By Mark Etheridge
Paralympic dressage gold medallist Philippa Johnson showed some encouraging form in icy European conditions at the weekend as the qualification race for the Rio Paralympics hotted up.
Belgium based Johnson took out both Verdi and Lord Louis to the the CPEDI3* Para equestrian competition in Genemuiden, Netherlands.
It was Johnson and her mounts’ first first international competition for the year. ‘It was the last chance for European Teams to qualify for Rio so the battle was on and the judges were giving no points away. Having had an extremely mild winter last week it suddenly froze which made for some very fresh horses,’ Johnson told Road to Rio 2016.
‘I took both horses the day before competition started. Louis was a touch on the crazy side so Chris and I decided to do a longer warm-up the next day as it was again going to be very cold. Unfortunately the longer warm up was too long, causing Louis to get behind my leg which lead to mistakes.’
There were 16 horses in the Grade III class.
‘Lord Louis finished eighth with 65.61%. Verdi then did a very nice test with one mistake and finished seventh with 65.75%.’
On to the Championships and it was clear that Louis’ mind was elsewhere. ‘He was doing a very good test until he decided to play silly buggers in the extended canter which cost us big points, but we still finished fifth with 66.79%.
‘Verdi went on to do a super test and finished fourth with 66,95%. So both were in the prizes and both horses qualified in the top seven for the kur.’
Johnson then had to ride the highest qualified horse which was Verdi, and saved the best to last. ‘He did the most fabulous test and scored his personal best score and we finished third with 73.08%!’