Great Britain’s para-dressage team got their European Championship campaign off to flying start winning four medals which included two golds on the first day of competition in Gothenburg, Sweden.
Erin Orford, who was brought in as a substitution for Natasha Adkinson, was the first rider for the British team and got things off to a great start with a beautiful test with Annabel Whittet’s 14 year-old mare, Dior, finishing on 70.382% in the Grade III Individual class to finish in third place, and take the bronze medal.
Commenting afterwards, Erin said: “She [Dior] felt nervous in the warm-up arena but as soon as I picked up my reins she was keen to go and I knew everything would be fine. It was a great atmosphere in there and I’m pleased that she put in a solid test.”
Asked about her first major championship appearance, she added: “It did feel different this morning. It’s hard to say how but I wasn’t any more nervous, – it just felt like it mattered more than ever.”
She was soon followed by her team-mate, Suzanna Hext who was also making her European Championship debut. On-board Pammy and Charlie Hutton’s 17 year-old bay, Abira, the pair put in a superb performance to top the class with 71.588%, winning Great Britain’s first gold medal of the championships.
A delighted Suzanna said: “It was a shock to see my name at the top of the leader board when I came out – all very surreal!
“It surprised me just how fresh he [Abira] was today and I had to change my riding style. I can use my voice so I talked to him. The test [Individual] was good as there are lots in it to keep him busy but hopefully he’ll be more settled tomorrow.
“I owe a lot to Pammy and Charlie Hutton for letting me ride him; he’s the horse of a life time and we have such a special bond.”
Next for Great Britain were Sophie Wells and C Fatal Attraction, owned by Charlotte Hogg and Sophie, the most experienced combination on the team having previously won two silvers and gold at the European Championships in 2015. As one of the last pairs to go in the class, they produced a fantastic test to finish on 71.785% – narrowly missing out on the top spot but secured a silver medal.
“I’m very pleased with him,” Sophie explained. “I felt that we got through it the best that we could. It was just down to his experience; hopefully he might be a bit more settled tomorrow and he’s a horse that builds from that kind of experience as well.
“You obviously want to come to a championships and really show them off but he’s a horse for the future and he’s just coming into his own now.”
Final rider of the day of the day for Great Britain was Julie Payne with Di Redfern’s Athene Lindebjerg. The pair entered the arena just after the final break of the day and produced an outstanding test to fly into the lead with 77.643%, the highest score of the day and an Individual Personal Best for her, which rewarded them with the gold.
Emotional after the test, Julie said: “I actually felt it was the best test I’ve ever done on her. Chuffed is not the word, it’s just amazing. That is one of the best feelings I have ever had, I take the nerves as a positive and turn the adrenaline into enjoyment. I couldn’t have asked for more from her.”
All the British riders will compete in the team tests tomorrow which will determine the team standings.
The British senior teams are supported by the BEF’s UK Sport National Lottery funded World Class Programme.