Already a double Paralympic champion, Natasha Baker claims the pride in representing your nation on the biggest stage is not diminished by former glories.
Baker, 26, won individual and freestyle dressage gold at London 2012 atop Cabral and she will return to the Paralympic Games arena next month to try and emulate her achievements of four years ago, on the same mount.
Having won double silver at last year’s European Championships Baker comes into the Games confident of success, and safe in the knowledge that her horse has done it all before.
“It’s such a massive honour to be representing my country against at my second Paralympic games and to be on the same horse is really special for me,” said the Uxbridge resident.
“If he was a school boy he would be the one that hands his homework early, he’s a bit of a goody two-shoes but he’s the most genuine person in the world.
“He’s the sweetest and he just wants to try his best with everything he does which is fantastic for me and it’s a pleasure to ride him and he loves winning.
“He struts around the yard like ‘I’m a gold medallist, I’m the best, everybody look at me’.
“He’s a little bit of a diva but that can play into my hands because I can go into an arena and know he’s going to be like ‘wow, everyone check me out’ and to the judges ‘yes you can give me a ten’.”
Baker, who has severe nerve damage in her legs after contracting transverse myelitis at just 14 months old, is being sent to Rio by the British Paralympic Association, which is a registered charity responsible for funding, selecting and managing the ParalympicsGB team.
Rio is expected to be the most competitive Paralympic Games ever but Baker is confident she is equipped to deal with the pressure.
“I love pressure, I think I do well under pressure so that’s a definite advantage for me,” she added.
“I have a bit of rivalry with a Dutch rider, she’s current World and European champion so I think it will be between us two but you never know with horses, something could spook them, literally anything can happen but it’s definitely expectation and I’m going in double Paralympic gold medallist and I want to retain that crown.
“I will be, for quite a lot of people, the one to beat. I like that that’s always what I’ve dreamt of, you have to take that pressure on board.”
Rio will present a greater challenge than a home games for ParalympicsGB’s equestrian team with the prospect of horse having to fly to the competition, but Baker is confident Cabral will cope.
“Luckily he’s flown before – only two of the five that have been selected have flown,” she said.
“They’ll leave here, they’ll group together in one place, they go out to Belgium they’ll fly with all the other European horses out to Rio, they’ll get off the plane then it’s only an hour.
“They’ll have a day resting then it’ll be straight into work.”
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