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Johnson’s nippy win

Paralympian equestrian ace Phillipa Johnson braved freezing Belgian conditions to place first in a regional dressage competition this wee, writes Mark Etheridge.

It was the Johnson and equestrian companion Verdi’s first competition of the year and got the combination off to a good start.

“It was a regional competition (able-bodied) and being winter competition the regional competitions don’t count for points so we used it as a practice competition just to get down the centre line again,” Johnson told Road to London 2012. “We have had a freezing week, so have had to truck the horses to a different venue to train as we only have outdoor arenas. It has been very difficult and cold with Saturday starting training at -16┬░Celcius!

But the cold wasn’t the only obstacle the two had to overcome. “To make matters worse our riding time was 20:56 ÔÇô┬áI’m used to arriving home from competitions in the dark but it is very strange to leave for a competition in ┬áthe dark! When Verdi entered the arena he took an immediate disliking to the judges and wouldn’t go anywhere near them. We got over that with a few magic words and were able to start our test.

“Unfortunately with the tension there were a lot of mistakes but also one or two good points. We won the Prix St George with 61,45% out of four horses, not a fantastic result but what made it very special was we were tied first with another South African rider, Andr├® La Cont├® who had his first competition in 15 months!! What can I say ÔÇô South African’s rock!”