Riesenbeck 2023: Wilson and Wells in the medals on final day of Para Europeans

  • Written By: British Dressage | Joanna Bowns
  • Published: Sat, 09 Sep 2023 20:55 GMT

British riders have rounded off the Para Dressage European Championships in Riesenbeck with an outstanding campaign in the race for Freestyle medal glory. The Grade II saw Georgia Wilson take silver, in the Grade V Sophie Wells brought home bronze, while Gabby Blake finished tantalisingly close to the medals in the Grade I, and Charlotte Cundall took fifth in the Grade V.

Grade II Freestyle podium

Already with the team bronze medal in the bag, and Individual medals for Gabby Blake and Georgia Wilson, British riders performed superbly on this closing day of the 2023 FEI Para Dressage European Championships, held alongside the FEI Dressage European Championships at the German host venue of Riesenbeck International. Whilst the Senior riders compete in their Grand Prix Freestyle tomorrow, the Para Dressage Championships reached its conclusion today with a further five sets of medals on offer.

Grade II - Georgia Wilson and Sakura
Under blazing skies at Riesenbeck International, home to President of the European Championships and four-time Olympic Showjumping gold medallist Ludger Beerbaum, a day of inspirational competition got underway with the Grade III Freestyle, though it was the Grade II Freestyle that saw the first British combination forward – Georgia Wilson with the wonderful mare Sakura (Supertramp x Rockstar), who she co-owns with her parents, Geoff and Julie Wilson. Georgia, who won Individual silver on Tuesday and put a cracking score towards the British team total on Thursday, today added another sensational silver to her European Championships collection.

Georgia Wilson and Sakura

Georgia and the British-bred nine-year-old, pictured above, continued their top form to take the silver medal by less than one percent behind Germany's Heidemarie Dresing and Horse24 Dooloop (80.354%). Riding to a compilation of tracks featuring instrumental covers of BANNERS’ Someone to You and Ellie Goulding’s Love Me Like You Do, the young Brit delivered a Freestyle personal best score of 79.367%.

“It feels really good - it’s a good end to the week to get 79% at a Europeans,” commented Georgia afterwards. “I couldn’t be more proud of everybody who’s helped me this year to get back up to that percentage. I’m really happy. At Hartpury I got a 78%, but it’s always different at a championship, so to go one percent higher at a Europeans... I couldn’t ask for anything more.

“I think she liked the crowd,” continued Georgia, about ‘Suki’ who had an extra spring her step from the rapturous applause awarded to Heidemarie Dresing following her high-scoring freestyle. “She did get excited as I came round because of the clapping, but I like the clapping. I did have to calm her down at the bottom end, but then I felt her take a breath and we started. The atmosphere was really good today.”

Talking about what motivates her to train and compete, Georgia said; “Well I do like a cup of tea in caf, but I definitely would be very bored without this. It just keeps you going, and when you get higher percentages, you still want to get better. It’s the buzz.

“Sakura is really enjoying her week here, and she can now have a little bit of a holiday,” added Georgia. “I think she’s deserved it.”

Grade V - Sophie Wells and LJT Egebjerggards Samoa
Sophie Wells’ newest star, The Lady Joseph Trust’s seven-year-old Egebjerggards Samoa (St Schufro x Gribaldi), has come of age this week, tactfully nursed by Sophie as she's stepped up to the role of British team horse. Today, riding to music composed by Abel Korzeniowski for the 2013 screen adaptation of Romeo and Juliet – the first time they’d ridden to this music in competition - they posted 76.550% to secure bronze behind Belgium’s Michèle George with the aptly named Best of 8 (81.275%), and Dutch star Frank Hosmar with Alphaville N.O.P. (79.045%).

Grade V Freestyle podium

“I’m so proud of her,” said Sophie speaking after her test with the super-talented, sensitive young mare. “I’m so happy that I finished the test, which was not a given! She didn’t react too much to the music, and she was a bit tired today - she’s had a huge week.

“I can’t put it across how much I wanted her to have a positive experience, and she’s definitely finished on a positive experience today,” continued Sophie. “I’m so excited. The minute she’s confident and the minute she’s balanced enough for me to push, she’s going to be amazing."

The Romeo and Juliet music suited the mare to a tee, as Sophie explained; “Our music was actually produced for Jorge (C Fatal Attraction) when we used to have music for the team test. We’d done her Titanium mix for this year, but at Hartpury [CPEDI] it was just too much. It was so punchy, amazing to ride to, the floorplan was more complex, but it was just too much. She can do it a home with her eyes closed, but in the arena it was too much and I just was like ‘let’s simplify and go for more background-type music’.

Sophie Wells and LJT Egebjerggards Samoa

“Because she’s so elegant, and so bouncy with it, then that enhances the music so I think it suits her really well. I love riding to it. When I had it for Jorge for the team test, I thought 'I need to make it a freestyle at some point'. Erin Orford did the music for me. We had to do it quite last minute, so thank you so much, Erin! And she’s commentating on the Championships [for ClipMyHorse.TV] so hopefully she was pleased with that, and I was pretty much on time!

“It's a lovely link with Jorge. He taught me so much to be able to ride a horse like Diana. It’s such a journey with each and every horse, and everything means so much.”

Grade V - Charlotte Cundall and FJ Veyron
Charlotte Cundall concluded her exciting team debut with fifth place on 74.190% for a powerful, expressive freestyle programme to Queen’s I Want it All, Toto’s Africa, and Michael Jackson’s Beat It. Her programme with The Veyron Partnership’s FJ Veyron (Vivaldi x Fidermark), with whom she’s riding on a high having already helped Britain to team bronze this week, featured a brave extended canter towards the judge, into a half pirouette, powerful extensions, shoulder-in seamlessly into half pass, and their perfectly timed final halt was magic.

Charlotte Cundall and FJ Veyron

“That was new music this year,” commented Charlotte. “I felt that I wanted something quite impactful, and, inspired by Lottie Fry as she comes in to Queen, I thought if one ‘Charlotte’ can do it, I’ll just copy her! And he’s a big horse and I wanted something to match him.

“My first movement is extended canter towards the judge, into a half pirouette, so I tried to be as brave as I could, but he was fantastic,” she added. This week has been a dream come true - it’s surpassed all expectations.”

Grade I - Gabby Blake and Strong Beau
Having won Individual and team bronze this week, Gabriella ‘Gabby’ Blake has enjoyed a dream European Championship debut with her joyful grey gelding, Strong Beau, in the Grade I classes in Riesenbeck. Today, they finished just outside the closely fought and high-scoring top three, earning 78.053% for an adeptly executed floorplan to a compilation of Beyoncé and Destiny's Child hits that matched Beau’s stride and activity brilliantly.

Gabriella Blake and Strong Beau

The choreography and upbeat programme highlighted the horse's supple and purposeful way of going, their score almost 1.5% more than their previous personal best. “This whole week, he has given everything. For his first Championship, he’s like a pro, it’s like he’s done it all his life," said a proud Gabby. "He’s never been in an atmosphere like this before, but he’s actually better when there’s a lot going on, so he’s taken to this really well."

Reflecting on her first British team experience, Gabby added; “I wasn’t expecting to get medals, and then to get another personal best score today, I couldn’t ask for any more. I just want to say thank you to British Equestrian for all their support. I couldn’t have done it without them. Also, thank you to the National Lottery and UK Sport. Without them we wouldn’t be here.

Gold belonged to Italy’s Sara Morganti and Mariebelle on a score of 81.640%. Michael Murphy and Cleverboy took silver for Ireland (79.887%), while the home nation’s Martina Benzinger claimed the bronze medal with 17-year-old Lipizzaner mare, Nautika (78.347%). Latvia’s Rihards Snikus, the reigning Grade I Individual World Champion and winner of the Individual gold on Tuesday, sadly was unable to compete as King of the Dance wasn’t accepted at the second horse inspection.

British Dressage congratulates Georgia, Sophie, Charlotte and Georgia on their successes in Riesenbeck this week, as well as Chef d’Equipe Georgina Sharples, the dedicated owners behind each horse and the wider support network at British Equestrian.

Grade I Grand Prix Freestyle
1. Sara Morganti and Mariebelle, 81.640% (ITA)
2. Michael Murphy and Cleverboy, 79.887% (IRL)
3. Martina Benzinger and Nautika, 78.347% (GER)
4. Gabby Blake and Strong Beau, 78.053% (GBR)
5. Carola Semperboni and Paul, 74.380% (ITA)
6. Anne Frederique Royon and Quaterboy LH, 73.653% (FRA)
7. Julia Sciancalepore and Heinrich IV, 73.367% (AUT)
8. Anita Johnsson and Currant LA, 72.200% (SWE)

Grade II Grand Prix Freestyle
1. Heidemarie Dresing and Horse24 Dooloop, 80.353% (GER)
2. Georgia Wilson and Sakura, 79.367% (GBR)
3. Ann Cathrin Lübbe and La Costa Majlund, 74.540% (NOR)
4. Pepo Puch and Sailor’s Blue, 74.447% (AUT)

Grade V Grand Prix Freestyle
1. Michèle George and Best of 8, 81.275% (BEL)
2. Frank Hosmar and Alphaville N.O.P., 79.045% (NED)
3. Sophie Wells and LJT Egebjerggards Samoa, 76.550% (GBR)
4. Regine Mispelkamp and Highlander Delight’s, 76.170% (GER)
5. Charlotte Cundall and FJ Veyron, 74.910% (GBR)
6. Lotta Wallin and Enebro SB, 73.965% (SWE)
7. Kevin van Ham and Eros van Ons Heem, 73.335% (BEL)
8. Lena Malmström and Fabulous Fidelie, 71.500% (SWE)


Photo © Kevin Sparrow Photography