Paras impress at Equissage Pulse Para Gold Semi-Finals
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New and established para dressage pairings took centre stage during the first three days of the Wellington International Festival of Dressage in Heckfield, Hampshire (05 – 11 June 2023).
The Waterloo Arena 1 was the setting for the Festival of Para Dressage classes, including the Equissage Pulse Para Gold Semi-Finals on Thursday, which attracted many exciting combinations looking to secure a coveted place at the LeMieux National Championships at Somerford Park in September.
The new partnership of Mari Durward-Akhurst (29) and Di Redfern’s Athene Lindebjerg (Gribaldi x Diamant) - pictured above - took a commanding lead to win the Grade I Equissage Pulse Para Gold Semi-Final. Mari, from Buckinghamshire, and her ride of just six months displayed their potential with a convincing win in the Grade I Grand Prix B.
The 16-year-old Danish mare, who won gold with Sophie Christiansen at the 2015 European Championships and at Rio 2016, and gold with Julie Payne at the 2017 European Championships, was skilfully piloted by Mari to post a winning 72.292% and comfortably secure a spot at the National Championships later this year.
Buckinghamshire-based Mari, who has cerebral palsy, was on the silver medal-winning British team at the 2019 European Championships, riding Sky O’Hara, and she trains with Rob Waine. She and Athene Lindebjerg also won the Grade I Grand Prix A earlier in the week alongside Susanna Wade and Zaire LH who shared the top spot on 68.264%.
Having already claimed Wednesday’s Grade II Grand Prix A, Georgia Wilson (27) and her Tokyo and World Championship partner, Sakura (pictured below), were victorious in the Grade II Semi-Final. The nine-year-old chestnut mare Sakura (Rockstar x Supertramp), who Georgia co-owns with her parents, Geoff and Julie Wilson, was bred by Geri Eilberg, and has partnered Georgia since 2020.
The winning contenders, from Conwy in Wales, earned a super score of 71.833% in the Grade II Grand Prix B from judges Anne Prain (E), Ineke Jansen (C) and Mary Robins (M) to take the class ahead of the runner-up duo of Natasha Adkinson and Sweet Caledonia.
Buckinghamshire-based Erin Orford (34) took the win in the Grade III Para Gold Semi-Final on a convincing score of 70.111% with Sophie Wells’ Dragons Fire (pictured below), a seven-year-old son of De Niro, having already posted 72.189% for a Freestyle win. She also claimed Wednesday’s Grade III Grand Prix A with the Hanoverian mare LJT Dora Bella II, a nine-year-old Damon Hill daughter owned by the Lady Joseph Trust, on a score 68.889%.
Erin won team gold and individual bronze at the 2017 European Championships, and helped the British team bring home silver from the 2018 World Equestrian Games in Tryon. Out of the saddle, she works part-time in digital communications and is also BDCC Level 2 Coach.
Izzy Palmer, who hails from Leeds in West Yorkshire, rode Catherine Austin’s nine-year-old Negro x Fabriano mare, Je Suis Adiva (pictured below), to win the Grade IV Semi-Final on 69.549%. Je Suis Adiva, known at home as ‘French’, has been partnered by Izzy (22) since February 2021.
“[I] Had a great time in beautiful weather at Wellington Riding this week, always such a well-run show,” said Izzy on social media. “So proud of French who was a good girl to win the Gold Semi-Final qualifying for the National Championships in September, and a close third in the freestyle and team test, building and learning each day.
“Thank you Sophie Wells for the training, encouragement and helping me to believe in myself, Adiva Stud and Sport Horses for letting me ride beautiful French, Angela Weiss and the World Class team, and Mum for driving and grooming.”
Sophie Wells OBE and her exciting prospect, LJT Egebjerggards Samoa (pictured below), claimed the Grade V Para Gold Semi-Final on 73.728% - the highest score across all grades. LJT Egebjerggards Samoa, or ‘Diana’ as she’s known to her friends, is a seven-year-old St Schufro x Gribaldi mare owned by the Lady Joseph Trust.
Sophie took to social media to say; “Busy week at Wellington Riding seeing the younger horses put in some good performances in the arena.
“Diana had a tricky first day having not been able to train in the arena the day before, but it was so good to learn more about her, and she grew in confidence the following two days gaining some super scores from the judges. [I] Couldn’t love her more.”
The three-day Festival of Para Dressage featured a full day of Freestyle competition on Tuesday, which saw winning performances from Charlotte Cundall with FJ Veyron (Grade V), Fiona Maynard with Denver IX (Grade IV), Gabriella Blake with Strong Beau (Grade I), and Georgia Wilson with her less experienced ride, Faside Got the Love (Grade II).
British Dressage thanks Niagara Equissage for their sponsorship of the Equissage Pulse Para Dressage Championships and the team at Wellington Riding for putting on a fantastic event. Congratulations to all the winners listed below, all the placed riders and to all those who took part.
Results – top three
Tuesday 6 June
Equissage Pulse Grade V Grand Prix Freestyle
1. Charlotte Cundall and FJ Veyron, 72.992%
2. Sophie Wells and LJT Egebjerggards Samoa, 71.067%
Equissage Pulse Grade IV Grand Prix Freestyle
1. Fiona Maynard and Denver IX, 73.700%
2. Nicola Naylor and Humberto L, 71.617%
3. Izzy Palmer and Je Suis Adiva, 70.967%
Equissage Pulse Grade I Grand Prix Freestyle
1. Gabriella Blake and Strong Beau, 76.378%
2. Mari Durward-Akhurst and Athene Lindebjerg, 73.089%
3. Susanna Wade and Zaire LH, 69.634%
Equissage Pulse Grade III Grand Prix Freestyle
1. Erin Orford and Dragons Fire, 72.189%
Equissage Pulse Grade II Grand Prix Freestyle
1. Georgia Wilson and Faside Got the Love, 70.489%
Wednesday 7 June
Equissage Pulse Grade III Grand Prix A
1. Erin Orford and LJT Dora Bella II, 68.889%
2. Erin Orford and Dragons Fire, 67.833%
3. Roseanne Knox and With Love JM, 64.778%
Equissage Pulse Grade II Grand Prix A
1. Georgia Wilson and Sakura, 70.517%
2. Georgia Wilson and Faside Got the Love, 64.023%
Equissage Pulse Grade I Grand Prix A
=1. Mari Durward-Akhurst and Athene Lindebjerg, 68.264%
=1. Susanna Wade and Zaire LH, 68.264%
3. Mari Durward-Akhurst and Quaikin Guaranteed Good, 67.153%
Equissage Pulse Grade V Grand Prix A
1. Sophie Wells and LJT Egebjerggards Samoa, 74.273%
2. Hope Hayward and Cadeau K, 66.239%
Equissage Pulse Grade IV Grand Prix A
1. Laura Gulliver and Hermitage de Jeu, 69.537%
2. Fiona Maynard and Denver IX, 69.491%
3. Izzy Palmer and Je Suis Adiva, 68.472%
Thursday 8 June
Equissage Pulse Grade V Grand Prix B Para Gold Semi-Final
1. Sophie Wells and LJT Egebjerggards Samoa, 73.728%
2. Hope Hayward and Cadeau K, 65.658%
3. Hope Hayward and Et l’Amour, 63.202%
Equissage Pulse Grade IV Grand Prix B Para Gold Semi-Final
1. Izzy Palmer and Je Suis Adiva, 69.549%
2. Nicola Naylor and Ferrari, 68.739%
3. Fiona Maynard and Denver IX, 68.243%
Equissage Pulse Grade I Grand Prix B Para Gold Semi-Final
1. Mari Durward-Akhurst and Athene Lindebjerg, 72.292%
2. Susanna Wade and Zaire LH, 69.292%
3. Mari Durward-Akhurst and Quaikin Guaranteed Good, 66.111%
Equissage Pulse Grade II Grand Prix B Para Gold Semi-Final
1. Georgia Wilson and Sakura, 71.833%
2. Natasha Adkinson and Sweet Caledonia, 67.667%
Equissage Pulse Grade III Grand Prix B Para Gold Semi-Final
1. Erin Orford and Dragons Fire, 70.111%
2. Vicky Earnshaw and Prince Pepe, 62.722%
3. Roseanne Knox and With Love JM, 62.222%
Photo © Kevin Sparrow Photography