Great Britain’s Natasha Baker’s decision to try out her new horse, Sooki St. James, at the three-star para-equestrian dressage competition last weekend (25-26 April) in Waregem, Belgium, paid off — and in style.
The Grade II rider won both the team and individual tests, and was just beaten for the win in the freestyle competition by Belgian rider Babara Minneci, on Barilla.
Writing on her Facebook page, Baker said: “What an amazing week. My superstar Sooki competed at her first international and smashed it! Overall Grade II winner and three incredible scores. I literally could not be more proud of her right now.”
Baker scored 74.457% in her individual test and 74.200% in the freestyle, short of first-place Minneci’s score of 74.500%. Minneci came in second in the individual test with 71.114%, followed by the Netherlands’ Annemarieke Roling on Ricochet (67.143%). Roling also captured third in the freestyle (70.950%).
Probably the most popular wins of the weekend came from home favourite Paralympian Michèle George. The double London 2012 and Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games 2014 gold medallist won both individual and freestyle classes on Fbw Rainman, scoring 75.119% in the individual test and 77.600% (the highest score of the competition) in the freestyle.
George took second in the individual as well on Sagane (70.357%), finishing ahead of France’s Nathalie Bizet (67.476%). Bizet also took a runner-up finish in the freestyle (72.600%), while Daphne Meulenbroek of the Netherlands was third on Zazia with 69.000%.
Hong Kong scored an impressive win in the Grade Ia Individual test, as Natasha Pui Ting Tse scored 68.478%, riding Brandy. Tse – a regular at European competitions –recorded her first win at a three-star competition. The USA’s Margaret McIntosh on the aptly named Rio Rio (67.780%) took second, and Belgium’s Eveline Van Looveren on Excelent finished next (67.261%).
First and third swapped places in the freestyle, however. Van Looveren scored 73.300% for the win, followed by Macintosh (71.300%) and then Tse (67.950%).
There was a swapping of places too in the Grade Ib competition. In the individual test, Finland’s Jaana Kivimaki rode Belliline to score 71.862%, just ahead of the Netherlands’ world medallist Nicole Den Dulk, on Fifty Fifty (71.379%).
In the freestyle, Den Dulk scored 74.500%, ahead of Kivimaki’s 73.550%. Kiviki’s teammate Katja Karjalainen was third (71.800%).
South Africa’s double Beijing 2008 gold medallist Philippa Johnson-Dwyer boosted her chances of reaching Rio 2016 by taking both individual and freestyle titles in the Grade III competition. Riding her new horse Lord Louis, she scored 70.512% in the individual test and 76.900% in the freestyle. In both competitions, Johnson-Dwyer scored 70.293% in the individual and 72.200% in the freestyle to beat the Netherlands’ Lotte Krunsen, riding Zarienta. Norway’s Anne Cecillie Orr was third in the individual (68.488%), while France’s Jose Letarte took third in the freestyle (71.200%).