Riesenbeck 2023: Wilson and Blake deliver PBs on first day of team medal competition
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Georgia Wilson and Gabby Blake each excelled with personal best scores in their respective Grand Prix B test at the FEI Para Dressage European Championships in Riesenbeck, putting Great Britain in an optimistic position going into day two of the team medal competition.
Today was the turn of the Grade III, Grade II and Grade I riders to make their team score contribution, with Grades IV and V forward for tomorrow’s team medal decider. With a place in Saturday’s Freestyle at stake, as well as the race for team medal honours, there was everything to play for as the 13-nation European Championship team medal contest was set in motion with this morning’s Grade III Grand Prix B.
First rider forward for Great Britain’s team medal campaign was 27-year-old Georgia Wilson, competing in this afternoon’s Grade II Grand Prix B. Drawn last to go and fresh from their silver medal-winning performance in Tuesday’s Individual, Georgia and Sakura, pictured top, delivered an excellent score towards the British team tally.
Welsh rider Georgia, a double bronze medallist at the Tokyo Paralympic Games, employed all her arena experience and tact to earn a brand-new PB of 74.167% with the charming chestnut mare, Sakura. Looking full of enthusiasm and totally up for the task in hand, the Supertramp x Rockstar nine-year-old, who was bred in the UK by Geri Eilberg, was super in the rhythm, and her transitions silky-smooth. A polished performance from this partnership, who visibly really enjoy their time together in the arena, set Great Britain off to a confident start.
“It was very hot out there, but I was really pleased with Suki and apparently two out of the three halts were square! I’ve got two [halts] in my freestyle so I should be OK!” enthused Georgia, speaking after her test in the sun-drenched arena at Riesenbeck.
“Suki hasn’t got the most uphill trot that some of the horses have, so we’ve worked really hard trying to get that trot a bit more expressive, and to improve the mediums, so I was really happy with my trot work. She’s feeling much more of a powerful horse now.
“That test suits her as it’s much more flowing,” she continued. “I was quite nervous today I think, because I really just wanted to get a better score for the team, so I’m happy we did that. When I think where we started at the beginning of the year – we got a 67% in February – I’m really happy to get a PB. Nicky (Georgia’s trainer, Nicky Lickley) has helped pick me up from the start of the year, and I’m really grateful.”
Tuesday’s Individual gold medal winners, the host nation’s Heidemarie Dresing and Horse24 Dooloop topped the individual Grade II rankings today, their performance displaying the 14-year-old Oldenburg’s pleasing elasticity and scope. Even though enthusiastic cheering from the main arena could be heard, the Dressage Royal x Rouletto gelding stayed soft and focused on his rider to produce a test rewarded with 77.567% from judges Anne Prain (FRA) at E, Ineke Jansen (NED) at H, Elke Ebert (GER) at C, Eva Andersson (SWE) at M and Sarah Leitch (GBR) at B.
European Championships debutant and Individual bronze medallist Gabriella ‘Gabby’ Blake continued her dream team debut with a new PB and fifth place in the Grade I Grand Prix B, putting a score of 74.417% on the table towards the British team total. Gabby and Strong Beau, her charismatic Connemara x Irish Sport Horse gelding who shimmers in the late summer sun, impressed once again with a precisely-ridden test showing super activity, purpose and fluency. A total of 21 marks of 8 were awarded, including three for General Impression.
“It was absolutely amazing,” commented an emotional Gabby following her test. “I don’t think he’s ever given me a ride like that, ever. I couldn’t have asked for any more. Things that I've always struggled with he nailed today. I’m really happy, delighted, and ready for the freestyle!”
Ireland’s Michael Murphy and Cleverboy, who narrowly missed an Individual medal on Tuesday, stepped up into third place in the individual rankings this afternoon, while Individual gold medallist Rihards Snikus was second, beaten to the top spot by Italy’s Sara Morganti with Mariebelle (78.250%).
After Georgia and Gabby’s rides today, Great Britain currently lies sixth overnight; however, the top four teams have had more riders complete, as only Grades I, II and III have taken place. Of the teams that have two or fewer scores on the board, Britain is lying second behind Denmark with Sophie Wells and Charlotte Cundall yet to ride.
With the top eight combined scores from the team and individual competition to qualify, Georgia and Gabby are both comfortably through to Saturday’s Freestyle finale.
Grade II Grand Prix B individual standings
1. Heidemarie Dresing and Horse24 Dooloop, 78.833% (GER)
2. Georgia Wilson and Sakura, 76.667% (GBR)
3. Ann Cathrin Lübbe and La Costa Majlund, 75.667% (NOR)
4. Pepo Puch and Sailor’s Blue, 71.833% (AUT)
5. Felix Gomez Gonzalez and Merlin, 69.133% (ESP)
Grade I Grand Prix B individual standings – top five
1. Sara Morganti and Mariebelle, 78.250% (ITA)
2. Rihards Snikus and King of the Dance, 77.583% (LAT)
3. Michael Murphy and Cleverboy, 75.792% (IRL)
4. Martina Benzinger and Nautika, 75.333% (GER)
5. Gabby Blake and Strong Beau, 74.417% (GBR)
Photo © Kevin Sparrow Photography