“I’m the happiest girl on the planet and can’t wipe the smile off my face. I’m immensely proud of Team Baker – we not only won on all three days but also got the highest score of the whole show."
Great Britain’s Natasha Baker and her horse Cabral made a stunning return to top international competition, winning all three tests – team, individual and freestyle – at the Quadrille competition held 22-24 April in Waregem, Belgium. It was Cabral’s first major competition since 2014’s Alltech International Equestrian Federation (FEI) World equestrian Games in Caen, France.
It was also on Cabral that Baker won double gold at London 2012.
The pair scored 74.457 per cent in the individual test to finish ahead of teammates Erin Orford and Susana Hext in second and third respectively. A stunning freestyle test saw them score the highest mark of the entire competition – 79.700 per cent – to take the title again ahead of Hext and Orford in second and third, respectively
Writing on her Facebook page after the competition, Baker said: “I’m the happiest girl on the planet and can’t wipe the smile off my face. I’m immensely proud of Team Baker – we not only won on all three days but also got the highest score of the whole show. Overwhelmed is an understatement and JP (as Cabral is known at home) is feeling better than ever.”
Baker was not the only rider to score wins on all three tests either. Her teammate Lee Pearson, riding Zion, swept the board narrowly beating his rivals Austria’s Pepo Puch and the Netherlands’ Nicole Den Dulk in the grade I individual test, as well as fellow Team GB rider Natasha Atkinson in the freestyle.
Likewise South Africa’s Philippa Johnson-Dwyer, double Beijing 2008 gold medallist, won all three tests in the grade III competition on Lord Louis. She beat Norway’s Ann Catrin Lubbe and the Netherlands’ Glasten Krapels in the individual test, with Lubbe second in the freestyle ahead of Great Britain’s Nicky Greenhill.
Home advantage spurred the reigning grade IV world and Paralympic champion Michele George onto three wins as well. Riding Kingsly Lucky Dance, George finished ahead of teammate Ciska Vermeulen and Norway’s Tonje Lundqvist in the individual competition. Vermeulen and Lundqvist swapped places behind George in the freestyle, finishing third and second respectively.
In the grade Ia contest, the individual titles were shared between Great Britain’s Sophie Christiansen, on her London 2012 wining horse Janeiro, and Singapore’s Laurentia Tan on Ruben James. Tan won the individual test with a score of 73.261 per cent ahead of Christiansen and France’s Thibault Stoclin, while Christiansen took the freestyle with 77.150 per cent ahead of Tan, and then Brazil’s Sergio Oliva, in what was a confidence boosting ride for him ahead of his home Games in Rio.
Complete results from the Quadrille competition can be found on the event website.
With 30 nations already confirmed for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, riders and their horses utilised the Quadrille – the second major European international para-equestrian dressage event of the year – to boost their selection to represent their National Paralympic Committees (NPCs) in Rio; they have until 19 June to attain a minimum eligibility score.