Orange is the new gold at Para-Equestrian European Championships

The Netherlands top European powerhouse Great Britain in the medals tables at the Championships. 21 Sep 2015
The Netherlands’ Frank Hosmar

The Netherlands’ Frank Hosmar continued his excellent weekend by taking his first major championship freestyle gold in the Grade IV competition with Alphaville N.O.P. to help the Dutch to the top of the medal table.

ⒸJon Stroud/FEI
By Robert Howell | For the IPC

“So many times I’ve had bronze and silver and now finally there is gold.”

The Netherlands became the first team to top the medals table ahead of Great Britain at a major global para-equestrian Championships over the weekend (18-20 September).

The Dutch stormed to four golds, one silver and four bronze medals at the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) Para-Equestrian European Dressage Championships in Deauville, France. Great Britain closed out with three golds and eight silvers, compared to the seven golds they won at the 2013 edition in Herning, Denmark.

The Dutch especially saw success from defending world champion Rixt Van Der Horst, who won both the individual and freestyle titles in the grade II competition. Riding Uniek N.O.P., she bumped Great Britain’s Natasha Baker into second place and Germany’s Steffen Zeibig into third in both competitions.

Fellow Dutch teammate Frank Hosmar won his first gold medals at a major Championship event in the individual and freestyle grade IV competitions.

“So many times I’ve had bronze and silver and now finally there is gold,” said Hosmar after his individual title win. “It means a lot which is why I was so emotional. We’re building-up and building-up and finally it’s coming together.”

Great Britain won the overall team competition thanks to stunning performances from grade Ia riders Sophie Christiansen and Anne Dunham, as well as good scores from Lee Pearson and Sophie Wells. The British team finished ahead of the Netherlands and Germany, who took silver and bronze, respectively.

Christiansen successfully defended her European individual and freestyle titles in the grade Ia contest, handing rival and teammate Dunham the silver medal both times. Germany’s Elke Phillip took the bronze in the individual test. Meanwhile, Italy’s world freestyle champion and individual silver medallist Sara Morganti took bronze in the freestyle.

“I came out of the arena thinking I could not ask [my horse] Athene for any more,” Christiansen said. “She was absolutely fab and she doesn’t really like noise and music, so I was a bit wary of today. She’s amazing and even if I hadn’t won, I couldn’t have done anymore. That makes it 21 gold medals now at World, European and Paralympic levels. I’m still yet to beat Lee Pearson though.”

The grade III contest was dominated by German para-equestrian superstar Hannelore Brenner, who successfully defended her European individual title and went on to win her first freestyle title in six years. Both times, she was ahead of Denmark’s Susanne Sunesen, who took the silver medals, and Dutch rider Lotte Krijnsen, who won double bronze at her major international competition debut.

Possibly the most emotional winner of the weekend was Austria’s Pepo Puch, the London 2012 gold medallist, multi-World medallist and defending European individual and freestyle champion. Puch had a bad start to the week when his horse Fine Feeling S was held over for re-inspection. But Puch went on to win both titles ahead of Pearson, who took double-silver. The Netherlands’ Nicole Den Dulk won both bronze medals.

“It’s so emotional for me especially after a really grumpy start,” Puch said. “The mare was so on spot [Sunday]... She was really carrying me; it was great. It’s a gold now, and it’s unbelievable.”

The 70-plus riders who competed at these European Championships will now wait to see what their results do to their world ranking points in the lead-up to Rio 2016. Complete results of the FEI European Para-Equestrian Dressage Championships can be found on the event website.