Herning 2022: Medal flurry for GBR on final day of Para World Championships

  • Written By: British Dressage | Joanna Bowns
  • Published: Sun, 14 Aug 2022 19:00 GMT

After accomplishing the mission of Paris 2024 qualification, British para riders returned to the BB Horse Arena today to round off Herning 2022 with an outstanding campaign in the final race for individual medal glory. The Grade II Freestyle saw Sir Lee Pearson take silver and Georgia Wilson bring home bronze, while Natasha Baker and Sophie Wells each won the bronze medal in their respective grades.

Grade II Freestyle podium

On this closing day of the ECCO FEI World Championships, the Orifarm Healthcare FEI World Para Dressage Championships reached its conclusion with the final round of competition, the Freestyle, and another five sets of FEI medals on offer.

Grade II riders Sir Lee Pearson and Georgia Wilson, who both pulled solid scores towards Britain’s team total earlier in the week, continued Great Britain’s fantastic 2022 World Championships. Each riding medal-winning freestyle tests today, they took silver and bronze respectively to add to the nation’s already handsome medal tally.

Drawn third to go, Georgia Wilson and the delightful British-bred chestnut mare Sakura (pictured below), who she co-owns with Geoff and Julie Wilson, showed all the qualities that earned them a double of individual bronze medals in Tokyo. Riding to an upbeat compilation of tracks featuring instrumental covers of Banners’ Someone to You and Ellie Goulding’s Love Me Like You Do, Georgia and ‘Suki’ rode a confident and clean test, showing super balance and fluency. A score of 75.834% put them firmly in the provisional lead and ultimately gained them the bronze medal.

Georgia Wilson and Sakura

“It was really good, I was delighted with her (Sakura),” enthused Georgia afterwards. “I was a bit behind my music because I’ve started to develop and collect the trot a bit more, but I managed to make up the ground, and she felt amazing. She’s very willing – probably a bit too eager at times!

“I now feel like I want to start it all over again as she’s just got better and better this week!” she reflected. “But it’s time to go home and get better, then come back again next year. She’s only eight, and I’ve got to keep thinking that. As she gets stronger, the trot will get better, which is exciting to think about.”

On hearing that she’d won bronze, Georgia’s reaction was, “It feels amazing! I didn’t think I would end up getting a medal, but yes, I’m very happy to go home with Suki and a medal! To get 75% at a World Championships… I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

About her music, she said, “I love my music and it gets in everybody’s heads. Last night, I stupidly listened to it before going to bed and I couldn’t sleep at all!

Lee, with his homebred 11-year-old gelding Breezer (by Bacardi), once again showed his class and exemplary championship mindset to add today’s World Championships Grade II Freestyle silver medal to the Individual bronze medal he claimed four days ago.

Sir Lee Pearson and Breezer

Breezer (pictured above) has been on his toes this week in the buzzy ambience of the BB Horse Arena, and with many visitors flocking arena-side today, the atmosphere was charged. Riding with his great calm and focus, Lee once again gave his talented gelding the confidence to perform. Riding to a compelling arrangement of music from the Kung Fu Panda soundtrack, this combination showed super expression and power, paired with great regularity. A big smile from Lee after his final halt, and a wave to the crowd, was followed by the announcement of 77.860% to propel them into provisional silver, and as the class unfolded, that was where they were to remain.

So, how does it feel to have won the Grade II Freestyle silver medal? “It feels remarkable, because I was quite adamant I wouldn’t win gold, so to me this silver is my gold. He (Breezer) has got spectacular trot work, but we’re aware that the walk needs to be more supple, even when he's relaxed, and with the great audiences we’ve had, that just heightens his walk a little bit.

“So, I love my horse, like I do anyway, and I was pleased with the way I rode. There’s nothing worse as a rider than to be disappointed with your own riding, but I think I rode every inch of that test, and thoroughly enjoyed it! I’m really pleased.”

About his music, Lee explained, “It’s still my Tokyo music! I’m so lazy with all the technical stuff - I just ride, and I train. My intention was to change it to something Danish, but I forgot until about a week before coming here – so I thought “Tokyo music it is!"

“It’s Kung Fu Panda. The judges really like the walk section of the music. They’ve inferred that perhaps they’d like different trot music, but I like the comparison. The trot is very powerful, and that’s they way I have to ride. When you haven’t got much use of your legs, you have to create the horse and encourage the horse to be more in front of you. So, I enjoy the trot work. Maybe if we get selected for Paris 2024 we’ll have to have something French-inspired!

“I’m very grateful for being here,” said Lee, summing up his Herning experience. “They’ve made a real effort to bring audiences. As you’ve seen, a lot of the para horses are nervous of audiences, so it needs to happen. It’s nice to show off what we do and how amazingly talented and inspiring the other riders are, plus the competition has been fierce, which is really good.”

The home nation’s Katrine Kristensen with the Quaterback son Goerklintgaards Quater, winners of Individual gold on Wednesday, achieved a score of 80.354% for a fabulous test to claim the Grade II Freestyle gold medal for Denmark. Meanwhile Austria’s Individual silver medallist Pepo Puch with Sailor’s Blue (by Swarovski) were always going to be ones to watch for clinching a podium place, but some costly spookiness kept their final score in check, and they had to settle for seventh.

Natasha Baker

In the Grade III division, Natasha Baker (pictured above) and Keystone Dawn Chorus (by Dimaggio), who is owned by Joanna Jensen, Christian Landolt, Lorraine and Phil Baker, and Natasha herself, continued their super week. Winner of Individual silver on Thursday, the talented duo have certainly shown their star quality, despite Natasha only being back in the saddle for a fortnight prior to the championships due to a persistent chest infection.

Drawn sixth to go on the start-list, Natasha and “Lottie” experienced a tense moment when Natasha caught the letter marker with her foot when entering at A, but they kept their composure well and Lottie didn’t miss a beat. Riding to a beautiful, emotive music arrangement, their test featured balanced simple changes and leg yields, impressive lines of medium trot, and a silk-smooth four loop serpentine. An overall consistent test, with the mare showing increased confidence, was justly awarded with a cracking score of 76.620% slotting them straight into provisional silver, and ultimately bronze.

“She went in there and she looked after me today. It was absolutely amazing,” said Natasha. “I had a pretty hot horse in the warm-up today - at one point I wasn’t sure even if I would be able to handle her in the arena - but I went in, and even after pulling the arena marker over, she was just amazing. She was ‘with’ me, and she looked after me today.

“It was not our best test in the world, but I’m incredibly proud. If anything, she was so much happier in there than she was in the warm-up, so that’s given me so much confidence, so I’m very grateful to have that.”

Last but by no means least was Denmark’s newest star Tobias Thorning Jørgensen (22) and the delightful grey mare Jolene Hill. This combination, who won double individual gold in Tokyo, pulled out all the stops today to post a record-breaking 86.513% Grade III Freestyle. Entering, of course, to Dolly Parton’s Jolene, their performance married exemplary harmony and ease of performing the movements, with lovely expression. Set to a Camila Cabello (Havana) and Josh Vietti (Give Me Everything) compilation, the flawless programme brought the elated home crowd to their feet when the gold medal-winning score was announced.

Grade V Freestyle podium

A competitive start to the Grade V class saw strong scores posted by the home nation’s Nicole Johnsen with Moromax (74.290%) and Sweden’s Lena Malmström with Fabulous Fidelie (73.070%). Drawn fifth to go, Sophie Wells with her Tokyo ride, Rowland and Maria Kinch’s Don Cara M, however, took the competition to another level.

Sophie, who won double gold at Tryon in 2018 with C Fatal Attraction, and Individual silver and Freestyle fourth in Tokyo with Don Cara M, has an incredible competition mindset under pressure, as was shown yesterday in the team competition.

Today, she showed that calm determination once again, riding with great intelligence to produce an expressive performance to an instrumental collection featuring music from The Greatest Showman and Coldplay, expertly produced by music maestro Tom Hunt. An impressive test, pairing elegance and power, took her into the lead by a plus-5% margin on a cracking score of 79.255%. The emotion shown on Sophie’s face after she’d concluded her test said it all.

“The trot just felt amazing. He was on another level today,” enthused Sophie. “If I can get that and keep it consistently through the straight tests, he’s got so much potential, but I don’t want to ask too much too soon and lose his confidence as it’s taken so long to get him confident. He’s far exceeded last year [Tokyo] on every test.

“When he first went in and everyone clapped, he was like ‘okay, it’s fine’, then really knuckled down again and that’s amazing. Everyone has had to cope with the crowds and stuff, but it’s part of a championship isn’t it. We have the extra buzz there, so for him to cope with that, that’s great. Last year in Tokyo, it went really quite wrong, and we’ve done loads and loads of work on it, and to get 6% more today is just fab. I know there’s loads more in there as well."

About her performance and music choice, Sophie said, “His suppleness in his lateral work, when he’s really good, is so expressive, and obviously the extended trots are really good. Because he's such an elegant horse, we wanted to pick the right music - music that enhanced his elegance and didn’t overpower him. It’s not beaty music, it’s not party music, but we’re going for a slightly different theme there with him.

“I was listening to it before I got on, and I was like I don’t know if I need to stop listening to it because I was getting goosebumps already! I’m not sure if that’s the right thing to have before I go for a test!

“I’m thrilled with him. Honest to God, I never thought I’d get to a place where if I didn’t win gold on the first day, it actually didn’t matter. I literally had no disappointment inside of me when I found that out and that’s really nice. Of course, I’m still competitive, but I’ve got so many more important things than that now. Yes, I will obviously be driving to be the best I can be and show him off to the best of his ability, and with any other horses, but it’s not necessarily about the medals at the end of the day, and that’s just a really nice place to be.” 

The Netherlands’ team gold medallist Frank Hosmar with Alphaville N.O.P., the penultimate combination to go, went one better than his Individual bronze on Friday with Grade V Freestyle silver today. A beautifully expressive performance to the sounds of Grace Jones’ Slave to the Rhythm and Soft Cell’s Tainted Love attracted plenty of good marks for a score total of 80.775% to take the provisional lead. The Dutch duo were bettered only by the last combination down the centre line, Michèle George with wonder mare Best of 8. The Belgian Individual gold medal winners wowed again today dancing to the Pointer Sisters, Gloria Estefan and Paul Young to earn a winning 82.860%.

With Britain's para dressage athletes bringing the curtain down on Herning 2022, we're celebrating a momentous week for British dressage with ten FEI World Championships medals on the board: two gold, four silver and four bronze.

Congratulations and thanks go to all the athletes, grooms, owners, and all the wider support networks working tirelessly behind the scenes.

Orifarm Healthcare FEI World Para Dressage Individual Championship presented by JYSK
Grade II Freestyle
1. Katrine Kristensen and Goerklintgaards Quater, 80.354% (DEN)
2. Lee Pearson and Breezer, 77.860% (GBR)
3. Georgia Wilson and Sakura, 75.834% (GBR)
4. Heidemarie Dresing and La Boum, 73.454% (GER)
5. Beatrice de Lavalette and Sixth Sense, 72.107% (USA)
6. Celine Gerny and Rhapsodie IFCE, 71.953% (FRA)
7. Pepo Puch and Sailor’s Blue, 69.826% (AUT)
8. Gianna Regenbrecht and Fuesrt Sinclair, 63.180% (GER)

Orifarm Healthcare FEI World Para Dressage Individual Championship presented by JYSK
Grade III Freestyle
1. Tobias Thorning Jørgensen and Jolene Hill, 86.513% (DEN)
2. Lotte Krijnsen and Rosenstolz, 76.673% (NED)
3. Natasha Baker and Keystone Dawn Chorus, 76.620% (GBR)
4. Karla Dyhm-Junge and Miss Daisy, 76.600% (DEN)
5. Chiara Zenati and Swing Royal IFCE, 74.120% (FRA)
6. Roberta Sheffield and Fairuza, 72.800% (CAN)
7. Rebecca Hart and El Corona Texel, 72.080% (USA)
8. Emma Booth and Fürst Deluxe, 72.033% (AUS)

Orifarm Healthcare FEI World Para Dressage Individual Championship presented by JYSK
Grade V Freestyle
1. Michèle George and Best of 8, 82.860% (BEL)
2. Frank Hosmar and Alphaville N.O.P., 80.775% (NED)
3. Sophie Wells and Don Cara M, 79.255% (GBR)
4. Regine Mispelkamp and Highlande Delight’s, 77.060% (GER)
5. Nicole Johnsen and Moromax, 74.290% (DEN)
6. Lena Malmström and Fabulous Fidelie, 73.070% (SWE)
7. Kevin van Ham and Eros Van Ons Heem, 71.290% (BEL)
8. Stine Skillebekk and Calique V, 70.775% (NOR)


Photo © Kevin Sparrow