Danish Stallions Steal the Show

The KWPN stallion Jovian with Denmark’s Andreas Helgstrand on board. (FEI/Leanjo de Koster)

Stallions from the KWPN studbook claimed both the 6 and 7-Year-Old titles while a Danish Warmblood was crowned 5-Year-Old champion at the FEI WBFSH Dressage World Breeding Championship for Young Horses, which returned to Verden in Germany for the 2021 edition from 24 to 29 August.

6-Year-Olds

Tokyo 2020 Olympic team bronze medallist, Great Britain’s Charlotte Fry, posted 94.000% in Wednesday’s 6-Year-Old qualifier with the KWPN stallion Kjento (Negro x Jazz), earning 10s for both trot and canter, and the pair never looked back. In Saturday’s Final they shone even brighter, with judges Peter Storr (GBR), Adriaan F. Hamoen (NED), Maria Colliander (FIN), and Jean-Michel Roudier (FRA) awarding them gold with a score of 96.000. Kjento earned 10s for trot, canter, submission, and perspective.

Silver went to the Rheinlander stallion Escamillo (Escolar x Rohdiamant) ridden by Spain’s Manuel Dominguez Bernal who posted 93.4%, while the Hanoverian gelding For Magic Equesta (For Romance OLD x Jungle Prince) scored 86.4 for bronze with Poland’s Beata Stremler in the saddle.

Fry is no stranger to success in these Championships, taking the 7-Year-Old title with Glamourdale in Ermelo (NED) in 2018, and in Gert-Jan Van Olst’s Kjento she has found another exceptional ride. “When I got all those 10s, I got very emotional, and it is thrilling to see that everyone sees the same quality as we do. He felt his best ever, and I don’t know how to describe this horse – if you look up the word power, he is it!” she said.

Judge Jean-Michel Roudier praised the quality of both the horses and horsemanship he witnessed.

“The improvement in breeding and riding is incredible over the last years. The winner Kjento was a happy horse like all the three medallists – a happy horse means wonderful training and it gives a wonderful willingness in the horse.” — Jean-Michel Roudier

5-Year-Olds

Germany’s Eva Moller had a sensational day in the 5-Year-Old Qualifier on Thursday when steering the Hanoverian stallion, Danciero 7 (Dancier x Fuechtels Floriscount), into pole position and the Oldenburg stallion Global Player OLD (Grand Galaxy Win T x Blue Hors Don Schufro) into third. Sandwiched in between these two was the KWPN mare Lightning Star (Ferguson x De Niro) ridden by The Netherlands Kristen Brouwer.

Danciero 7, owned by Helgestrand/Schockemohle, scored 96.600, Lightning Star posted 95.200% and Global Player OLD was awarded 95.000%.

But in Sunday’s medal decider it was the Danish Warmblood stallion Hasselhoej Down Town (Hasselhoej Donkey Boy x Blue Hors Zack), ridden by Sweden’s Jeanna Hogberg, who grabbed the gold with an amazing score of 97.000%. The pair had finished fourth in the opening competition three days earlier, but with 10s for trot and perspective, and 9.5s for walk, canter, and submission, this time they left the rest in their wake. Danciero 7 had to settle for silver with 96.600% while Lightning Star took the bronze with 92.8%. Moller’s second ride, Global Player OLD, just missed out on the podium when earning a mark of 92.600%.

Hasselhoej Down Town was real crowd pleaser. “When I got him, everyone said he’s so cute and he really is, but he’s also a really fantastic horse!” Hogberg said. “I have a great team behind me and I have a lot of support from Andreas (Helgstrand), and I think today it was a matter of riding a really solid test without faults and at the same time showing the best of the horse, and he really stayed with me,” she explained.

“He was a bit surprised by the environment on the first day, but today he was much more relaxed,” Hogberg said. However, she pointed out that the young stallion is no pushover. “He’s also the only horse at Helgstrand that I have fallen off!” she added with a laugh.

Brouwer was delighted with bronze for the mare Lightning Star. “I’ve been riding Lily a long time and know her well but of course with Corona I didn’t get the chance to show her a lot. But she makes me every day happy, also here; she’s always fresh and willing to work. Today maybe there was a bit more tension because there was a lot of applause when you were warming up. But she’s only five and has a great future. I hope I can ride her a lot longer,” the Dutch athlete said.

7-Year-Olds

The last Championship to be decided was the 7-Year-Olds, and Danish riders completely dominated the podium, but it was the KWPN stallion Jovian (Apache x Tango) who claimed the title with Andreas Helgstrand on board.

The Helgstrand name was all over these Championships as owners, sponsors, riders, and producers of top-class Dressage horses, and in Friday’s qualifier, Andreas steered Jovian to victory ahead of the Danish Warmblood stallion Elverhøjs Raccolto (Sezuan 2 x Sandro Hit) ridden by his wife Marianne Yde Helgstrand.

The Hanoverian stallion Quando Unico (Quantensprung 3 x Fidertanz 2), partnered by Australia’s Simone Pearce, lined up in third while Andreas Helgstrand also finished fourth with the Danish Warmblood mare Queenpark Wendy (Sezuan 2 x Blue Hors Soprano). But in Sunday’s final, only Jovian stood his ground.

A mark of 89.136 from judges Sharon Rhode (RSA), Ulrike Nivelle (GER), Maria Colliander (FIN), Mariette Sanders van Gansewinkel (NED), and Kurt Christensen (DEN) gave Jovian the title, while silver went to the Danish Warmblood gelding Blue Hors Touch of Olympic L (Don Olymbrio x Fidermark) who posted 83.965 with Denmark’s Nanna Skodborg Merrald on board. And the third Dane on the podium was Anne-Mette Strandby Hansen, who steered the Westphalian gelding Eternity 75 (Escolar x Sir Donnerhal) to a score of 83.75% to pin Pearce and Quando Unico back into fourth place.

“To win with Jovian is special; he is my favourite horse. He is a PR machine for us, and he will have a lot of very nice foals coming up,” said Helgstrand.

Nanna Skodborg Merrald was very pleased to take silver for the Danish Warmblood studbook. “We have had so many good horses for DWB and it is good to give back,” she said. She’s been riding Blue Hors Touch of Olympic L since he was a four-year-old and is looking forward to watching him develop. “I will go into small tour shows with him now, I think he is a future Grand Prix horse,” she added.

And Anne-Mette Skodborg Hansen had every reason to be pleased with Eternity 75 because she’s only been riding him for two months. “Cathrine Dufour trained him and this is my first competition with him!” she said after collecting 7-Year-Old bronze.

Reflecting on another great FEI WBFSH Dressage World Breeding Championship for Young Horses, German judge Ulrike Nivelle commented that this year “we saw huge quality and the level is much better than before, both in breeding and riding. We saw more harmony and softer riding,” she concluded.

Results here.

by Louise Parkes

Media contact:

Shannon Gibbons
Manager, Media Relations & Media Operations
shannon.gibbons@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 46+

Roxanne Trunnell Breaks Paralympic Record in Stunning Night of Freestyle Displays

L-R: Rihards Snikus (LAT) silver, Roxanne Trunnell (USA) gold, Sara Morganti (ITA) bronze (FEI/Liz Gregg)

Roxanne Trunnell (USA) broke the nine-year-old Grade I Paralympic Freestyle record in a stunning Freestyle competition which also saw Sir Lee Pearson (GBR) take his third gold of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.

The highest scoring podium

Grade I was the only Grade to have three athletes with a score of over 80% on the podium. Roxanne Trunnell (USA) scored 86.927% on Dolton to break the previous record of 84.750% set by Sophie Christiansen (GBR) in London 2012.

“I just wanted a nice test. It felt good with the music the whole time,” Roxanne said. “It’s been really nice. Everyone is so happy and friendly it makes everyone in the barn happy. It’s just fun. Everyone will be excited when we get home.”

The ever-brilliant Rihards Snikus (LAT) took his second silver in Tokyo on King of the Dance with 82.087%, doubtless prompting more demands for his DJing skills when he gets back home. For Rihards, these two medals more than make up for his disappointment at the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. And third place went to Sara Morganti (ITA) on Royal Delight, with 81.100%.

Sir Lee makes it a golden 14

Sir Lee Pearson (GBR) became the most successful athlete in the entire competition by taking his third gold medal of Tokyo 2020, the 14th of his Paralympic career, in the Grade II Freestyle.

His relatively inexperienced and home-bred partner, Breezer, took him to a massive 82.447% to take the title ahead of Pepo Puch (AUT) who rode Sailor’s Blue to a score of 81.007%. Meanwhile, Lee’s young teammate, Georgia Wilson (GBR), added another brilliant bronze to her collection on Sakura with 76.754%, which is not a bad result for the reserve rider who was called to Tokyo as a last-minute replacement for Sophie Christiansen.

“Number 14, not that we’re counting,” laughed Lee. “I’m twice over the moon. I actually didn’t care if I medalled. That horse gave me his heart in there. He was so much braver than the team and individual test a few days ago. He was still nervous, and we had a tiny little spook when we entered but I said, ‘come on, we can do this’.”

Lee came to Tokyo with Breezer having had to retire from their selection event. “I’ve not managed to ride this Freestyle in a competition, so I’ve been nervous for days. He’s brilliant. I’m taking the best horse home. I didn’t think I could love him any more than I did before but he’s beautiful, amazing.”

Sanne’s HAEVNly gold

Sanne Voets (NED) stormed to victory in the Grade IV Freestyle with a massive personal best score of 82.085% to win her class. Riding Demantur N.O.P. to the stirring music of Dutch artists HAEVN, she finished comfortably ahead of silver medallist Louise Etzner Jakobbson (SWE) who scored 75.935% on Goldstrike B.J. Manon Claeys (BEL) took bronze on San Dior 2 with 75.680%.

Louise’s silver was even more remarkable given that she broke her leg falling off her bike just a couple of months ago, and only got back on a horse to ride two weeks ago during the horses’ quarantine in Aachen (GER).

Speaking after her ride, Sanne said: “I’m not sure I can find the right words. I was really focussed and normally when I first enter a test, I try to make eye contact with the judge. I never did that here; it was just me and my horse and the music. It was a bit like hypnosis. It felt powerful and soft and relaxed and confident. Sometimes when you ride a test, you’re thinking, ‘what do I do now?’ but it was like it just happened to me. It felt like we found that true harmony and it was the two of us and no one else.”

Michele’s golden double

Michele George (BEL) was dominant again in the Grade V Freestyle, defending her London 2012 and Rio 2016 titles with aplomb. She scored 80.590% on Best of 8 to pip Frank Hosmar (NED) to the title by just 0.350 of a point. Frank, riding Alphaville N.O.P., scored 80.240 to take the silver, while Regine Mispelkamp (GER) took bronze with 76.820 on Highlander Delights.

“I’m really blown away. The mare is just fantastic. What can I say? I’m a bit speechless because coming over here with a young horse and showing the world what she’s capable of is just genius. I knew she could, but I thought maybe it was a bit early to show everyone because at home she can work like a queen but at home is at home.”

Michele went into the arena just after Frank had posted his great score. “Once you’re riding into the arena, you don’t look at that,” she said. “I know he had a high score, but I thought the mare feels good, so I came into the arena and tried to make something even better. That’s the spirit.”

Tobias’s double delight

In the second highest winning score of the night, Tobias Thorning Jorgensen (DEN) rode Jolene Hill to his second gold of the Paralympic Games in the Grade III Freestyle. Together they scored a massive 84.347% to take the title ahead of Natasha Baker (GBR), who scored 77.614% on Keystone Daw Chorus. Anne Katrin Lubbe (NOR) took the bronze on La Costa Majlund with 76.477%.

A clearly delighted Tobias said after his ride: “I feel great. I left my head out here this time because I wanted to show I can do this. I just rode to the edge of being too much and I was probably closer to some mistakes today than I was yesterday, but I took the chance.

“I always had the dream of double gold, but I knew it would be hard. I would be happy if it was a silver or bronze, just to get two medals at my first Paralympics, but two golds is amazing.”

At the end of five days of stunning Para Dressage competition, the horses and athletes of Tokyo 2020 will now start their journeys home. They will remember a record-breaking week of drama and fierce competition which saw new champions crowned and titles re-won or defended.

Great Britain tops the Para Dressage table, with three golds, three silvers, and two bronzes, ahead of The Netherlands’ two golds, two silvers, and two bronzes. Belgium takes the third spot with two golds and two bronzes, followed by the USA in fourth position with two golds and a bronze.

The world’s best Para Dressage athletes will gather again in August 2022 at the FEI World Championships in Herning (DEN). Until then, the memories of this competition in Tokyo will be slow to fade. It’s been a dazzling, brilliant Paralympic Games.

by Rob Howell

Media contact:

Vanessa Martin Randin
Senior Manager, Media Relations & Communications
vanessa.randin@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 73

Hitting the Right Note in Equestrian Para Dressage

Sanne Voets (NED). (FEI/Liz Gregg)

Equestrian Dressage and Para Dressage are considered the most artistic of the equestrian sports. But it is in the Freestyle tests, which are specially choreographed for each horse and performed to music, that the horse and athlete have a real opportunity to come into their own.

No one know this better than Dutch Para Dressage star Sanne Voets, who took individual gold here in Tokyo on Thursday.

“When the horse, rider, and music all come together in a perfect fit, that’s when the magic happens,” Voets said.

“It all starts with your choreography. And the first ingredient of good choreography is to know your horse very well, to know what your strong exercises are and what you are good at. Top sport is all about standing out and having the audacity to show the world what you’ve got. The Freestyle gives equestrian Dressage and Para Dressage athletes that opportunity.”

And Voets is not afraid to make a statement with her original Freestyle choreographies or her unconventional choice of music. Prior to the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio, Voets worked with critically acclaimed Dutch DJ Armin van Buuren for a chance to perform to his song “This Is What It Feels Like.” Together with her horse Demantur, Voets brought home the only equestrian gold for the Netherlands.

“The music adds an extra dimension to the choreography,” Voets explained. “You want to enter that arena feeling your very best. You want to feel focused. You want to feel strong and confident and that feeling can be affected by the music you choose.”

The 33-year-old is now going for more gold at the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo alongside her horse Demantur RS2 N.O.P., affectionately known as “Demmi”, with a new Freestyle routine, developed in collaboration with top Dutch freestyle producer Joost Peters, and one of the Netherlands’ most popular bands, HAEVN. Founded in 2015 by singer-songwriter Marijn van der Meer and film soundtrack composer Jorrit Kleijnen, HAEVN’s music has a unique sound that Voets believes will allow her to make her mark.

“HAEVN compose cinematic music that has a distinctive sound with their piano, string, and electronic sounds. The singer Marijn has a clear and warm voice and this really makes the sound of the band unique. I first heard them when I was in my car and the lyrics touched me deeply,” Voets said.

“’Where the Heart Is’ is a song about chasing a dream, paving your own path, and taking a leap of faith. I chose it because I see myself so much in this song. I also try to follow my own path by doing what I feel is best, even when it is not the generally accepted way. There is always some doubt: Do I dare to be different? Is this the right choice? Am I good enough? This song tells me to have faith.”

Voets, who was born with a condition which weakens her legs and affects her other joints, holds Team, Individual, and Freestyle gold medals at European and World level. She won gold in the Grade IV Individual Freestyle on the opening day of the Para Equestrian events, and is hoping to achieve a ‘triple-triple’ of golds in Tokyo.

“The relationship between the horse and athlete is essential for success. You cannot perform or act like you have harmony when that relationship is not there. Demmi has quite a personality and we have a deep connection. He is so special to me. He always reminds me of what really matters and is the reason I’m encouraged to go after my dream, to never let anything or anyone stop me, and also to do good. I heard someone say a few years ago that a good Freestyle is like a movie. It should tell a story. It should tell your story. And that is what this HAEVN-Freestyle really does.”

If there’s anyone who knows how to find that perfect fit and bring music, athlete, and horse together into a breathtaking Freestyle routine, it is British composer and producer Tom Hunt.

Based in London, Hunt is the man behind Charlotte Dujardin and Carl Hester’s Freestyle music, and composed the music for Dujardin’s bronze medal Freestyle at the Tokyo Olympic Games. He also worked with Great Britain’s Natasha Baker and Singapore’s Laurentia Tan on their routines for the Tokyo Paralympics.

“Usually, the process begins with a discussion with the athlete where we talk about the Freestyle and about preferences he or she might have,” Hunt explained.

“If the athlete is passionate about creating a really good Freestyle, then that feeds into how I work with him or her. Some athletes are very hands-on at every stage and are really passionate about getting every detail absolutely perfect.

“Before I even begin creating the demo, I need to see how big the horse is, what its paces are like, and how expressive it is. Then I look at the floor plan and how it has been crafted, so I can emphasise the strengths of the horse and have the music highlight those sections of the choreography. It is important to build on the dynamics of the music in order to really show off the horse’s paces.

“When creating Freestyle music, it is important to figure out how to fit the music to what the athlete aims to do and the story they want to tell, and to make the style work for them and the horse.”

However, when composing the music for Laurentia Tan, Hunt has had to take into account input from a number of different people. Tan, who is currently ranked number four in the world for her Grade in Para Dressage, is profoundly deaf.

“With Laurentia we’ve been working not just with a whole team of people who tell her what the music sounds like, but also with technology so she can feel the music,” Hunt said.

“The SUBPAC is a piece of technology that she wears like a back pack and it feeds back all the low frequencies of the music so she can feel its pull when she’s riding. The creation of Laurentia’s Freestyle music for Tokyo has been a longer process than others, and not something we could have done quickly. So it has been good to have had the time to work with her over the past year.”

While the Freestyle Test is where the Para Dressage athletes can really show off their musical tastes and artistry, they are also free to choose the background music for their Team Tests. Any style of music can be used in a Team Test and, as it is considered background music, it does not affect an athlete’s score.

The Tokyo 2020 Para Dressage Individual Freestyle Tests across all five Grades will take place on Monday, 30 August 2021 at the Baji Koen Equestrian Park.

Media contact:

Vanessa Martin Randin
Senior Manager, Media Relations & Communications
vanessa.randin@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 73

Great Britain Defy the Odds to Take Spectacular Paralympic Team Title

L to R: Rixt van der Horst – Findsley, Sanne Voets – Demantur, Frank Hosmar – Alphavile (NED) Silver medalists; Lee Pearson – Breezer, Sophie Wells – Don Cara M, Natasha Baker – Keystone Dawn Chorus (GBR) Gold medalists; Kate Shoemaker – Solitaer 40, Roxanne Trunnell – Dolton, Rebecca Hart – El Corona Texel (USA) Bronze medallists. (FEI/Liz Gregg)

Suspense and pure grit were on display as Great Britain claimed the Tokyo 2020 Para Dressage Team gold medal, continuing their seemingly unbreakable hold on the title which started in Atlanta 1996. The trio of Sir Lee Pearson (Grade II), Natasha Baker (Grade III), and Sophie Wells (Grade V) scored 229.905 to finish just 0.656 ahead of The Netherlands’ 229.249. And in another momentous shift in the sport, USA took the bronze medal with 224.352, making this their first Paralympic Team podium finish, and the first time the podium hasn’t been made up of all European teams!

How it works

There are three athletes per team. Each Grade competes separately in its own Team Test, with each horse and athlete combination performing a series of pre-determined movements, which differ by Grade. The combined results of each of the teams’ three athletes determine the overall score and the team with the most points wins gold. The competition was run over two days, starting with the athletes from Grades I, II, and III performing on Saturday, leaving Grades IV and V to seal the deal.

Here’s how the day unfolded

At the beginning of the day, the competition was shaping up to be a showdown between the three podium winners, with Great Britain having the slight advantage over the USA, with both countries having two tests already completed.

The Grade V Team test was won by Belgium’s Michele George on Best of 8. She scored 77.047% to put her country into medal contention too.

A crucial score of 75.651% for Sophie Wells (GBR) proved to be a massive boost for her country’s chances of winning, while Frank Hosmar (GBR) on Alphaville N.O.P. posted 74.814% to keep things neck and neck between the two countries.

At the start of the Grade IV Team Test, the British had completed all their rides, leaving the USA and The Netherlands with the knowledge of how much their last two athletes would have to score to beat them.

First up was Kate Shoemaker (USA) on Solitaer 40. She scored 71.825% to put the USA in silver medal position.

Sanne Voets then entered the arena on Demantur N.O.P. and knew she needed to score 78.136% to beat Great Britain. Four minutes later she left, and her score was announced, a massive personal best of 78.200%. However, between the calculation of what was needed to win, and Sanne’s test, Sophie Wells’ score was confirmed slightly higher than the provisional score given earlier, thus handing Great Britain the closest of wins. It could not have been any closer; it could not have been more historic.

Speaking after their medal ceremony, Natasha Baker tried to sum up how the team felt. “I don’t think any of us expected that in a million, trillion, gazillion years to be honest. We’re all so immensely proud of everything our horses have done in the last few days.”

“We had no expectation that we could achieve that,” Sophie Wells added. “We genuinely thought it was impossible in the most realistic way. We all had horses that have never done this or been against anyone else. The Dutch are so strong and secure on their horses and we’re not.”

“We haven’t even got any championship horses on this team,” said Lee Pearson.

Team Leader Georgia Sharples paid tribute to the team, saying: “I just think these guys are undefeated Paralympic champions but in a whole new context. You’ve heard about the inexperienced horsepower, but never underestimate these guys and what a job they did out there on that field of play.”

The Netherlands were equally enthused by their silver, and the closeness of the competition.

“We’ve been working towards this for five years,” said Sanne Voets, “and this is where you want to perform at your best and if you can succeed at that you can’t be disappointed.

“There was so much pressure. When we saw the order to go and I realised I was the last rider of the three countries who were expected to win, I knew I would know the score needed for team gold.”

And despite coming into the Games as hot favourites for the title, there was delight and relief with bronze for the USA as well, especially Rebecca Hart, who has competed at four Games now.

“I don’t have words right now,” she said. “It was such an amazing competition and so close. A real nail-biter to the very end. I am so incredibly blessed and happy to be standing here with these two amazing riders. To finally, after so many years, be able to stand on that podium as a country, it’s a lifelong dream come true.”

After the drama of the Team competition, the Para Dressage competition at Tokyo 2020 comes to an end when the top eight individual riders in each Grade take to the arena to dance in the ever-popular Freestyle competition. The five medals will come thick and fast in what will doubtless be another fascinating, exciting, and potentially historic end to a brilliant Paralympic Games for Para Dressage.

by Rob Howell

Media contact:

Vanessa Martin Randin
Senior Manager, Media Relations & Communications
vanessa.randin@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 73