By Tom Degun

Sophie_Christiansen_22-07-11July 20 - British Dressage has announced a strong line-up of five riders to compete at the Para-Equestrian Dressage European Championships in Moorsele in Belgium this September with double Beijing 2008 champion Sophie Christiansen (pictured) set to lead the medal charge for the team.

Christiansen, who will be riding Rivaldo of Berkeley, is joined by Natasha Baker riding C Landolt's Cabral, Deborah Criddle riding LJT Akilles, Anne Dunham riding Teddy and Sophie Wells riding Valerius, while Emma Sheardown, riding Purdy's Dream, has been named as the non-travelling reserve for the Championships.

The event, which takes place from September 1 until 4, is one of the last major international gatherings before the London 2012 Paralympics next year and Christiansen admitted that she is very excited ahead of the event.

"I've had a tough few months with my horse 'Robin' [Rivaldo of Berkeley] so this is a surprise and great honour," said the 23-year-old from London, who has cerebral palsy.

"I'm so proud of him to put all our troubles behind him and perform so well at Hartpury and earn our selection.

"I owe a massive thank you to my support team in particular Clive Milkins as without them, selection would have been impossible.

"I'm really looking forward to competing for my country and trying to keep up our run of success."

All six riders are on the World Class Programme, which is supported by National Lottery and Exchequer funding via UK Sport.

David Hunter, the World Class Performance Manager for the para-equestrian dressage team, said: "Selection this year was extremely challenging given the strong list of candidates across the grades.

"The standard of riding and test scores from those in our pool of riders has been very high but when it comes down to it we only have only five spaces at the Europeans this time.

"We have a determined team of experienced riders with some newer horse combinations and will work hard to defend our team gold in Moorsele."

All five riders will compete in both the individual Championship and Freestyle classes for their respective Grades, while four of the riders will also be selected to take part in the team competition.

The team result is calculated from the top three scores from both the team and Championship tests while in the Freestyle class the winner is decided by the highest percentage score obtained.

Baker added: "I'm not normally speechless but mum and I were in floods of tears when David Hunter broke the news.

"We've had a fantastic season, my coaches Sacha Hamilton and Emile Faurie have worked so hard and been really supportive and I couldn't have done any more.

"It's a wonderful opportunity, the European nations and especially the Germans and the Dutch are some of the strongest competition in my grade so it will be good to get a feel for where we are in the world too."

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