Local equestriennes feature in Triple Gold for Britain’s Pony Dressage Team

British quartet Phoebe Peters, Isobelle Berrington, Clare Hole and Rebecca Bell have made history at this year’s FEI European Pony Dressage Championships (5th-9th August) by taking our first ever team gold medal in a close fought battle with Germany and Denmark. Held in Malmö, Sweden, the Championships also proved a very happy hunting ground for Phoebe (16) who took two further golds in the individual and freestyle sections riding her mum Tracy’s SL Lucci, giving Great Britain a clean golden sweep of medals.

The competition, for riders aged 14 – 16 on ponies, got underway with the team round on Thursday with debutante Isobel Berrington (15) acting as pathfinder with her pony, DHI Langar, owned by her mum Penny. A score of 70.615% gave the team just the start they wanted by breaking the magic 70% barrier.  Second for Britain was Clare Hole (13) from Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, also making her team debut, with Rembrandt, who was in the team in 2011 and ’12 with owner Maisie Scruton.  They kept Britain in the medal hunt with an excellent 71.718% to leave us in bronze position overnight.

Day two was over to the ‘veterans’ of the team; headed by Rebecca Bell (15) with mum Caroline’s Valido’s Sunshine who made their third, and final, team appearance.   Rebecca put in a polished performance to score 71.077%, bringing a medal a step closer.  Then it was down to our anchor-duo, Phoebe and Lucci.  With two individual gold medals from 2013, a freestyle silver from 2014 and a bronze and silver team medal, the pairing has a great amount of experience but had set high goals for this, their final pony championships together.  With amazing skill and ability, the duo simply blew the competition blew the competition away with a score of 79.974% to promote Britain to gold, overtaking the Danish team.  It was down to the final competitor of the class from Germany to know our fate.  The calculators were out and they needed a score over 76.4% to snatch victory.   75.769% was the score and gold was Britain’s.

Overnight, Phoebe’s score was amended to 80.077% which made the final winning team margin 0.641% and took the first step to achieving her championship aim of posting three plus 80% scores.

All four riders qualified for the individual test and again scored well to finish top 15; Rebecca was 13th, Clare 14th and Isobel 15th. But the top honours went to Phoebe with a stunning performance to add a fourth gold to her medal collection.  The five judges were unanimous in their scoring to end on 81.39%, a new personal best for this test, and the only rider to break the 80% barrier. Another tick off Phoebe’s championship target.

On to the final test, the freestyle.  All four British riders qualified but the rules only allow three to compete so sadly, Isobel had to sit it out with Langar.  Clare scored 70.278% to finish 14th overall with Rembrandt, a real credit to post three 70% plus scores on a team debut.  Riding in her final ever pony championship test, Rebecca threw caution into the wind and scored a fabulous 73.925% with ‘Sunny’, which held the lead for much of the class, to finish eighth.  Then the focus turned to Phoebe and Lucci; could they end their three year pony career on a high?  Of course they could!  Another test, another 80% plus score, another personal best and therefore another record score, and another gold medal.  85.825% was their final score.

The team performed beyond all expectations and the three golds were a great send off for team chef d’equipe Liz Mills from Norfolk, trainer Peter Storr and selector Sarah Pidgely, who are standing down from their roles.  British Dressage Chief Executive Jason Brautigam commented; “The team and individual performances were nothing short of spectacular.  These four riders met the challenge head on and rode with exceptional skill and flair, all while keeping a cool head and we could not be more proud of them all.  Of course behind every performance is a great support team and while the riders have to perform in the arena, a great deal goes on behind the scenes to get them there.  I’d like to thank the riders, their families, the grooms, the officials, sponsors and supporters who made this team possible.  We’ll be very sad to see Liz and Peter go; their input over the years has helped the pony team to this status and it’s testament to their hard work that the team is now reaping the rewards.  They’ll be hard to replace and I’m sure the pony squad will join me in wishing them well in the future.”

Phoebe told British Dressage; “I just can stop smiling! Lucci was absolutely foot perfect all week; any mistakes we had in our three tests were completely mine – he was with me every step of the way. The team atmosphere was the best ever which made such a difference to our confidence.  The support team was amazing; the grooms worked so hard and Peter and Liz just kept us focused.   It was simply the best week I’ve ever had!”

Equestrian Team GBR is supported by the UK Sport National Lottery funded World Class Programme; the British teams are very grateful to the support they receive from official Team GBR suppliers Dodson & Horrell, Equi-Trek, Land Rover, NAF, NuuMed, Point Two Equine, Tagg Equestrian and Toggi.

Photo: Helen Revington

AUG15 News Gold Team 3