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Johnson’s nippy win

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Tuesday February 7, 2012

Paralympian equestrian ace Phillipa Johnson braved freezing Belgian conditions to place first in a regional dressage competition this wee, writes Mark Etheridge.

It was the Johnson and equestrian companion Verdi’s first competition of the year and got the combination off to a good start.

“It was a regional competition (able-bodied) and being winter competition the regional competitions don’t count for points so we used it as a practice competition just to get down the centre line again,” Johnson told Road to London 2012. “We have had a freezing week, so have had to truck the horses to a different venue to train as we only have outdoor arenas. It has been very difficult and cold with Saturday starting training at -16°Celcius!

But the cold wasn’t the only obstacle the two had to overcome. “To make matters worse our riding time was 20:56 – I’m used to arriving home from competitions in the dark but it is very strange to leave for a competition in  the dark! When Verdi entered the arena he took an immediate disliking to the judges and wouldn’t go anywhere near them. We got over that with a few magic words and were able to start our test.

“Unfortunately with the tension there were a lot of mistakes but also one or two good points. We won the Prix St George with 61,45% out of four horses, not a fantastic result but what made it very special was we were tied first with another South African rider, André La Conté who had his first competition in 15 months!! What can I say – South African’s rock!”

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