By Gary Anderson

Sophie Christiansen is part of a strong British team set to take part in Para-dressage events at the World Equestrian Games ©Getty ImagesThe World Equestrian Games, set to get underway in Normandy, France on Saturday (August 23) will see a record number of 100 riders and horses from 33 countries taking part in Para-dressage competition.

Riders will be competing in team competition, as well as individual events in Grade Ia and Ib, Grade III and Grade IV.

The Grade 1b competition is tipped to be one of the fiercest competitions in Normandy, with a number of world, European and Paralympic medallists going head-to-head for the first time at a World Equestrian Games.

Great Britain will be represented by 10-time Paralympic champion and reigning world champion Lee Pearson and Paralympic and European silver medal winner Ricky Balshaw, who will be riding LJT Enggaards Solitaire and Zion respectively.

Freestyle gold medallist at London 2012 Pepo Puch of Austria and Australian Joann Formosa, who also claimed individual gold at London 2012, will provide stiff competition for the British duo.

Pepo Puch will be looking to challenge in the Grade Ib events in Normandy ©AFP/Getty ImagesPepo Puch will be looking to challenge in the Grade Ib events in Normandy
©AFP/Getty Images

In Grade Ia, Britain will be favourite for gold with five-time Paralympic champion Sophie Christiansen likely face her biggest competition from Singapore's Laurentia Tan, Ireland's Helen Kearney, who won individual silver and bronze and team bronze at London 2012, and Italy's Sara Morganti, bronze medallist at the 2013 European Championships.

Germany's London 2012 silver and bronze medallists Britta Näpel and Angelika Trabert will be challenging Paralympic champion and six-time European gold medallist Natasha Baker of Great Britain in the Grade II class.

Germany is also well represented in the Grade III category as double Paralympic champion Hannelore Brenner will be defending her world title against Dane Annika Lykke Risum, who finished runner-up at the World Championships in Kentucky.

The Netherlands' Sanne Voets, winner of the the freestyle individual title at last year's European Championships, is also expected to be a strong contender.

Britain's Sophie Wells will start as favourite in Grade IV, aiming to defend her individual and freestyle world titles from 2010.

Her main competition is likely to come from Belgium's individual and freestyle London 2012 gold medallist Michèle George, the freestyle runner-up in 2010.

Hannelore Brenner will lead a strong German challenge for medals at the World Equestrian Games ©Getty ImagesHannelore Brenner will lead a strong German challenge for medals at the World Equestrian Games ©Getty Images

The team competition in Normandy will be contested by 19 nations, with Britain the current world, European and Paralympic champions.

Germany, the London 2012 and World Equestrian Games 2010 runners-up, will lead the chasing pack along with strong Irish, Danish and Dutch teams.

"Para-equestrian dressage will be the biggest it has ever been at a world Games," said International Equestrian Federation director Trond Asmyr.

"Sixty riders and horses from 16 countries competed at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games 2010 in Kentucky, where Para-equestrian dressage made its debut on the World Equestrian Games programme.

"At this year's Games, we will see more than double the number of nations competing, and of the 12 countries taking part in their first World Games, three will be doing so in Para-equestrian dressage."

The Para-dressage events in Normandy are set to get underway on Monday (August 25) with the first team test while the first individual medals will be awarded on Wednesday (August 27).

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