All-British show at Hartpury para-equestrian competition

British riders show form ahead of September’s European Championships. 15 Jul 2015
Woman riding a dark horse

Sophie Christiansen was unstoppable at the 2015 Hartpury Fesitval of Dressage riding her new horse Athene Lindebjerg

ⒸKevin Sparrow
By Robert Howell | For the IPC

Great Britain’s para-equestrian riders owned their home event, sweeping all the team and individual titles at the 2015 Hartpury Festival of Dressage, which wrapped up on Sunday (12 July) in Gloucestershire, Great Britain. The competition drew around 50 competitors from around the world, including Canada; Australia; Hong Kong; Japan; Ireland and USA.

Lee Pearson, Sophie Wells, Natasha Baker and Anne Dunham took the top spot in the team competition ahead of runner-up Canada and third place Ireland. With the British team already qualified for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, the second and third place finishes for Canada and Ireland will provide valuable ranking points in their attempts to join Great Britain.

In the individual grade Ia competition, Britain’s London 2012 triple gold medallist and world and European champion Sophie Christiansen was unstoppable on her new horse Athene Lindebjerg, taking both the individual and freestyle titles. On her way to victory in the freestyle competition, Christiansen also scored the highest mark of any rider in the whole competition with an impressive 82.300%.

In both competitions, her runner-up was teammate and close rival Anne Dunham on LJT Normark. Christiansen was third in the individual on her other horse, Janeiro 6, with Britain’s Michael Murphy taking third place in the freestyle on Aura.

“I had quite an eventful day,” Christiansen said after her freestyle competition “Athene does not really like noise, so freestyle is quite challenging. In the warmup arena, it was really noisy, but she kept it together and so did I. I could not have asked for any more of her (that day).”

Great Britain’s multi-European, world and Paralympic champion Pearson was unbeatable in the grade Ib competition, winning both titles on Zion. Pearson also used the competition to debut his new horse, Styletta, in an international competition. Canada’s Ashley Gowanlock was second in both competitions to Pearson, and Great Britain’s Natasha Adkinson took both third places.

After taking second place in the grade II team test behind the USA’s Rebecca Hart, Baker took both the individual and freestyle titles on her new horse Sooki St. James. Hart took second spot in the individual test and third in the freestyle, switching both those places with Great Britain’s Erin Orford.

“This was her first indoor competition since Bishop Burton last year,” Baker said. “Hartpury is a big arena with a big atmosphere and she was so good. On the first day, she went in and revved it up and went a little bit too much, and (in the individual and freestyle) we achieved a happy medium. I am so proud of her. She has had such a consistent year, I could not have wished for more.”

Great Britain’s Nicky Greenhill continued her impressive season, capturing the grade III titles, which were her first wins at full international level. Riding Gregorian Chant, she saw off the challenges of teammates Heather Bennett and Deb Criddle in the individual test, and Ireland’s Rosemary Gaffney and Canada’s Roberta Sheffield in the freestyle.

The grade IV titles were taken by Wells on Valerius. In the individual contest, Wells also took second place on her other horse C Fatal Attraction, ahead of teammate Charlotte Cundall. Cundall was runner-up in the freestyle event, ahead of third place compatriot Fiona Maynard.

Hartpury was the last major international competition ahead of the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) European Para-dressage Championships on 17-20 September in Deauville, France. Over the coming weeks, competing nations will be announcing their teams for that competition.