With all the Para Dressage individual test titles now decided, The Netherlands sits comfortably on top of the medal table with two golds, a bronze and a silver, having won a medal in every class in which it has competed. Great Britain lies second with one gold and one silver, with Denmark third with a gold and bronze.
Denmark’s Stinna Tange Kaastrup made her global breakthrough with her mount Horsebo Smarties, taking gold in the Grade II Individual competition.
Kaastrup, a double bronze medallist at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio, has medalled at four European championships, and is celebrating her first world title. She rode Horsebo Smarties to score 72.735% ahead of Austria’s multi world, European and Paralympic champion Pepo Puch, who scored 72.676% on Sailor’s Blue. The Netherlands’ Nicole den Dulk came third, on Wallace N.O.P. with 70.735%.
Speaking after the medal ceremony, and holding her medal tightly, an emotional Tange Kaastrup said: “It’s beautiful isn’t it? I really love that horse so much. To be able to share this with him means a lot, it really does. It really hit me in there [at the medal ceremony] when he came in. We have such a special bond.”
Tange Kaastrup’s win is even more impressive given a slight stumble in her test when she forgot one of the moves and had to restart, costing her two marks. “I was really affected by the heat. We trained in t-shirts in all the training sessions and then I had to put the coat on today and it put me under a lot of pressure because it was so warm. I lost focus a little because of it and I am annoyed about that.”
Dutch rider Sanne Voets got her WEG off to the best start by winning her first global individual title. Riding Demantur N.O.P., she scored 73.927%, ahead of Brazil’s Rodolpho Riskalla and Don Henrico with 73.366%. Denmark’s Susanne Jensby Sunesen on CSK’s Que Faire took the bronze with 73.146%.
Voets, the current world and Paralympic freestyle champion, was the first rider in the arena in her grade: “Nobody wants to be the first to go but it doesn’t change the job, you just have to do what you do and do it best, I think we smashed it. The first bit is done, we’ve started now so let’s rock and rumble for the rest of the week.”
Great Britain’s Sophie Wells took gold in the Grade V competition, in which she was also the first into the arena. Her score, on C Fatal Attraction, of 75.429% – the highest of the day – was comfortably enough to knock The Netherlands’ Frank Hosmar into second, riding Alphaville N.O.P. to 73.167%. Germany’s Regine Mispelkamp took the bronze, riding Look at Me Now and scoring 71.452%, at her first ever international competition.
Well’s team mate, the multi Paralympic, world and European champion Lee Pearson added to the drama of the day in the Grade II competition when he retired his horse, Styletta, around half way through his test. “Styletta seems to be struggling a bit with the humidity here. She’s only nine years old. She’s a spectacularly powerful horse and each day she’s been here she’s been feeling like she’s struggling a bit with the weather.
“I didn’t want to retire. I’m passionate about doing my best in the arena for my country but felt that it was the right thing to do.”
Retiring from the individual contest rules Pearson out of Saturday’s freestyle competition but he remains scheduled to ride in the team competition. His withdrawal will cause some concern in the British camp though, as they have yet to be beaten in the team competition at European, world or Paralympics level, and need a top three finish to guarantee a place at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
Italy’s Sara Morganti riding Royal Delight, upgraded her WEG 2014 Grade Ia individual silver to a gold in Grade I in this week’s competition. The combination scored 74.740%, finishing ahead of Singapore’s Laurentia Tan, who scored 73.750% on Fuerst Sherlock. Having led almost from the start of the competition until Morganti and Tan were the last two to ride, Germany’s Elke Philipp won the bronze medal, with 73.143% on Fuerst Sinclair.
Morganti’s win is extra sweet coming, as it does, after a difficult couple of years. At the Rio 2016 Games she was a favourite for a medal only to have Royal Delight be judged not fit to ride at the vet inspection, a decision which left her ‘devastated’.
Speaking after a tearful medal ceremony she said: “I feel so happy. I had some health issues and, for a moment, I thought I couldn’t come here but I wanted to so much for my horse and my trainer. We really wanted to do something good and even just to be here was great – but to win gold is a dream.”
And having shared a podium with Tan and Philipp, she added: “They are all wonderful riders that I love very much and I’m so happy to be on the podium with them. They have beautiful horses. I cried and I’m crying quite a lot. I can’t even imagine my family at home. My husband and my sister are here and all my family – my mum, my dad, my brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews are all together at home to watch it on TV.”
Rixt van der Horst successfully defended her individual title from Normandy 2014, riding her new horse, Findsley, scoring 73.735% to finish comfortably ahead of Great Britain’s Rio 2016 triple gold medallist Natasha Baker, who rode Mount Saint John Diva Dannebrog to 72.471%, whilst Rebecca Hart (USA) finished with 71.618%, riding El Corona Texel. It was the Team USA’s first ever WEG medal.
After collecting her medal, a grinning van der Horst said: “I am really thrilled. It is so amazing to be world champion again, I am really happy. During my test I didn’t realise it was that good, I wasn’t thinking about it so it’s just amazing. In the beginning I was nervous but I relaxed during the test and it got better and better. I was just enjoying my ride.”
Like Great Britain’s Baker, van der Horst has only been riding her horse since the start of the year and, while competitive, wasn’t sure she would defend her title. “I hoped for this,” she added, “and to be at WEG, but to get a gold medal is a dream come true again.”
An emotional Hart celebrated a bronze which clearly meant the world to her having previously been fourth at the 2010 WEG in Lexington, Kentucky, and again at 2012’s London Paralympic Games. “It feels amazing, I love it,” she exclaimed. “I’m finally not the bridesmaid. I’ve been crying for the last hour and to be able to do in on home turf with my family watching and to be the US’s first WEG medal ever. This won’t be coming off my around my neck for a long time.”