Waregem draws international para-equestrian riders

One of the biggest competitions ahead of the Rio 2016 Games fields potential Paralympic podium finishers. 21 Apr 2016
Woman riding a horse

South Africa's Philippa Johnson-Dwyer riding her horse Lord Louis during the para-equestrian dressage competition on April 2016 in Deauville, France.

ⒸSimon Photo/Concours Para-équestre de Dressage International
By Rob Howell | For the IPC

Riders and horses from 20 countries from as far as Australia, the Virgin Islands, South Africa, Japan, Brazil and Uruguay have joined the more familiar European countries in Waregem, Belgium, for Quadrille, the second major European international para-equestrian dressage event of the year. The competition kicks off Friday (22 April) and runs until Sunday 24 (April).

With 30 nations already confirmed for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, riders and their horses are now seeking selection to represent their National Paralympic Committees (NPCs) in Rio, as they have until 19 June to attain a minimum eligibility score.

South Africa’s Philippa Johnson-Dwyer and her horse Lord Louis will look to build on her three wins (team, individual and freestyle grade III) from Deauville, France, earlier in April. Meanwhile two of Great Britain’s biggest para-equestrian dressage stars – Natasha Baker and Lee Pearson – will be making their first forays into a major international competition of the year.

For Pearson, riding Zion, the grade Ib competition will bring a rematch with two of his closest rivals – Austria’s Pepo Puch and the Netherlands Nicole Den Dulk – for the first time since the 2015 International Equestrian Federation (FEI) Para-Equestrian Dressage European Championships. That was when Puch took both individual titles ahead of Pearson and Den Dulk. A resurge from Great Britain’s Ricky Balshaw , on LJT Engaards Solitaire, is expected, making for an interesting showing from the Beijing 2008 silver medallist.

In the grade Ia competition, Great Britain’s Sophie Christiansen will ride her London 2012 winning horse Janeiro. Christiansen’s other horse, Athene, is not competing, continuing the question of which horse she will take to the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. Similarly, teammate Baker is riding her London 2012 champion Cabral in the grade II competition, having competed regularly on newer ride Sooki St James.

Singapore’s Laurentia Tan will compete on Ruben James in the grade Ia contest to give Christiansen a run for her money, while the grade II contest also sees the likes of Germany’s Angelika Trabert and the USA’s Rebecca Hart in contention for the podium.

Reigning world and Paralympic champion Michele George will be the one to watch in the grade IV contest, where she rides Kingsley Lucky Dance at her home competition.

The countries being represented in Waregem are: Norway, Canada, Austria, Belgium, France, South Africa, the USA, Uruguay, Australia, the Virgin Islands, Saudi Arabia, Denmark, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Japan, Ireland, Finland, Singapore, Germany and Brazil. Eighteen of the 20 nations have earned spots in Rio 2016.

The competition starts with the team tests on Friday, followed by the individual competition on Saturday (23 April), and the freestyle on Sunday (24 April). Quadrille can be followed on the event website and on Facebook.