London 2012 gold medallist Baker to ride new horse in para-equestrian meeting in Waregem, Belgium

Competition opportunity for riders to earn points toward Rio 2016 23 Apr 2015
Nathan Baker at London 2012

Natasha Baker of Great Britain won gold in the Dressage Individual Freestyle Test, Grade II in the Equestrain at the London 2012 Paralympic Games

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By Rob Howell | For the IPC

Great Britain’s Natasha Baker will get to put her new horse to the test just in time as the 2015 Para-equestrian dressage season gets into full swing.

The London 2012 Paralympic gold medallist will ride Sooki St. James this weekend (23-24 April), when some 34 top riders from around the world will gather in Waregem, Belgium.

The three-star competition will allow riders to campaign for ranking points toward the Rio 2016 Paralympics.

Baker can normally be found riding Cabral (known as JP) but has often talked about Sooki St. James as a horse she is keen to develop as her main horse to replace the slightly older Cabral.

She has said before that Sooki’s potential is unlike any she has seen and how she believes the horse can be para-equestrian dressage’s equal to current World, European, World Cup and Olympic Dressage champion Charlotte Dujardin’s Valegro.

“It’s the first time Sooki has travelled to another country and she’s settled in really well and feels good,” Baker said. “My aim for the weekend is to give her some experience of competition at this level, and if we get a win as well, then that would be great. I’m also trying out a new freestyle routine for the first time in a few years. It’s set to music from my favourite film The Holiday, so it will be interesting to see what the judges make of it.”

Among the other big names taking part are double World and Paralympic gold medallist and home favourite Michelé George; double Beijing 2008 gold medallist Philippa Johnson-Dwyer of South Africa; the Netherlands’ medal winning Nicole Den Dulk; and Ireland’s London 2012 Team bronze medallist James Dwyer.

The competition has also attracted riders from as far afield as the US Virgin Islands, the USA, Norway, Israel, Hong Kong, France and Finland.

The competition replaces the former contest held in Moorsele, Belgium and is the latest three-star event – the second in Europe. Waregem is to the west of Brussels and has a strong equestrian heritage, being home to one of Belgium’s premier racecourses.