British Paralympian Natasha Baker Makes Winning Return after Baby Break

Sun, 05/19/2024 - 23:08
2024 CPEDI Hickstead
Natasha Baker and Keystone Dawn Chorus at the 2024 CPEDI Hickstead :: Photo © Spidge Photography

-- Hickstead press release

Paralympic gold medallist Natasha Baker made a winning return to the dressage arena after a 20-month absence from competition, following the birth of her baby boy Joshua in 2023.

Riding the 13-year old British bred Keystone Dawn Chorus (by Dimaggio x Escudo), Natasha picked up a double of para-dressage victories at the 2024 CPEDI Hickstead on 78 May 2024. On Tuesday, she headed the CPEDI 3* Grand Prix A Grade III test with 74.833%, and repeated her win today in the Grand Prix B with 73.333%. Her last CPEDI start was at the 2022 World Para Dressage Championships in Herning (DEN).

“It’s really good to be back in competition, and ‘Lottie’ was amazing - she really looked after me. Today she was feeling absolutely pumped and ready, and that did lead to a couple of small mistakes, but I'm so happy for my first competition back in such a long time,” she said.

Natasha has had the ride on Lottie since 2019, and they were part of the gold medal winning team in Tokyo. The pair also won individual silver and bronze at the 2022 World Championships in Herning. “She is the kindest, sweetest, cuddliest horse,” said Natasha. “She's just the absolute dream to look after, she's so well behaved but also really brave and confident.”

Though her return to competition resulted in a double of wins, their path back into the arena hasn't always run smoothly. “I had a really bad start to the year, unfortunately my Nan was really poorly so I didn't manage to ride a lot in January, and that's just pushed things back a little bit with our preparations. But the last few weeks have gone really well, and Lottie has been feeling amazing. Now I need to get better and stronger, to be able to cope with all of Lottie’s movement.”

Becoming a mum has also brought its own challenges. “I'm not going to lie, I thought parenting would be easier to balance than it actually is! I really want to make sure I balance it well, and to make sure I don't miss anything with my son. I want to be there for all of his ‘firsts’, but I also want to be back out performing and being the best that I can be. So it's a juggle, but I'm sure every parent will understand that. Becoming a mum has been a real adventure – I love challenges and this is probably the biggest challenge that I've ever had. But coming into that arena yesterday was just awesome.”

Natasha’s son Joshua recently celebrated his first birthday, and he now has an important role of being the number one supporter for his mum. “Yesterday I came out of the arena feeling really happy with my test, then I saw him and just bawled my eyes out,” said Natasha. “It’s amazing being back doing my day job but with him on the sidelines. His dad has also taken time off work so he can be here looking after Joshua while I compete.”

A strong showing today will no doubt be a boost to her hopes of selection for this summer's Paralympic Games in Paris. If Natasha gets selected, it will be her fourth Games, and another chance to help Great Britain retain their record of team gold medals. “I had no expectations, I didn't know how Lottie was going come back or what the judges were going to think of us after such a long time out of the arena. But luckily, they seem to still love her. We've got another couple of internationals this year and then we have to see if the team still wants me!”

Natasha will be back in action in Thursday’s Freestyle, when she will be revealing brand new music. “It's like nothing I've ever had before, really pop and upbeat. If you're not singing it for the rest of the day, I'll be disappointed!” she added.  

Photo © Spidge Photography

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