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Paralympic sports - 16. July 2011.

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.

Commenting on their selection, the riders said:

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.”

Sophie Christiansen: “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.”

Deb Criddle: “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."

Anne Dunham: “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.”

Sophie Wells: “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.”

 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 www.britishdressage.com and www.equestrianteamgbr.co.uk for more details.

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