EQUESTRIANISM: Emma earns GB gold

Emma Sheardown on her horse Purdy's Dream.
Emma Sheardown on her horse Purdy's Dream.
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BARKSTON’S international para dressage rider Emma Sheardown helped to secure team gold for Great Britain at the Para-Equestrian Dressage European Championships in Belgium following a last minute call.

This year only five horses and riders were selected to represent GB at the championships in Moorsele, and Emma was originally named as non-travelling reserve.

She said: “Selection must have been extremely challenging given the strong list of candidates across the grades.”

But at the last minute she was asked to step in to take the place of Sophie Christiansen who unfortunately had to withdraw from the competition after her horse sustained a minor injury.

Emma said: “I was delighted although a little shocked to get the call up to go, even though as reserve we were packed and ready. There was a mixture of emotions as I knew that my fortune was Sophie’s misfortune. But I was so pleased to be given the chance to return to the Europeans.”

It was at the Europeans in 2009 that Emma came back with gold and first became European Champion. Although this was Emma’s second European Championship appearance, it was her first call up for the team.

She said: “I was honoured to be selected on to the team, although given Great Britain’s unbeatable record in all major championships since 1996, I did have the feeling of huge responsibility”

The team formed an all-female quintet of Emma, Anne Dunham (Grade Ia), Deb Criddle (Grade III) and Sophie Wells (Grade IV), with Natasha Baker (Grade II) riding as an individual. All five riders are on the World Class Programme, which is supported via UK Sport.

Competing in the team test, Emma was delighted with her performance which she described as “nearly a personal best”. It helped secure gold for the British team and gained her an individual silver medal.

Defending her freestyle-to-music title, Emma settled for silver with team-mate Anne securing gold.

Speaking on behalf of Emma’s sponsor CWG, Lisa McNeill said: “The outstanding result for the British team in Belgium demonstrates the depth of talent of our para dressage riders. We are absolutely delighted for Emma and her support team who rose to the challenge and delivered their best.”

And looking forward to London 2012, Emma commented: “Competition for selection will be fierce but I am determined and focused and will do all I can to achieve my dream of competing in the Paralympic Games.”