The European para-dressage meeting is being held this year for the very first time on French territory.
Organized by Handi Equi’ Compet under the FEI, The “Pôle International du Cheval” at Deauville will be welcoming the athletes for three days of unforgettable competition between the 18th and 20th of September. Entry is completely free of charge.
The rules of the game
The championships are held over three days, each day seeing a specific test: The Team Test (a preliminary class) starts the competition, it’s a crucial stage as the scores count towards the team medals. For those riders competing as individuals it serves as a warm-up and to prepare for the tests that follow.
The Individual Championship test takes place on the second day of competition and has two purposes, to determine the final placings of the team title, and select those couples able to start the Freestyle. The Freestyle to music test brings the event to a close and requires the athletes to ride different figures in an original floor plan to music of their choosing. In each of these tests the riders are divided into five Grades depending on their level of impairment from Grade I (the greatest degree of impairment) to Grade IV (a lesser degree).
HANDI EQUI’ COMPET
Founded in 2007, Handi Equi’ Compet aims to give every para-equestrian rider the possibility of discovering and reaching para- equestrian competition. From beginners to the highest-level, from club/national competitions to the Paralympic Games, the missions of Handi Equi’ Compet are to allow new riders to join the non-profit making organisation and to help them improve their riding skills through training courses, advice, and access to suitable competitions in para-equestrian dressage and para- equestrian show jumping.
Three nations are considered particular favourites: Great Britain, the Netherlands and Germany, who will be very well represented and in a good position to take the team title.
English rider Lee Pearson will notably be present, individual and team gold medallist at the 2014 World Equestrian Games at Caen and at Lexington in 2010, team gold at the 2012 London Paralympic Games and double gold medallist at the 2008 Pekin Paralympic Games, this Grade 1b rider will try to add yet another medal to his trophy haul. He will be accompanied by Anne Dunham (Ia), Natasha Baker (II), Sophie Christiansen (Ia) and Sophie Wells (IV).
Challengers in the starting blocks
Germany is sure to put up a fight, their athletes have some serious team results under their belt including a bronze medal at the Caen World Equestrian Games and also two silver medals: at the London Paralympic Games and at the 2013 European Championships at Herning.
As for the Dutch, they could create the surprise this year by imposing themselves thanks to their leading couples Rixt Van den Horst/Uniek in Grade II, Sanne Voets/ Vedet PB N.O.P. in Grade III and also Frank Hosmar/ Alphaville N.O.P. in Grade IV. The Danes have also confirmed their presence showing strength since their bronze medal at the last European Championships at Herning in 2013, they are ready to rise to the challenge made by Great Britain.
The Austrian Pepo Puch, far from being an outsider as he is a regular winner in Grade Ib and double European Champion at Herning in 2013, will try to defeat his main rival: Lee Pearson.
Focus on Rio
These European Championships are a major event in the para-dressage schedule as they are a selective step for the Rio Paralympic Games. It’s a good test for the riders coveting a medal in Latin America next year, they can gain confidence here by riding against a quality competition.
Free entry and something for everyone
The public is warmly invited to come and encourage the athletes all along the week-end. In between proceedings, spectators will be able to make the most of the different stands in the village especially set up for the occasion, and the younger generation will be able to enjoy the free pony rides.
Find all the news concerning the 2015 European Championships on Facebook “FEI European Para-Dressage Championships 2015” and on the web site www.europeanparadressage-2015.com
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