Super silver for Natasha Baker
- Written By:
It may have been Paralympics number three for Natasha Baker but it was a championship debut for her new dancing partner Keystone Dawn Chorus. Today, she introduced her latest star to the world and made a huge impact by taking silver in the Grade III individual contest in Tokyo.
It’s another para dressage grade packed full of rivalry, friendly of course, so the Grade III always attracts a great deal of interest. Uxbridge rider Natasha Baker is usually right in the mix but this time around, her place in the order was unknown due to a new partner in Keystone Dawn Chorus. Owned by herself, Joanna Jensen, Christian Landolt and dad Phil Baker, ‘Lottie’ has bags of presence and potential but not quite the competition mileage to match on such a big occasion. Compared to their main rivals in the grade, Natasha and Lottie were like toddlers in a high school playground but their inexperience together didn’t stop them from pulling out a stellar performance.
Natasha’s long term adversary from The Netherlands Rixt van der Horst laid the gauntlet down with her ride on Findsley with a 75.765% early in the class – quite a score to beat.
It wasn’t the perfect start for Natasha when British bred Lottie, by legendary stallion Dimaggio, put in a most uncharacteristic spook at a speaker just before they entered the white boards. Cool headed as usual, Natasha put it behind them quickly and headed down the centre line.
Natasha has transverse myelitis which basically means her legs are of little use in the saddle and she uses her seat, core and vocal prompts for impulsion. Lottie looked relaxed and focused while Natasha expertly and accurate piloted through the eight meter circles, leg yield, halt and rein back with fluency and finesse.
The tell-tale smile on Natasha’s face gave away her enjoyment of the test and the duo were a picture of harmony despite such limited competition time in the arena, Tokyo being only their fourth international together. The judges agreed and awarded them 76.265% which gave them the lead – what a debut score!
The next challenger to them was the newest star in Grade III, Denmark’s Tobias Thorning Jorgensen, just 21, with Jolene Hill. Tobias trains six days a week at Helgstrand Dressage so is in the best possible environment to learn his trade and today it showed. The elegant duo made quite a picture and the judges duly awarded them plenty of nines throughout the test which was almost error free. A tense wait for the score followed until the scoreboard displayed 78.971% to take the lead from Natasha.
The three scores couldn’t be bettered, and it was silver for ParalympicsGB – hopefully the first of many championship medals for this diamond duo, gold for Denmark and bronze for The Netherlands.
A delighted Natasha said after the test; “I feel a little overwhelmed – it’s crazy that it’s actually happening! So, so happy with Lottie [Keystone Dawn Chorus] out there. She did me proud.
“She had a little spook when I went past a speaker when I went in – she doesn’t normally do that but I just tried to give her as much confidence in the arena as I could. I don’t think it was the best test we’ve done this year, but the most important thing is she went in there and let me ride her. I gave her a nice confidence giving round. Remember it’s the first time she’s been out of the UK, it’s by far the biggest arena she’s been in and I’m just so proud of how she’s dealt with it. She’s been amazing.
“We’ve done our best to prepare in the circumstances we’ve been given. All of the horses in my class have done previous championships and they’ve been into big atmospheres, they’ve travelled. Everything for her has been new – I’m happy we were able to go in and deliver that performance.
“Today has given me the confidence to ask for more next time. I kind of cruised her round that test and the team test is actually her better test where I’ve scored higher in this year. We’re lacking competition experience I just look to keep improving. I don’t think if I was here 12 months ago, I’d have got 76% but since March this year we’ve really become more established once we could start competing again. Each time out we’ve just got that little bit better so you could say today was a little bit of a back step from where we were at Hartpury but that’s fine.
“She’s so generous, kind and loving, there’s not a bad bone in her body. She’s so brave and confident – I am so grateful to my owners Joanna and Christian for enabling me to ride and compete such an incredible horse. She just gives me the best feeling; I’ve been able to do things on her that I haven’t been able to do on any of my other horses. I’ve cantered her around the farm, I did the same around the track at quarantine in new surroundings – she’s just the kindest person. I think having the time out during COVID and just focusing on us was amazing.”
After the medal ceremony, Natasha further commented; “Oh my goodness! It feels really surreal to be honest. I didn’t have any expectation coming out here. I just wanted to give her a confidence building test and let her enjoy and embrace it. I could not be more proud. The outcome always takes care of itself and all I could do was ride the best test in those circumstances and that’s exactly what I did. Luckily enough, it was good enough for a silver.
“It’s amazing to be here at my third Paralympics. It’s been such an amazing year and to be able to come out and do it on another horse is just really, really special to me. She’s so talented and I’m so lucky to have her, she just means the world to me.”
Tomorrow (Saturday) we continue with the team competition and Natasha says they’re raring to go. “The team is feeling great. We’re up against some really experienced teams on horses that have had championship experience but to get the results that we’ve had so far is just insane. We’ve got no expectations so we’re just going to go out there and give our horses a good ride, then, what will be, will be.”
Full details on schedule, times and how to watch the team (Saturday and Sunday) and freestyles (Monday) can be found on our:
Photo: © British Equestrian / Jon Stroud Media