Pearson polished as ever for FEI World Championships Bronze
- Written By:
With the Tokyo team reunited for Herning, hopes were high on day one of the FEI World Para Dressage Championships and the medal haul began quickly with Sir Lee Pearson CBE adding to his already impressive collection.
Taking place adjacent to the impressive Stutteri Ask Stadium, the Para Dressage action enjoys another premium setting in the BB Horse Arena with the atmosphere a far cry from the crowd-less Covid events we’ve followed online for the past two years. On day one, it was the Grade II Individual competition to kick start the campaign for the British team, with youth and experience on show as Georgia Wilson and Lee Pearson both came forward for a shot at the medals.
The standard in Para Dressage continues to bloom as new talent from across the world thrives and established names present new dancing partners year after year, often blossoming at major championships, and today's display was further evidence of it's growing success.
With the first three riders to step forward in the Grade II Individual all scoring above 70%, the competition was already hotting up as Georgia Wilson made ready for her World Championship debut on board her own, Geoff and Julie Wilson’s eight year old Sakura. Her appearance in Herning completes the set for this talented rider, who can now boast appearances at the European Championships, Paralympics and World Championships – all by the age of 26.
Watching on in the commentary box as Georgia was led in by her mentor, coach and friend Sophie Wells, fellow rider Erin Orford said “I’m holding my breath for Georgia, it’s worse watching than riding” – but she needn’t have worried as Georgia showed another superb test under pressure. The trot work was always well balanced with a metronomical rhythm, the transitions between walk and trot were clear and accurate and the two medium trot lines were both expressive and elegant. The floor plan of the Grade II Individual test is not to be taken lightly with leg yield in walk, 10 metre circles in walk and changes of pace coming thick and fast. Despite one well-recovered break into canter, Georgia managed the test and an electric Sakura – who seemed to light up in the abundant Herning atmosphere – with poise and expert skill on every step. To the cheers of the support team looking on from the kiss and cry, Georgia’s effort was rewarded with 71.455% and a provisional second with the rest of the field in pursuit.
The contest continued to develop under the Danish sun and a new leading mark of 75.333% was etched on the scoreboard by World Ranked Number 1 rider, Austria’s Pepo Puch. Who would step forward to meet the challenge? None other, and none better, than 14 times Paralympic gold medallist Sir Lee Pearson CBE.
On board his own homebred Breezer, Lee once more showed the class that makes him the most successful rider in the history of Para Dressage. Breezer performs exceptional trot work with much airtime, cadence and expressive, the medium trots stood out with so much scope. As with Wilson’s Sakura, the Bacardi sired gelding also looked on his toes in this opening test with Lee harnessing the energy and power for such great effect. It was nip and tuck on the running scores with the lead switching movement by movement between Lee and Pepo; a super square final halt would bring it to the narrowest of margins. A tense wait for the final score revealed an impressive 75.091% - a score just shy of the combination’s personal best to slot them into silver medal position on the provisional podium.
The Herning live and online audience were treated to three stars in a line with Pepo Puch, Lee Pearson and Katrine Kristensen one after the other as the judges had a tough job to hand in deciding which would be the worthy winner. At the close, it would be the Katrine Kristensen, trained by Denmark’s talisman Cathrine Dufour, to claim the gold for the home nation. The gifted rider presented an elegant test with Goerklintgaards Quarter (Quaterback x Blue Hors Don Schufro) at her first FEI Para Dressage World Championships to secure the win with 75.788%.
British Dressage congratulates Lee and Georgia on getting their Herning trip off to a fantastic start, as well as to the team behind the scenes, including the dedicated group of grooms, owners and the wider support network. Natasha Baker and Sophie Wells begin their World Championships experience tomorrow with the Grade III and Grade V Individual Championships next up in the BB Horse Arena.
Photo © Kevin Sparrow Photography
Orifarm Healthcare FEI World Para Dressage Individual Championship presented by Elsass Fonden
1. Katrine Kristensen with Goerklintgaards Quater, 75.788% (DEN)
2. Pepo Puch with Sailor's Blue, 75.333% (AUT)
3. Lee Pearson with Breezer, 75.091% (GBR)
4. Beatrice de Lavalette with Sixth Sense, 71.758% (USA)
5. Georgia Wilson with Sakura, 71.455% (GBR)