Britain is the undisputed champion of Para dressage.
The nation has maintained an undefeated team record at every Paralympic Games and European and World Championships since its introduction in 1996.
Not bad going for a small island with a population of 65 million – around 10 million of which are disabled.
According to Para-Equestrian Dressage Performance Manager Sarah Armstrong, the success is down to two things: sheer hard work and the strong foundation provided by the Riding for the Disabled (RDA).
“We are extremely lucky to have the RDA,” she said. “It’s quite a unique thing. Other countries are latching onto it, but Britain has been doing it a long time, and it gives such a great grounding.
“We also have a series of training programmes that help us find talent and help disabled riders make the decision to go from riding therapy to becoming an athlete.”
Sarah was officially appointed as Performance Manager earlier this year, but she was given the role on an interim basis back in 2015, just 10 months before the Rio Olympics.
It was quite an undertaking, considering the team’s previous winning form. However, Sarah was already Head of Performance Operations for the World Class Programme, so she knew the discipline and the riders involved. Under her guidance the team maintained its incredible record.
So what exactly does her job involve?
“I co-ordinate delivery of training for the athletes, and the human and equine sports science support, such as the vet and physiotherapist,” explains Sarah. “Someone has to make decisions and that’s me, but it only works because we are such a close-knit team. That is our strength.”