The equestrian events of the London 2012 Paralympic Games got off to a partly wet and windy start for Grades II and Ib in the team test today, but little could dampen the spirits of the riders and their teams as they began their Paralympic journey. There was a genuine buzz about Greenwich Park and British riders did not disappoint the enthusiastic crowds as they battled with the elements, taking pole position in both Grades.
The spectators, many for whom this would be a first Dressage experience, were sensitive to the needs of the athletes in terms of cheering and congratulated them when they saw it was safe to do so. For many of the riders, this was probably the first time they and their horses have ever competed in front of such large crowds so it truly marked the beginning of what is likely to be a unique experience.
The first two days of competition are all about the team with riders in each Grade competing in the team test. However, as there are some riders competing here as individuals (a team is composed of a minimum of three and maximum of four individuals), they also take part in the team test but their scores do not go towards any final marks, making it a practice run of sorts.
Natasha Baker (GBR) performed a magnificent test riding Cabral to take the top spot in Grade II but as she is not in the British team–they qualified 5 riders: a team and one individual–her score does not count but she will definitely be one to watch in the individual medals especially given her comfortable lead on Germany’s Britta Napel in second place. Napel won individual championship gold in 2008 as well as team