“We are using the competition to select our team for the Paralympic Games.”
Equestrian’s Hartpury Festival of Dressage begins on Wednesday (4 July) with 37 riders from eight countries, including Argentina, Australia, Great Britain, Hong Kong, Ireland, Japan, South Africa and the US Virgin Islands.
With Great Britain’s five riders for the London 2012 Paralympics set to be chosen based on the event, everything is at stake.
“We are using the competition to select our team for the Paralympic Games,” said Michel Assouline, Team GB trainer, who has been evaluating the team’s performance throughout the year.
The team is likely to be chosen from Great Britain’s 11 performance-level riders: Anne Dunham, Ia (LJT Lucas Normark and Teddy Edwards); Sophie Christiansen, Ia (Janeiro 6); Emma Sheardown, Ia (Purdy's Dream); Ricky Balshaw, Ib (Sunny Boy); Lee Pearson, Ib (Zion and Gentleman); Jo Pitt, II (Estralita); Natasha Baker, II (Cabral); Erin Orford, II (Nirvana Morroko) Deborah Criddle, III (LJT Akilles); Nicky Thompson, III (Welt Santa Cruz) and Sophie Wells, IV (Valerius and Pinocchio).
“From those nine riders we will narrow it down to five,” said Assouline.
Selectors were also present at the British Para National Championships in Hickstead from 18-19 June.
“It gave us and our three selectors an idea of their performance level in a competition environment,” said Assouline.
Christiansen picked up three golds there on Janeiro 6 in the Grade Ia Team, the Bookham Saddlery Grade Ia Individual and the Premier Equine Freestyle events.
Pearson, who is returning to competition after breaking his back and cracking a rib after a series of accidents last year, won the Grade 1b Team and the Neue Scheule Grade 1b Individual with Gentleman.
Baker on Cabral triumphed in the Team and Evison Equine Grade II Individual events, and Deborah Criddle won Team Grade III on LJT Akilles. Wells had two wins on Pinocchio in the Grade IV Team and the Exclusively Equestrian Grade IV Individual.
The competition in Hartpury begins with the Team Test events on Wednesday, followed by the Individual Championship Test on Thursday and the Freestyle Test on Friday.