Aldergrove’s Lauren Barwick and Sandrino lit up Baji Koen Equestrian Park with a lively individual freestyle test on Monday, Aug. 30, at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games in Japan.
Barwick, 43, and Lee Garrod’s nine-year-old Westphalian gelding originally missed the top-eight Freestyle cut off by the narrowest of margins in the Grade III Individual Test on August 27.
However, a withdrawal by Rix Van der Horst and Findsley of the Netherlands during the horse inspection the morning of the competition suddenly bumped the Canadian combination back into action.
“I got the phone call [on the bus back to the Paralympic Village] and my hands got all sweaty,” Barwick related.
“I was really surprised and so pleased and grateful to the universe for the opportunity to ride for my Freestyle because it’s one of my favourite tests to ride. It was a very fast five or six hours, frantically unpacking and looking for stuff – none of what we would normally do to prepare for a test happened but man, did we pull it all together as a team.”
In their performance, Barwick made clever use of the entire arena dancing to upbeat instrumentals that highlighted Sandrino’s transitions, including music from the 2017 film, The Greatest Showman. Despite a costly break into the canter, technical proficiency in movements such as compulsory circles and consistent trot work combined with a high artistic score of 74.48 per cent to put Barwick in sixth place on a final score of 72.507 per cent.
“Today was just an emotional rollercoaster of happiness and joy,” said Barwick. “Sandrino felt the best that he has felt in the warm-up and then just felt a little bit tense in the test, had a little spook and some tension. That’s just young horse stuff; he has very little experience in an environment like this. He goes in there and he’s still a little bit of a tourist.”
Barwick, who won won gold at the Beijing 2008 event with Maile, has now made it to the Freestyle in each of her five Paralympic appearances.
Speaking of her fellow Grade III athletes, Barwick continued, “These are the best riders in the world. They didn’t just wake up a month ago and say, ‘Hey, let’s go to the Paralympics,’ so the judges know what they’re looking for. They’re looking for that level of refinement at this stage to really reward us with those scores that we’re looking for. We just don’t have that yet. I’m not going to let that take away from the fact that today, I got to take Team Canada into the arena and I was dancing for the other riders.”
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