The Netherlands and Denmark have both made the strongest of starts to the Team competition at the Orifarm Healthcare FEI Para Dressage World Championship 2022 in Herning (DEN) today. And with the seven top teams joining hosts France at the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games, the pressure to do well has never been greater.
Sanne Voets (NED) won the Grade IV and Katrine Kristensen (DEN) the Grade II team tests to lay strong foundations for their teammates to build on tomorrow.
Voets set the Dutch team’s marker in the Grade IV Team competition this morning, just two days after her gold medal in the Individual competition. Riding Demantur RS2 N.O.P to score an impressive 78.415%, a personal best in a team competition, she was followed later by the Grade’s Individual silver medallist and teammate, Demi Haerkens, who scored 76.024% on EHL Daula. Kate Shoemaker got the USA’s pitch for a Team medal off to a flying start too, taking third place in the test with a strong 75.415% on Quiana.
Speaking after her ride, Voets said: “We’re putting on the pressure. I feel really good. We hoped for a smooth test and this was definitely my best test of the season and better than Tokyo too. We took a little less risk and we were not 100 percent but, of course we went for it and from the moment I got on he was really fit and happy.”
The Netherlands won’t have everything their own way though, as Denmark’s Katrine Kristensen followed up on the gold she won in the Grade II Individual test with a winning 77.176% on Goerklintgaards Quarter.
In fact the Individual podium placings were repeated today, with Austria’s Pepo Puch in second on Sailor’s Blue, with 75.441%, and Great Britain’s Lee Pearson overcoming his horse Breezer’s excited reaction to a roar from the crowd in the nearby show jumping arena to score 73.529%.
“I’m so thrilled,” Katrine said. “Today was an amazing test. Quater was much better than Tuesday and he was really with me and a bit more calm this time so I had the time to show different things in the test. I was calm myself and I really tried to do my best.
“I felt some pressure because when you have won one time you have to go in and show I am still number one.”
The highest score of the day was a stunning 80.393% by Latvia’s Rihards Snikus on King of the Dance, in the Grade I Team competition. “The test was very good and all the exercises were nice,” he said, “with some nicer than others. But I can always do it better.”
Latvia doesn’t have a full team in Herning but, thanks to Rihards’ success over the past few years, that may change soon. “We have a new rider in Grade four here, Alise Muizniece,” said Daria Tikhomirova, the Latvian Chef d’Equipe, “she’s only 17 and it was after Rihards success at the FEI World Equestrian GamesTM in Tryon (USA) that she wrote to me and said ‘I would like to do that’. And then she started and now she’s in the World Championships. So maybe some other guy or young lady will look at him and say ‘I want to do it’.”
In another repeat of the Grade’s Individual podium, second place went to Sara Morganti (ITA) on Royal Delight with 77.250% and third to Michael Murphy (IRL) on Cleverboy with 76.072%.
The Team competition has added weight this year as the first seven teams will join France, as hosts, at the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games. At the end of day one the official standings put Austria in the lead with 213.755%, ahead of Spain with 188.143% and the USA, currently third, with 150.629%. Tomorrow will likely see a significant shift in the rankings though, as more of the top riders from around the world battle to secure those important tickets to Paris.
It’s going to be unmissable.