Denmark’s Stinna Tange Kaastrup made her global breakthrough in the Adequan® Para Dressage competition at the FEI World Equestrian Games™ Tryon, North Carolina (USA) today with her mount Horsebo Smarties, taking gold in the Grade II Individual competition.

Kaastrup was a double bronze medallist at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio, and has medalled at four European championships, is celebrating her first world title. She rode Horsebo Smarties to score 72.735% ahead of Austria’s multi world, European and Paralympic champion Pepo Puch, who scored 72.676% on Sailor’s Blue. The Netherlands’ Nicole den Dulk came third, on Wallace N.O.P. with 70.735%.

Speaking after the medal ceremony, and holding her medal tightly, an emotional Tange Kaastrup said: “It’s beautiful isn’t it? I really love that horse so much. To be able to share this with him means a lot, it really does. It really hit me in there [at the medal ceremony] when he came in. We have such a special bond.”

Tange Kaastrup’s win is even more impressive given a slight stumble in her test when she forgot one of the moves and had to restart, costing her two marks. She added: “I was really affected by the heat. We trained in t-shirts in all the training sessions and then I had to put the coat on today and it put me under a lot of pressure because it was so warm. I lost focus a little because of it and I am annoyed about that but it’s a learning.”

In the Grade IV competition, The Netherlands’ Sanne Voets got her WEG off to the best start by winning her first global individual title. Riding Demantur N.O.P., she scored 73.927%, ahead of Brazil’s Rodolpho Riskalla and Don Henrico with 73.366%. Denmark’s Susanne Jensby Sunesen on CSK’s Que Faire took the bronze with 73.146%.

Voets, the current world and Paralympic freestyle champion, was the first rider in the arena in her grade (and on the day itself) said: “Nobody wants to be the first to go but it doesn’t change the job, you just have to do what you do and do it best, I think we smashed it. The first bit is done, we’ve started now so let’s rock and rumble for the rest of the week.”

First to ride was clearly the lucky position today though, as Great Britain’s Sophie Wells took gold in the Grade V competition, in which she was also the first into the arena. Her score, on C Fatal Attraction, of 75.429% – the highest of the day – was comfortably enough to knock The Netherlands’ Frank Hosmar into second, riding Alphaville N.O.P. to 73.167%. Germany’s Regine Mispelkamp took the bronze, riding Look at Me Now and scoring 71.452%, at her first ever international competition.

“My running score was quite low at the beginning but it’s amazing,” said Wells. “I don’t think it’s really sunk in yet to be honest; sitting there and watching [the final riders] was awful, but it’s amazing, I’m so chuffed. You have different challenges through every part of your career, and every horse means something slightly different. I missed out in Normandy [WEG 2014] and you feel like you wait a long time to get the chance to do it again, I’m just so proud of him, it’s been a long journey like it has been for everyone else, and it just means a lot.”

Well’s team mate, the multi Paralympic, world and European champion Lee Pearson added to the drama of the day in the Grade II competition when he retired his horse, Styletta, around half way through his test. He explained: “Styletta seems to be struggling a bit with the humidity here. She’s only nine years old. She’s a spectacularly powerful horse and each day she’s been here she’s been feeling like she’s struggling a bit with the weather.

“I didn’t want to retire. I’m passionate about doing my best in the arena for my country but felt that it was the right thing to do.”

Retiring from the individual contest rules Pearson out of Saturday’s (22 September) freestyle competition but he remains scheduled to ride in the team competition on Thursday (20 September). His withdrawal today will cause some concern in the British camp though, as they have yet to be beaten in the team competition at European, world or Paralympics level, and need a top three finish to guarantee a place at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.

Tomorrow (Wednesday 19 September) sees the final two medals in the individual competition decided as the grade III and grade I riders take to the arena. Both are hugely competitive grades and will doubtless produce more exciting results.