Rio 2016 British Paralympics Para Equestrian Dressage Team
The Paralympic Dressage Squad is made up of five massively talented and inspirational riders.
First up is the Team GB’s Flag Bearer for the Opening Ceremony, Lee Pearson. Inspired by the Atlanta 1996 Olympics when he discovered para dressage on the TV, he turned professional and is now considered to be the Anchor Man of the team. A gold medallist 10 times over, he has an impressive and extensive list of achievements. Believed to be the only person ever to ride a horse in the Albert Hall, he was asked to take two of his horses, Gentleman and Zion, in through the dress circle for an unusual performance of a Swan Lake routine, accompanied by ballet dancers! His ride will be Zion and his Competition Grade is IB.
Riding since the age of 8 years old, Sophie Wells took up dressage at the age of 12. At Hickstead in 2008, she became the first disabled rider to win an able bodied international U21 event. Then in the London 2012 Olympics her score secured the team’s gold medal. In addition, she won two silver medals too, one for the Grade IV Individual event and the other for the Individual Freestyle grade IV event. Her ride will be Valerius and her Competition Grade is IV.
Sophie Christiansen started riding at her local Riding for the Disabled (RDA) group as a form of physiotherapy when she was six years old. Following an outstanding performance at the London 2012 London Olympics where she won Team Gold, Individual and Freestyle Gold, Royal Mail have painted a post box gold in her original hometown of Sunningdale. Her ride will be Athene Lindebjerg and her Competition Grade will be the 1A.
Just like team mate Sophie Christiansen, Natasha Baker began riding at the local RDA following her physiotherapist’s recommendation that it would strengthen her muscles. She decided at the age of ten years old that she wanted to ride in the Olympics whilst watching the 2000 Summer Olympics. As part of the dressage squad for the London 2012 Olympics, she set a new Paralympic record for the Grade II classification and then went on to get another one in the Individual Freestyle. Her ride will be Cabral and her Competition Grade is II.
Ann Dunham is the only British rider who has not only competed in all four Paralympic Games but has also won gold medals in all four games too. Working at a local stable during her spare time while she was at school, she progressed to running a large livery yard of eighty horses by the time she was sixteen! Whilst she rode other people’s horses, it wasn’t until she was forty that she finally became a horse owner and had chance to compete. Her ride will be LJT Lucas Normark and her Competition Grade is 1A.
EQUUS wishes horses and riders every success in the Rio 2016 Olympics!