The British Equestrian Federation has today, 14 July 2017, announced the UK Sport National Lottery funded para-equestrian dressage squad which will compete at the Longines FEI European Championships in Gothenburg, Sweden (21-27 August 2017).
Spearheading the team is triple 2016 Paralympic medallist Sophie Wells with her European 2015 multi-medallist C Fatal Attraction; the all-female quartet is completed by three athletes who each receive their first call-up to a senior squad, with Natasha Adkinson, Suzanna Hext and Julie Payne set to make their championship debuts later next month.
The squad has been named by British Dressage selectors as (in alphabetical order);
Natasha Adkinson – Grade II, age 24, based Lincolnshire, with Yvonne Bennett and her own Sweet Caledonia
Suzanna Hext, – Grade III, age 29, based Gloucestershire, with Charlie and Pammy Hutton’s Abira
Julie Payne – Grade I, age 56, based Oxfordshire, with Di Redfern‘s Athene Lindebjerg
Sophie Wells MBE – Grade V, age 27, based Nottinghamshire, with Charlotte Hogg and her own C Fatal Attraction
Suzanna is also selected with Henrietta Cheetham and the Lady Joseph Trust’s LJT Enggaards Solitaire, and Sophie with Valerius, both as direct reserves.
Selected Non-Travelling Reserves (in alphabetical order);
Izzy Palmer, Grade IV, age 16, based in West Yorkshire, with Nicola Wells and Sophie Wells’s Touchdown M
Susanna Wade, Grade I, age 50, based in Lincolnshire, with her own D’Artagnan
Para-Dressage Performance Manager, Sarah Armstrong says; “I’m delighted that the National Lottery funded Programme has allowed us to grow the strength and depth in so many combinations across our Podium and Podium Potential squads. The 2017 selections will allow a number of new combinations to target personal bests on the world stage – I’m also thrilled for Sophie Wells, in that she again has the opportunity to campaign her home-produced horse at this year’s championships.
“The all-female selected squad, along with the wider squad members, have all worked incredibly hard this year for a place on the team amongst a very competitive peer group. Our final preparation will now sharpen an already very focussed team to deliver their best performances in Gothenburg this summer.”
Chief Executive of British Dressage, Jason Brautigam adds; “It’s always a special occasion to get your first call up to represent your country at a major Championships, so it’s a pleasure to welcome our three debutantes to the fold, as well as congratulate Sophie on her ninth straight Championship team selection. There is always plenty of competition for team places in the para squad, but this quartet and our reserves prove that hard work, dedication and commitment can reap the deserved rewards. Gothenburg provides our new faces with the ideal opportunity to obtain invaluable Championship experience, while we build the pool of riders and horses available for selection for the World Equestrian Games next year and beyond, as we look ahead to Tokyo 2020.”
The British senior teams are supported by the BEF’s UK Sport National Lottery funded World Class Programme.
Natasha Adkinson; “It still hasn’t sunk in really; it’s just an unbelievable feeling! I’ve always dreamt of it but I’ve just been focussing on achieving my goals. After the great scores at Hartpury last week I couldn’t ask for more.”
Suzanna Hext; “This was always my aim when I was eventing but after then I had my accident you never think you’re going to get your life back again but then suddenly to realise that you can get it back again feels amazing. The fact I am going to my first Europeans is really incredible and I am really looking forward to it. I am still pinching myself.
“I am very proud of both horses and thank you will never seem enough to express how grateful I am to their owners for their support and to everyone else that makes this journey possible, in particular the Lottery funded World Class Programme. Abira is my horse of a lifetime and he has done so much for not only me but the whole Hutton family. He is one very special horse; he’s given me my life back. I also feel extremely lucky to have LJT Enggaards Solitaire as my direct reserve horse.”
Julie Payne; “I’m very excited but at the same time it feels very surreal. I can’t quite believe how well this year is turning out and since I started working with Athene everything has been incredible – we just clicked ever since we met from day one and we are improving all the time. Athene is getting to know me better and I’m getting to know her better and we just seem to be gelling more and more every time I sit on her.”
Sophie Wells; “I’m really happy that C Fatal Attraction has received his first proper call up. Obviously he went to the Europeans in 2015 but he was a reserve initially so it’s nice he has earned his place on the team and hopefully he will show he can fill the big shoes of Valerius and Pinocchio.
“It’s a strange position to be in [as the most experienced member of the team] as I have always been the youngest rider on the team but now suddenly I’m not and I’m the most experienced so it will be very different. Everyone has earned the right to be there and everyone will help each other and that’s what a team should be like.”
Talking about her role as coach to Natasha and Izzy; “It’s exciting to have Natasha and Cally on the team and it’s great to see Izzy and Touchdown put down as reserves and it just shows for them that their hard work has paid off. It’s hard when you’re young and coming up and trying to earn your place on the team or as a reserve to get that bit of recognition which puts you a step closer to achieve the dream that they have.”