Brilliant bronze for Sir Lee Pearson and Breezer

Wednesday, 10 August 2022

Under brilliant blue skies, half of the British Equestrian Para Dressage Team got their medal campaign underway today in the Orifarm Healthcare FEI World Para Individual Championship, presented by Elsass Fonden

It was the pair of Grade 2 combinations who acted as our pathfinders, riding – in a turn of events that had many scratching their heads – the team test determine the individual medals and qualification towards the freestyle.  

Georgia Wilson and Sakura

The first British duo down the centre line was Welsh rider Georgia Wilson and her eight-year-old Supertramp mare, Sakura, jointly owned with parents Geoff and Julie Wilson.  

Herning is the second championship for these two, after they enjoyed a double bronze debut in Tokyo last year when riding as individuals. Some strong performances this spring and summer cemented their team selection for Herning. In front of the five-strong judging panel of John Robinson (GBR) at E, Suzanne Cunningham (AUS) at H, Kathering Lucheschi (ITA) at C, Jeanette Wolfs (NED) at M and Kristi Wysocki (USA) at B, Georgia and ‘Suki’ produced a polished performance. The chestnut mare showed some excellent work, albeit on her toes at times in the atmospheric BB Horse Arena.

Coach, mentor and fellow competitor Sophie Wells seemed pleased with their performance as a final score of 71.455% was announced. There was a spread of opinion between the judges, with scores ranging from 67% to 75%, but the final percentage was a satisfying start to their championship.

“It was nice to get the first test out the way. I like coming out of the test feeling happy and I feel like I’ve achieved that here, said Georgia with her trademark beaming smile. “It was very odd [the test order] because I actually don’t like the team test! So, it’s the only test I don’t enjoy riding and I got it out the way, because it’s so bitty in walk and trot and takes a lot of brain power, but everything felt as smooth as I could get it and she liked it, obviously.

“I wish I was in the big stadium,” she added longingly.

“It’s taken a while to get her to flick her toes in the medium, but I feel she’s getting used to the medium trot. Before, I had to use my whips to tell her to walk forward, but now I have to relax myself to slow her down because she’s very forward going now. Probably the leg yield was my highlight – that felt really nice and forward into the contact,” Georgia summed up.

Sir Lee Pearson and Breezer

It was then the turn of the ‘Godfather of para dressage’ himself, Sir Lee Pearson. Competing on his homebred Breezer in his sixth World Championships and hoping to add to his 14 medals, Lee trotted up the centreline with a steely focus and determination. The noise of the adjacent Stutteri Ask Stadium when a competitor jumped a clear wasn’t enough to unduly unsettle the Bacardi-sired 11-year-old gelding. Indeed, he showed improved power a year on from his triple Paralympic gold performances in Tokyo, and the trot work had good cadence and swing. There was just one moment of tension when there was a small jog in the walk tour ahead of the leg yield to mar an otherwise mistake-free test. The final score was delivered as 75.091%, which wasn’t quite enough to overtake friendly but fierce rival Pepo Puch and Sailor Blue for Austria, who posted 75.333% in their ride preceding Lee.

“It was felt really nice, with just one moment of tension in the walk just before the right leg yield, but he’s a very sensitive horse and he hasn’t still seen that many audiences really, so to stay as relaxed as he did [was good]. I have a habit of being a bit relaxed in the trot work, but I’m still learning in my old age! I had him as engaged, and tried to be as expressive, as I can. At this stage, you can’t just have a normal working trot, you’ve got to have that little bit of spice, and I was pleased with my riding and I was pleased with my horse – whatever the results, I’m still taking the best horse home,” declared Lee.

Final placings

While Lee chatted in the mixed zone post-test, outsider Katherine Kristensen riding Goerklintgaard Quarter for the host nation Denmark pulled off a supreme test to take the lead late on and secured the gold medal ahead of Pepo, meaning Lee took bronze on day one. Georgia and Suki finished fifth, with plenty to build on in the individual test on Friday, when the team medals will be decided.

Tomorrow, it’s the turn of Sophie Wells in the Grade 5 with Rowland Kinch’s Don Cara M and newlywed Natasha Baker with the British-bred Keystone Dawn Chorus, owned by Joanna Jensen, Christian Landolt and her parents, Phil and Lorraine Baker. Here’s hoping the duo can reproduce a bit of their Tokyo magic to land places on the podium. Full times and results are available on our Herning Hub.