Here come Britain’s golden girls
Britain’s Championship title record remained intact when Anne Dunham, Emma Sheardown, Deb Criddle and Sophie Wells secured gold at the FEI European Para Equestrian Dressage Championship at Moorsele in Belgium on 3rd September 2011.
The team finished on a score of 444.26% after the two rounds to finish nearly 14% ahead of silver medallists Denmark with Germany in bronze. This breaks the previous highest ever team total, emulating their able-bodied compatriots just two weeks ago in Rotterdam.
Individually, there were gold medals for Anne Dunham (Grade Ia), Sophie Wells (Grade IV) and individual rider Natasha Baker (Grade II). Emma Sheardown (Grade Ia) and Deb Criddle (Grade II) both took individual silvers in their grades.
Anne Dunham and Sally Anne Brown’s Teddy got the medal rush underway with gold in the Grade IA on 74.95% . Not far behind was Emma Sheardown who had to settle for silver with her own Purdy’s Dream with 73.40%. Two medals individually and a great boost for the team score. Anne’s two medals bring her Championship tally to an astounding 16 gold awards in 15 years of competition.
Anne commented; “Teddy was good today. Yesterday, despite our win, he was a bit ‘whoopee’ in there but today he was totally down to the task. His free walk was pretty good and generally he was more relaxed. I’m pleased with him and there’s no better feeling than that! Winning these medals are just as exciting as the first – in a way, even more so as you have to work harder than ever.”
Emma was happy to settle for silver, claiming; “Ed (Purdy’s Dream) was more relaxed today and I could maintain a better contact. His walk was really good and very consistent. I’m so pleased with how he’s been over the past few days, and if someone had to beat me, I’m glad it was Anne. Tomorrow in the freestyle I’ll certainly be going for gold!”
In the Grade II, Deb Criddle was the wrong side of some inconsistent judging and some crowd distractions to finish in silver with her promising new ride, LJT Akilles, who is owned by the Lady Joseph Trust. She said; “I’m really pleased with him today – it’s a bigger occasion and certainly the biggest test of his life. I asked for more and he rose to the occasion but was slightly distracted by the crowds which made riding at the ‘C’ end of the arena tricky. And, unfortunately, a lot of this test is down there! He didn’t put a foot wrong and it’s another stepping stone on our journey.”
Team newcomer Natasha Baker made her debut one to remember by becoming Grade II European Champion with her parents and Christian Landolt’s Cabral. 73.19% gave her victory over strong competition from Germany and The Netherlands. It was an emotional victory with most of the family in tears but a well-deserved one too. “He was relaxed from the word go today so we were straight into the swing of the test which made it easier for me. My trainer Sasha Hamilton has been fantastic out here and it’s really paid off. I owe so much to her and my other teacher Emile Faurie. I’m a little lost for words which isn’t like me – I just can’t believe this has happened at my first Championships”, exclaimed Natasha.
Sophie Wells wowed the judges in the Grade IV with her own Valerius – including a 10 from one for her entry and a few nines throughout the test. 74.097% gave a clear victory and left them the talk of the showground with some amazing trot work. Despite a pressure-filled day, Sophie remained focused on the task at hand; “It’s hard going late in the day, especially when you’re in the team and you know what everyone else has done. My trainer Angela Weiss is brilliant at keeping me focused and making sure it’s all about me and my horse. I was also a little worried as he got quite wound up in the prize giving yesterday and you never know how a young horse will react. I trotted up the centre line, pressed the right buttons and got the feeling I wanted. Sometimes I’ve had to carry him in the test but today, he took me so I couldn’t have asked for more.”
Sophie also cited her recent experience at the able-bodied European Young Rider Championships as part of her success. “The Young Riders really motivated me. I watched the professionalism of the Germans and Dutch and learned by their example. Plus, I couldn’t do it without Angela (Weiss) as she is my support in every way.”
The Championships come to a close tomorrow with the Freestyle competition where all five riders will be in action for further individual medals. Times: (British time)
Natasha – 10.02
Anne – 10.57
Emma – 11.21
Sophie – 14.07
Deb – 15.08