Britain continued its reign as European, World and Paralympic Team champions at the FEI Para-Equestrian Dressage European Championships 2015 in Deauville in France on Saturday following stunning individual performances from its team members.
The team of Lee Pearson, Sophie Wells, Sophie Christiansen and Anne Dunham scored 451.146% over two days of competition to claim gold ahead of the Netherlands in silver (439.425%), and bronze medallists Germany (432.557%).
The spoils from the five individual titles were shared between Great Britain, The Netherlands, Germany, and Austria.
Great Britain head the medal table after the first round of presentations with two golds and four silvers. The Netherlands are close behind with two golds, one silver and one bronze, with Germany in third with one gold and three bronzes.
On Sunday the top seven riders in each Grade performing to music in the freestyle competition. The dancing horses always attract a good following, and after Saturday’s results it is shaping up to be another amazing competition.
In the Grade IV Individual competition an emotional Frank Hosmar of The Netherlands won his first major gold medal after a succession of silvers and bronzes. Riding Alphaville N.O.P. to score 73.524%, Hosmar took the title ahead of Great Britain’s Sophie Wells and Germany’s Carolin Schnarre.
Speaking after his win Hosmar said: “So many times I’ve had bronze and silver and now finally there is gold. It means a lot, which is why I was so emotional. We’re building up and building up and finally it’s coming together.”
The Netherlands also took the first gold of the day in the Grade II competition. Rixt Van Der Horst, making her European Championships debut, scored 75.543% for the win with Uniek N.O.P. ahead of Great Britain’s Natasha Baker, and Germany’s Steffen Zeibeg, claiming his first major competition medal in 18 years.
A clearly delighted Van Der Horst said: “I’m very excited and very happy and it went perfectly. My best ever. It was a really good score, although there were a few little mistakes. I was nervous, I don’t know why. Yesterday I was really relaxed, but today you know you can get that medal and you really want it.”
Great Britain stormed back to the top of the podium in the Grade Ia competition with multi-European, World and Paralympic gold medallist Sophie Christiansen on Athene Lindebjerg taking the title with a huge 79.565%, the highest score of the day and the first major international title for this new combination. In second place was Christiansen’s teammate Anne Dunham while the bronze went to Germany’s Elke Phillip.
After shedding a few happy tears Christiansen said: “Literally when they told me the result I cried because I’ve had so much change recently (she has started riding a new horse with a new coach in the past 12 months). I’m so proud of my whole team for coming together and they’re amazing and the horse is just phenomenal. Yesterday we were both a bit nervous of our first major championships but today I knew she would be fine and we were really relaxed. I could tell because her ears were flopping and she was happy.”
The form book was spot on in the Grade III competition, where Germany’s reigning European, World and Paralympic Individual champion Hannelore Brenner confidently defend her title on Women of the World with a score of 72.732%, ahead of Denmark’s Susanne Sunesen, and The Netherlands’ Lotte Krijnsen, taking part in her first major championship.
After her ride Brenner said: “I feel very good, fine and happy. My mare is 20 years old now and she is so wonderful and it was really wonderful to ride her. She is so happy to be with us around the world, she is a real competition horse. It’s my eighth European gold medal now I think. ”
Later in the afternoon there were tears of happiness too from Austria’s Pepo Puch after he took the Grade Ib title on Fine Feeling S with a score of 74.552% ahead of Great Britain’s Paralympic superstar Lee Pearson, and The Netherlands’ Nicole Den Dulk. Puch’s win was made even more special as it came just 48 hours after his horse was held over for re-inspection at the first day’s horse inspection that signals the start of all FEI competitions.
Clearly overwhelmed by his victory he said: “It’s unbelievable, I cannot breathe. It’s so emotional for me, especially with a really grumpy start. The mare was so spot on today I can’t really talk. She was really carrying me, it was great. It’s a gold now and it’s unbelievable. We’re a strong team here with four riders and my groom Veronica, who has been with me for 10 years now. It’s a whole team and I am just the smallest point.”
Reporting: Rob Howell