Denmark's Stinna Tange Kaastrup won her first world gold medal as Adequan® Para-Dressage began in exciting fashion at the FEI World Equestrian Games™ Tryon 2018, hosted in Tryon Stadium at Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC).
The 24-year-old European champion, who was born without legs, continued a memorable year by taking Grade II Individual honors ahead of prolific medal-winning Austrian Pepo Puch.
Kaastrup, riding 17-year-old Horsebo Smarties, posted a score of 72.735%, and Puch – the last of nine competitors – fell just short aboard Sailor’s Blue on 72.676%, with Netherlands challenger Nicole den Dulk and Wallace N.O.P. finishing third, just under two percent behind Puch.
There was disappointment for Great Britain’s Sir Lee Pearson, though, who needs one more medal to become the most decorated Para-Dressage rider in FEI World Equestrian Games™ history, as he retired his new ride, nine-year-old mare Styletta, two-thirds of the way through his test.
Kaastrup said, “I was upset because of a mistake I made because the horse was feeling amazing and doing such a wonderful job, but still it was enough [to medal] and it didn’t matter in the end. I was so nervous looking at the scores as it was so close all the way through, and I wondered if we were going to make it. My horse is really enjoying it, and as soon as we got into the arena his ears were like ‘hey, I’m here, is everyone watching me’? He is a darling.”
The Adequan® Para-Dressage program began with a thrilling Grade IV competition that saw the three medallists separated by just 0.781%, with the Netherlands’ Sanne Voets taking gold.
Voets, who won a freestyle Gold and two Silvers at the last FEI World Equestrian Games™ in France four years ago, led from a number one draw on Demantur N.O.P. as their score of 73.927% edged out Brazil’s Rodolpho Riskalla and Don Henrico (73.366%), with Danish rider Susanne Jensby Sunesen third aboard CSK’s Que Faire (73.146%).
“Nobody wants to be the first to go, but it doesn’t change the job,” Voets said. “You just have to do what you do and do it best. I think we smashed it.”
Riskalla’s life was turned upside down in 2015 when he contracted bacterial meningitis on a trip home to Brazil from his Paris base following the death of his father, and he had to have both legs amputated below the knee, in addition to losing his right hand and two fingers on his left hand.
Reflecting on his test, Riskalla said, “It was super. His style sometimes can be super-sensitive, but he performed just like he was at home.”
Grade V action concluded on opening day, and there was a victory for Britain’s Sophie Wells, riding C Fatal Attraction.
As with Voets, 28-year-old Wells went first in her class, and she delivered a commanding performance to finish on 75.429%, beating the Netherlands’ Frank Hosmar and Alphaville N.O.P. on 73.167%, with the bronze medal going to Belgium’s Regine Mispelkamp and Look At Me Now on 71.452%.
Wells, a mainstay of Britain’s dominant Para-Dressage team, won the world individual title at Kentucky in 2010, and three medals at the 2014 Normandy FEI World Equestrian Games™ including team gold.
“I am really pleased,” she said. “I had a little bit of a blip at the beginning where he was just a bit nervous, but compared to last year at the Europeans where the first day was the individual and he was a bit nervous there, he was so much better here and came back to me and built his confidence back up.”
Adequan® Para-Dressage will continue throughout the day and conclude on Saturday, September 22 in Tryon Stadium, featuring Team and Individual Freestyle competition over the next four days.