October 10, 2010 -- Riders from Great Britain and Germany dominated the freestyle in all five grades of the Para Dressage World Championships at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. Today's competition decided the grade IV champion, and it was Great Britain's Sophie Wells on Pinocchio (78.50%).
Gold-medal winners over the last few days include Germany's Hannelore Brenner on Women Of The World (79.20%) in grade III, Germany's Dr. Angelika Trabert on Ariva-Avanti (75.90%) in grade II, Great Britain's Lee Pearson on Gentleman (82.50%) in grade Ib, and Great Britain's Emma Sheardown on Purdy's Dream (78.55%) in grade Ia.
"He was a little bit more energetic than normal, so I decided not to go in with a whip, and that was very abnormal, so I was taking a risk from the beginning, really," said Wells. "When I picked up the walk he came against me and he stopped and then I thought 'Oh my gosh I need to find somewhere else in my plan where I can put in another simple change'. So all the time when I was going through my next movements I was trying to think where I could put it in."
Pearson created his top-scoring freestyle just for this competition.
"For me the trot work is a lot easier than the walk work, so I try to incorporate some lateral work and some extensions," he said. "I try to have my contingency plan if my horse is not going quite how I'd like him to go in the arena. Then I send a video of that to my music man, and I tell him what country I am going to and he makes me some music that's pertinent for that country. So for these Games it was really quick, slap-your-thigh, cowboy-type music."
Sheardown said her warm-up prepared her and her horse well for their performance.
"I am pleased with my horse," she said. "He had a good walk, and I managed to keep him relaxed. The rest felt really nice."
Great Britain completed a trifecta in Grade Ia, sweeping all the medals. Sophie Christiansen on Rivaldo Of Berkeley (77.85%) earned the silver medal, and Anne Dunham on Teddy (74.80%) took the bronze.
"It's able-bodied trainers who train us as if we're able-bodied people," said Dunham. "They put the responsibility on us to ride the horse and get the best out of it. Trainers are as important as anything else. We're lucky in Britain to have some marvelous trainers."
In grade Ib the silver medalist was Denmark's Stinna Tange Kaastrup on Labbenhus Snoevs (77.00%), while the bronze went to Finland's Katja Karjalainen on Rosie (72.85%).
Kaastrup rode one of the few non-warmbloods in the Para Dressage Championships. Labbenhus Snoevs is a New Forest Pony.
"Since I started, it probably took around a year to make him the way he is today," she said. "It's not easy. I have a problem with the half-passes. It's not easy to figure that out without any legs, but I did, and he's just the best."
The grade II silver medalist was The Netherlands' Gert Bolmer and Triumph (75.85%), and bronze went to Great Britain's Jo Pitt and Estralita (74.95%).
"My test was really great," said Bolmer. "The competition was really good in grade II. I feel like we had different medal winners in the freestyle than in the individual, so the competition was really good and really hard. It was a long competition but a great competition."
The grade III competition concluded on Friday and saw Denmark's Annika Lykke Dalskov on Preussen Wind (75.40) earn silver and Australia's Sharon Jarvis and Applewood Odorado (74.70%) take the bronze.
The grade IV freestyle concluded the Para Dressage World Championships and saw Belgium's Michele George on FBW Rainman (78.05%) earn the silver medal, while bronze went to Frank Hosmar and Tiesto (77.25%).
The afternoon press conference welcomed the 15 medalists--the first para dressage WEG medalists. When asked to choose one word to describe their discipline, these athletes in para dressage's inaugural WEG championships chose words like "inspirational," "partnership," "amazing," "opportunity," "outstanding," "harmony," and "recognition."
Pearson commented on how the United States and other countries have come a long way in this discipline and offered some insight in to how to keep that momentum going.
"I'll give you an example," he said. "I went down to the reining demonstration and asked if I could have a go at it, and they looked at me in my wheelchair and said, 'No, but we'd love to get some para-equestrians to do some reining. How do we go about doing that?' And I said, 'You have to let them on the horse first. That's a good start.'
"That's my not-so-sensible answer, and my sensible answer is in England we have an amazing riding for the disabled organization, which is obviously therapy. Not all of the riders come from that, but quite a huge percentage come from riding for the disabled first. We also have a great support structure called World Class Performance, which is lottery funding to allow elite disabled and able-bodied athletes in England to apply to go on to a squad and receive funding. Then we have a great competition structure, because you've got to be able to compete and come here and feel confident. It's just about giving people the opportunity."