Horse of the Year Show 2017 Equestrian of the Year Award went to GB Para-dressage rider Sophie Wells. Fresh from her time on the podium at the Para-European Dressage Championships in August, Sophie was presented with the award under the Andrews Bowen International Arena spotlight.
Sophie who was born in 1990 with Amniotic Band Syndrome, a congenital disorder caused by entrapment of fetal parts in fibrous amniotic bands while in the womb, she suffered the loss and partial loss of fingers on both hands as well as enduring deep scarring which caused the loss of sensation and feeling in her lower leg.
However Sophie has never let her disability stop her and has had a number of great achievements in her riding, allowing her to be a perfect candidate for this award. Sophie stood as reserve for the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games with Touchdown M. Sadly, when called forward, Touchdown M was found to be lame and it was later discovered that he had a tumour in his foot. This knock-back didn’t stop Sophie from progressing and later that year she started riding Pinocchio, a KWPN Chestnut gelding. The pair went to their first Europeans together in 2009, where they successfully won three gold medals, the first golds a British rider had ever won at grade V (then grade IV). Sophie and Pinocchio went on to win a gold medal in the 2010 World Championships, and Sophie also became the first para-rider to compete in an able-bodied championship team at the Young Rider Europeans in 2010 and 2011. Sophie finally made it to the Paralympics in 2012 where she won a gold medal in London, cheered on by a home crowd. The 2016 Rio Paralympic Games saw Sophie and Valerius (Reece), her 15-year-old gelding, win another individual gold medal.
This year Sophie won the Prix St George Winter Championship title with C Fatal Atraction (Jorge), a 10-year-old KWPN gelding owned by Charlotte Hogg. At the Para-European Dressage Championships in August, Sophie took individual championship silver, individual freestyle gold and team gold in Gothenburg with Jorge. Currently based at home in Lincolnshire, Sophie coaches both able-bodied and para-riders, as well as building up her own team of horses. Sophie is currently ranked as second on the FEI World Para-Equestrian rankings and received a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2013 New Year’s Honours list.
Sophie will be taking part in the Dressage Future Elite Championships on Thursday (approx. start time 5:50pm) against abled bodied riders. As her first time competing at HOYS, we wish her the best of luck.
Photo 1st Class Images