"The competition was a good start to the season and a good test for the Europeans later this year.”
Great Britain won the team competition at the first three-star Para-Equestrian Dressage competition of the season held 9-12 April in Deauville, France.
The British team, comprised of Anne Dunham, Deb Criddle, Sophie Wells and Heather Bennett, took the top spot with a score of 72.979 per cent, edging The Netherlands (71.825 per cent). Denmark followed up with 68.943 per cent.
The event – held at the venue of the FEI European Para-Equestrian Dressage Championships (17-20 September), an important Rio 2016 qualifier – saw competitors from across Europe and as far as Singapore and Brazil compete over three days.
Britain’s Paralympic, World and European medallist Sophie Wells took a double victory in the individual tests, riding Valerius. In the Grade IV competition, Wells won both the individual and freestyle competitions, scoring 74.714 and 79.550, respectively, ahead of The Netherlands’ Frank Hosmar on Alphaville NOP and Denmark’s Line Kongensgaard on Den Laponio.
The Grade Ia tests saw a heated battle between Britain’s multi-gold medallist Dunham and one of Singapore’s most decorated athletes Laurentia Tan. Dunham, riding LJT Lucas Normark, took the individual test (76.217). Tan, on Ruben James 2, finished next with 75.913.
But Tan nabbed gold in the freestyle, outscoring Dunham 79 to 75.900. Latvia’s Richards Snikus was third in both the Grade la and freestyle tests, riding King of the Dance.
Austria’s Pepo Puch got his year off to a good start with victories in both Grade Ib tests. Riding Fine Feeling S, Puch scored 76.310 in the individual test and 78.400 in the freestyle. The Netherlands’ Nicole Den Dulk was second in both events on Wallace and third in the individual test on her second horse Fifty-Fifty. Ireland’s Breda Bernie came third in the Freestyle on Master Mexico.
Grade II’s double 2015 World Champion Rixt Van Der Horst of The Netherlands was also in fine form, taking both tests in her Grade, riding Uniek N.O.P. to score 73.914 and 78.250, respectively. In both events, Van Der Horst beat Denmark’s Caroline Cecilie Nielsen on Den Leon and Ireland’s Kate Kerr Horan on Arlande into second and third place respectively.
"The competition was a good start to the season and a good test for the Europeans later this year,” Van der Horst said. “I'm very happy with the progress of Uniek N.O.P. and we are in shape. We also had a good team vibe, and that's very important when you want to perform. I'm very happy with my tests. Two firsts and a second place in the team championship, very special.
“It's very important to have a good start to the year,” Van der Horst added. “After Doha (Qatar) earlier this year, this was my second international competition. It's good to get in the rhythm and see where you are standing and what we can improve. 2015 is the year before Rio, but no less important are the Europeans later this year. I'm hoping to get in the Dutch team, so I can ride in my first Europeans.”
The Grade III tests featured double wins for Denmark’s Susanne Sunesen, riding Thy’s Que Faire. Sunesen scored 72.634 in the individual test and 72.800 in the freestyle. Great Britain’s Heather Bennett on Zavalantika took runner up in the freestyle (70.300), while The Netherlands’ Ilona Goes on Zalisto was third (69.900).
In the individual test, The Netherlands’ Lotte Krijnsen took second on Rosenstolz (70.488), and Great Britain’s Criddle on LJT Bacchus took third (68.585).