Mill Spring, N.C. – The Netherlands continued its brilliant run in the Adequan© Para Dressage at the FEI World Equestrian Games™ Tryon today with Rixt van der Horst successfully defending her individual title from Normandy 2014.
Van der Horst’s defense of her title came on her new horse, Findsley, on which she scored 73.735 percent, finishing comfortably ahead of Great Britain’s Rio 2016 triple gold medalist Natasha Baker, who rode Mount Saint John Diva Dannebrog to score 72.471, whilst Rebecca Hart (USA) finished with 71.618 percent, riding El Corona Texel, which was her first ever WEG medal.
After collecting her medal, a grinning van der Horst said: “I am really thrilled. It is so amazing to be world champion again, I am really happy. During my test I didn’t realise it was that good, I wasn’t thinking about it so it’s just amazing. In the beginning I was nervous but I relaxed during the test and it got better and better. I was just enjoying my ride.”
Like Great Britain’s Baker, van der Horst has only been riding her horse since the start of the year and, while competitive, wasn’t sure she would defend her title. “I hoped for this,” she added, “and to be at WEG, but to get a gold medal is a dream come true again.”
An emotional Hart celebrated a bronze which clearly meant the world to her having previously been fourth at the 2010 WEG in Lexington, Kentucky, and again at 2012’s London Paralympic Games. “It feels amazing, I love it,” she exclaimed. “I’m finally not the bridesmaid. I’ve been crying for the last hour and to be able to do in on home turf with my family watching and to be the US’s first WEG medal ever. This won’t be coming off my neck for a long time.”
Hart and El Corona Texel earned the first ever WEG para-equestrian dressage medal for the U.S. Competing in the FEI Grade III Individual Test, earning the bronze medal with a score of 72.235 percent. What is more, their bronze-medal achievement derived from a personal best score in a FEI Grade III Individual Test, breaking the score of 71.618 percent they set over the winter during week two of the Adequan Global Dressage Festival CPEDI3*.
“I’m really enjoying my home WEG,” Hart continued. “It’s been absolutely amazing. My family is incredibly supportive but have never been able to watch me in an international CPEDI before, so I have my dad and sister here. My dad got to watch that ride, so it was emotional because it was his first one, and to have it go well and have your home base—it’s just super.”
Italy’s Sara Morganti upgraded her WEG 2014 Grade Ia individual silver to a gold in Grade I, with a score of 74.740 percent finishing ahead of Singapore’s Laurentia Tan, who scored 73.750 percent on Fuerst Sherlock. Having led almost from the start of the competition until Morganti and Tan were the last two to ride, Germany’s Elke Philipp won the bronze medal, with 73.143 percent on Fuerst Sinclair.
Morganti’s win is extra sweet coming, as it does, after a difficult couple of years. At the Rio 2016 Games she was a favorite for a medal only to have Royal Delight be judged not fit to ride at the vet inspection, a decision which left her ‘devastated.’
Speaking after a tearful medal ceremony she said: “I feel so happy. I had some health issues and, for a moment, I thought I couldn’t come here but I wanted to so much for my horse and my trainer. We really wanted to do something good and even just to be here was great – but to win gold is a dream.”
And having shared a podium with Tan and Philipp, she added: “They are all wonderful riders that I love very much and I’m so happy to be on the podium with them. They have beautiful horses. I cried and I’m crying quite a lot. I can’t even imagine my family at home. My husband and my sister are here and all my family – my mum, my dad, my brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews are all together at home to watch it on TV.”
With all the individual test titles now decided, The Netherlands sits comfortably on top of the Para Dressage medal table with two golds, a bronze and a silver, having won a medal in every class in which it has competed. Great Britain lies second with one gold and one silver, with Denmark third with a gold and bronze.
Tomorrow sees the start of two days of team competition with Great Britain yet to be defeated at European, world or Paralympic level. However, new horses and concerns over the performance of Lee Pearson’s Styletta following their retirement in yesterday’s Grade II contest mean Great Britain’s defense is not, on paper, guaranteed. Couple that with great performances so far from Dutch, German, Danish, and other riders, the competition is now wide open.
Results: Individual Test Grade II
1. Rixt van der Horst / NED / Findsley / 73.735
2. Natasha Baker / GBR / Mount St John Diva Dannebrog / 72.471
3. Rebecca Hart / USA / El Corona Texel / 72.235
4. Emma Booth / AUS / Vogelfangs Zidane / 71.618
5. Angelika Trabert / GER / Diamond’s Shine / 71.588
6. Steffen Zeibig / GER / Feel Good / 71.294
Results: Individual Test Grade I
1. Sara Morganti / ITA / Royal Delight / 74.750
2. Laurentia Yen-Yi Tan / SGP / Fuerst Sherlock / 73.750
3. Elke Philipp / GER / Fuerst Sinclair / 73.143
4. Richards Snikus / LAT / King Of The Dance / 72.179
5. Roxanne Trunnell / USA / Dolton / 72.143
6. Katja Karjalainen / FIN / Dr. Doolittle / 72.000