As the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games start to get closer, top para-equestrian dressage from across Europe gathered in Doha, Qatar, early in March for three days of competition at the stunning Al Shaqab sports arena.
The competition, which was by invitation only, was being held for the second year and was used by many of the riders as a chance to test sending their horses on long overseas flights ahead of next year’s Rio Games.
Competition in the arena was as tight as ever but saw the same riders take both individual and freestyle wins in each Grade.
In the Grade Ia category, Germany’s Elke Philip riding Regaliz took the honours ahead of the Singaporean duo of Laurentia Tan on Ruben James 2 and Gemma Rose Jen Foo on Cassis Royal.
Great Britain’s Lee Pearson, riding Zio, got his 2015 off to a flying start taking both titles in the Grade Ib competition ahead of the Netherlands’ Nicole Den Dulk on Wallace and France’s Anne Frederique on J’Adore.
The Grade II competition saw the Netherlands’ Rixt van der Horst and Uniek and Great Britain’s Natasha Baker on Cabral meet again for the first time since van der Horst took both the individual and freestyle titles at last summer’s Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Caen, France. In Doha van der Horst claimed victory again with Baker the runner-up in the individual test and third in the freestyle, swapping those places with Demi Vermeulen of the Netherlands in the two competitions.
The Dutch were supreme again in the Grade III contest with Sanne Voets and Zoya Sollenburg taking both titles ahead of Canada’s Roberta Sheffield on Double Agent and Norway’s Ann Catrin Lubbe on Cypres.
And the Netherlands topped out the Grade IV competition too with multi-medallist Frank Hosmar and Alphaville winning both his tests ahead of Belgium’s double Paralympic and World champion Michele George on Saganne.
Germany’s Carolin Schnarre and del Rusch took third place in the freestyle while compatriot Lena Weifen and Don Turner were third in the individual test.
Whatever the results all the riders who took part were effusive on Facebook and Twitter about the organisation of the competition and the facilities provided. Norway’s Chef D’equipe Ingeborg Simensen said: “The stables, the arenas and the show ground were overwhelming and impressive, but still suitable and well adapted for disabled riders. Everything surrounding the competitions was perfectly planned.”