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Sophie’s Paralympic Story Continued…

…Tuesday was the last chance for us to get into the field of play, so we all decided we would like a run through of one of our tests. I chose the Team test as we had had a lot of emphasis on it from the team as it was quite important to go towards the team medal, that GB have never lost at a major championship since the sport began in 1996. No pressure! So I trotted through the chute, and straight in, dodging the other riders, but got a good feel as to what it would be like, and let Noki know that going in there meant business, and I could make any corrections then too.

The next day was trot up day! The horses were turned out immaculately, Michelle Tipper was grooming for me and Lee for this competition, much to Amie’s disappointment, but accreditation had to be done before she joined us. Next time! But Michelle did a great job turning them out, and thankfully all the British horses passed the trot up without a problem, so we could get on with training for that day. I only wanted to give him a stretch as he had worked for a couple of days and needed an easier day before the competition started. It’s funny how everyone’s routines are different on the team, but they all seem to work for each individual and it does show many paths lead to the same goal…

It was also the Opening Ceremony on Wednesday too. We had been strongly advised not to go, and we all, except Lee, decided to stay in. I really wanted to go, but I know all the standing around for hours in the cold would be negative to my performance, especially as I have problems with my nerves anyway. I was a bit gutted we couldn’t all watch the Opening Ceremony together with the rest of our support team, they all had a party at the hotel in Greenwich and we just had to stay in our flat, which was a bit of a downer considering what a big occasion it was. We had a TV appearance at the beginning of the ceremony at 8pm, pretty prime time! We did it at Paralympic GB House, then the girls, Lucy and Pippa (Pippa was our press officer for the games and also works for the BEF), had a girly night in, opening the balcony door so we could hear the roar of the stadium live as well as seeing it on the TV whilst wearing our very fetching white tracksuits! I would have loved to have experienced the feeling of walking in the stadium and hearing the crowd go mad for Team GB, maybe next time! It was probably a good thing we didn’t go as my legs took a turn for the worse that night. I had tried to keep things under control, I bought a scooter that I could whizz about on instead of loading my nerves with the walking, but I think the stress of the occasion, the long days, lack of sleep (as I wasn’t sleeping very well anyway while we were away), caught up and my legs suffered. People always think it’s funny when I whack out a hot water bottle which I take everywhere, along with my crutches, even in the summer. When my legs go, the nerves go into overload, my lower legs cramp up and it’s a really horrible nervy pain, that makes it difficult to walk, and I lose a lot of the power in my legs because of it. Heat really helps the muscles to try and relax and keeping weight off them helps too. I just hate not being able to do stuff. We have controlled it for a while with medication, but despite upping the dosage it couldn’t control it this time. My scooter then decided to die on me the next day, turns out the fuse had blown in the charger socket, so it had to be taken off to be mended, leaving me with my crutches. A fly then decided to try and commit suicide by flying into my eye, still being a problem hours later, leading our team doc to clean it, put anaesthetic drops in and having antibiotic drops, slightly dramatic for a pesky little fly! But the important thing was I still managed to ride and Noki was a star. I often have to carry 2 whips when my legs are bad to back up my leg aids so he is quite used to it. And as long as I can ride I’m happy…

Learn more about Para Dressage

Para Equestrian has been developing as an international sport over the last 25 years.

Para Dressage is open to all riders with disabilities who have been classified by either RDA or FEI via the Para Dressage Committee. Para riders may take part in able-bodied competitions using their compensating aids with a dispensation certificate. There is no age limit on participation.

What are the different classifications?  

Para dressage riders have different classifications to determine how the physical disability affects the function of the individual. Individuals are assessed by trained, certificated physiotherapists following internationally agreed criteria. Riders do not need to be mounted to be classified but classifiers will observe the athletes mounted to check the viability of their decisions.

Riders who compete in para dressage are classified by their physical disability, not their riding skill.

They are rated according to their disability profile and classification, receiving a “Grade,” and then are judged against other riders who have been given the same Grade. The Grades are Ia, Ib, II, II, IV with Ia being the most seriously impaired and Grade IV the least.

Asmar Equestrian-sponsored rider Sophie Wells leads the Grade IV Rankings at the Paralympics

Asmar Equestrian-sponsored rider Sophie Wells currently leads the Grade IV Rankings at the Paralympics, having scored an impressive 75.906% in today’s IV team test with Pinnochio. Briton Sophie is a full three per cent ahead of her nearest competitor, Belgium’s Michele George with Rainman.

There was a surprise in store for Britain’s Debbie Criddle, who with LJT Akilles was  favourite in the Grade III test, as German rider Hannelore Brenner, riding Women of the World, edged ahead to lead the board in this section.

Britain’s Natasha Baker leads the Grade II test riding Cabral, while team mate Lee Pearson with Gentleman leads the Grade 1B class. Grade 1A is being contested at the time of writing.

Asmar would like to congratulate Sophie on her strong performance on her first day of competition, and wishes her and her peers good luck and a massive well done for being selected to represent their respective countries.



Learn more about Sophie Wells

The recent edition of Horse & Hound featured a lovely article on Britain’s para dressage riders and our very own Sophie Wells. We have taken a few extracts from the article so we can share it with you. The full article can be found in the most recent edition of Horse & Hound.

Did you know…Britain’s para dressage riders have never been beaten in Paralympic competition or any major international championship. Surely it’s written in the stars for another Gold?!

It’s not only Germany that are hot on our tails – Denmark, the Netherlands and Canada are all looking on top form this year.

The 2012 Paralympics have hit record ticket sales. If you managed to get tickets for the Olympics then you were extremely lucky and the Paralympics is no different. They are set to be the most well attended in history with a record 2.1 million tickets selling three weeks prior to the games.

The article contained some top facts about the format of the dressage competition and the lovely Sophie Wells. She swept the board in the final selection trial and is set for great things in the Paralympics. We are all supporting you Sophie.



Sophie Wells – Para-Equestrian Dressage Squad Member speaks about her achievement

Sophie Wells (Grade IV) riding her own, Valerius

Sophie speaks about being a part of the 2011 European Championships

“I was quite surprised but really pleased that Valerius is now respected enough to be selected for the squad. He’s younger and has always been in the shadow of Pinocchio who will go to the Young Rider Europeans again this year – it’ll be the perfect opportunity for Valerius to stand up and hold his own. We’ve been back and forward to my coach Angela Weiss for more intensive training since Hickstead which has really paid off, we’ve worked really hard to get the best out of him and his way of going is so much more established.”

Anne Dunham – Para-Equestrian Dressage Squad Member speaks about her achievement

Anne Dunham (Grade Ia) riding Mrs Sally Ann Brown’s, Teddy

Anne speaks about being a part of the 2011 European Championships

“I’m excited, very pleased and looking forward to it. There were so many in line for selection I wasn’t sure it would happen so I’m delighted. My team mate Sophie Christiansen will be some of the strongest competition; it’s great for the country and spurs you on to better things.”


Deborah Criddle – Para-Equestrian Dressage Squad Member speaks about her achievement

Deborah Criddle (Grade III) riding The Lady Joseph Trust’s, LJT Akilles

Deborah speaks about being a part of the 2011 European Championships

“I’m really excited, 2008 was the last time I was part of a GB championship squad so I’m really, really pleased to get the call up again. It seems to have been quite a frantic year, The Lady Joseph Trust bought Akilles for me in mid-February and since then we’ve both been on a big learning curve to get to grips with each other. I can’t believe we’ve go this far in so short a time and it still feels like he has a lot of gears left.”


Sophie Christiansen – Para-Equestrian Dressage Squad Member speaks about her achievement

Sophie Christiansen (Grade Ia) riding The Berkeley Group’s, Rivaldo of Berkeley

Sophie speaks about being a part of the 2011 European Championships

“I’ve had a tough few months with my horse ‘Robin’ (Rivaldo of Berkeley) so this is a surprise and great honour.  I’m so proud of him to put all our troubles behind him and perform so well at Hartpury and earn our selection.  I owe a massive thank you to my support team in particular Clive Milkins as without them, selection would have been impossible.  I’m really looking forward to competing for my country and trying to keep up our run of success.”


Natasha Baker – Para-Equestrian Dressage Squad Member speaks about her achievement

Natasha Baker (Grade II) riding Mr & Mrs P Baker’s and Mr C Landolt’s Cabral

Natasha speaks about being part of the 2011 European Championships

Natasha Baker: “Amazing, I’m not normally speechless but mum and I were in floods of tears when David [Hunter] broke the news. We’ve had a fantastic season, my coaches Sacha Hamilton and Emile Faurie have worked so hard and been really supportive and I couldn’t have done any more. It’s a wonderful opportunity; the European nations and especially the Germans and the Dutch are some of the strongest competition in my grade so it will be good to get a feel for where we are in the world too.”

Para-Equestrian Dressage team announced for 2011 European Championships

British Dressage has announced their selection of the squad of five horses and riders that will represent Britain at the para-equestrian dressage European Championships in Moorsele, Belgium (1-4 September 2011).

The selected squad comprises:

  • Natasha Baker (Grade II) riding Mr & Mrs P Baker’s and Mr C Landolt’s Cabral
  • Sophie Christiansen (Grade Ia) riding The Berkeley Group’s, Rivaldo of Berkeley
  • Deborah Criddle (Grade III) riding The Lady Joseph Trust’s, LJT Akilles
  • Anne Dunham (Grade Ia) riding Mrs Sally Ann Brown’s, Teddy
  • Sophie Wells (Grade IV) riding her own, Valerius

Emma Sheardown, with her own Purdy’s Dream, has been named as the non-travelling reserve for the Championship.

David Hunter, World Class Performance Manager for the para-equestrian dressage team commented; “Selection this year was extremely challenging given the strong list of candidates across the grades. The standard of riding and test scores from those in our pool of riders has been very high but when it comes down to it we only have only five spaces at the Europeans this time. We have a determined team of experienced riders with some newer horse combinations and will work hard to defend our team gold in Moorsele.”

All six riders are on the World Class Programme, which is generously supported by Lottery and Exchequer funding via UK Sport. The Programme incorporates both the Development and Performance Programmes and the Equine Pathway, and works closely with the three BEF Olympic Member Bodies, British Dressage, British Eventing and British Showjumping.

All five riders will compete in both the individual Championship and Freestyle classes for their respective Grades), four riders will also be selected to take part in the Team competition. The Team result is calculated from the top three scores from both the Team and Championship tests; in the Freestyle class the winner is decided by the highest percentage score obtained.

All the news and behind the scenes views in the run up to and during the European Championships can be found on both British Dressage and Equestrian Team GBR’s websites visit and for more details.

We will be posting quotes from the entire squad during the next few days – so keep visiting our site!