World Equestrian Games: Para-Equestrian Dressage
last updated on July 13, 2010 17:56
There is one sport where Great Britain can rightly claim the title of the best in the world – Para-Equestrian Dressage. Since equestrian events were first added to the Paralympics in 1996, Great Britain has dominated the sport with an impressive medal tally, while maintaining the team gold position.
The British Equestrian Federation’s (BEF) UK Sport funded World Class Programme which aims to provide a system that delivers more medals on the international stage (now and in the future), has a huge impact in ensuring the continued success of the squad and nurturing up and coming talent.
This year para-equestrian dressage will, for the first time, be included in the World Equestrian Games (WEG). The British para-equestrian dressage team will join other Team GBR members to compete in Kentucky, USA, together with seven other disciplines.
David Hunter, performance manager for the para-equestrian dressage team, discusses his hopes and aspirations as the Games draw closer.
“Our first WEG promises to be both fun and challenging. It’s a whole new beast to us, but one which we’re certainly ready to take on. Our unrivalled track record obviously fills us with confidence as we look ahead at the competition, but at the same time we know there’s no room for complacency. And there’s still a long time to go before the competition – with the usual added pressures of keeping both horses and riders fit.
“Our aim is to maintain our team gold medal position, while clinching individual medals across the grades too. Topping the 10 medals at the last Paralympics will take some beating though. WEG is also our chance to secure qualification of a fifth rider spot for the Paralympic Games in 2012, we receive four places as the host nation but add an extra place if we finish in the top three as a team.
“Also we can’t neglect the competition. Some of our European neighbours – namely the Danes, the Germans, and the Dutch – are hot on our heels, with confident and capable riders across the grades, and they are sure to give us a run for our money!
Ones to watch
“Team selection will take place after 17th July – choosing those riders to represent their nation across the pond will be no easy task, as we are in the enviable position of having a wealth of talent to pick from. Those that do make it onto the squad though will have justified their selection through their hard work and individual successes.
“The riders on the World Class Programme encompass both a mixture of experience and youth – with the likes of Lee Pearson CBE and the up and coming Development rider Emma Sheardown.
“Having Lee - the World’s most successful Paralympic dressage rider (his impressive medal tally stands at 24 golds since starting international para-equestrian dressage competitions in 1998) on the squad is fantastic. His wealth of experience adds enormous benefit – both in terms of results, but also in helping to support the other, less experienced members of the squad. He’s also in the fortunate position that he has two horses who are both performing really well at the moment.
“Over the last couple of years Emma Sheardown (pictured above) has really shone – she’s just returned victorious from the Para National Dressage Championship and is giving both Sophie Christiansen and Anne Dunham serious competition in the grade 1a classes. It’s great to have Anne back fit and competitively keen after some time off with ill health following the Beijing Paralymic Games in 2008, (where she was part of the gold winning medal team). Her performance at Hickstead (second to Emma) proves she’s still very much in contention, and at 61 this is particularly inspiring. And despite her youth, Sophie Christiansen also has a wealth of experience at International level with an impressive tally of championship and Paralympic gold medals. All in all, selectors will have their work cut out choosing riders from this grade.
“At the other end of the scale Sophie Wells (grade IV) is clearly demonstrating her capabilities both as a leading para and able bodied dressage rider, having just been selected as a reserve for the British Dressage European Championships Young Rider team.”
Seven riders will be selected and will travel out to Kentucky – four of whom will compete in the team competition. Those four team riders do not have to be named until just before the competition begins on 5 October – giving some breathing space for any last minute alterations. The team must include at least one grade Ia, Ib or II rider and cannot include more than three riders in any one grade. The best three scores from the competitors are then combined with the highest total score winning. Each of the seven riders also competes in two individual competitions, a championship and freestyle class for each grade.
The competition runs from 5 – 9 October.
A World Equestrian Games includes the eight disciplines of dressage, eventing, showjumping, para-equestrian dressage, driving, endurance, reining and vaulting. The Olympic and Paralympic sports are generously supported by lottery funding via UK Sport, but the non-Olympic sports of driving, endurance, reining and vaulting, although supported where possible by the World Class Programme, do not receive direct funding for the event.
> Find out how you can support the teams by visiting the official Team GBR website
> Hartpury CPEDI, Glos, taking place this week, provides the final team selection trial for our para-equestrian riders. Find out how they're getting on by visiting the Hartpury Festival of Dressage website
> Visit the WEG website here