PARALYMPICS: Bourne dressage rider enjoys ‘incredible’ Rio test

Roberta Sheffield (CAN) & Double Agent - Team Test Grade III  Rio 2016 Paralympic Games  Rio de Janeiro, Brazil  11 September 2016 ANL-160913-211819002

Roberta Sheffield (CAN) & Double Agent - Team Test Grade III  Rio 2016 Paralympic Games  Rio de Janeiro, Brazil  11 September 2016 ANL-160913-211819002

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‘A fantastic experience’ is Bert Sheffield’s verdict on her debut at the Paralympics.

The 35-year-old from Bourne – who keeps her horses at Fourwinds Equestrian Centre in West Pinchbeck – claimed 14th place in the Grade III Individual Test.

She returned to the ring aboard Double Agent – known as Darcy – her nine-year-old Anglo European mare sired by Donnersohn.

Despite the thermometer climbing to 37C in Rio plus humidity on Tuesday afternoon, the duo put in a solid performance for a score of 67.146 per cent.

“It’s extremely hot but the test itself felt really good,” said Sheffield.

“I felt my horse was trying really hard but the heat is just something else.

Roberta Sheffield (CAN) & Double Agent - Team Test Grade III  Rio 2016 Paralympic Games  Rio de Janeiro, Brazil  11 September 2016 ANL-160914-164358002

Roberta Sheffield (CAN) & Double Agent - Team Test Grade III  Rio 2016 Paralympic Games  Rio de Janeiro, Brazil  11 September 2016 ANL-160914-164358002

“It has been a fantastic experience and Rio has looked after us brilliantly.

“I think it’s been a really, really good experience for me and I’m sure I’ve grown a great deal as a rider.”

Sheffield, who has dual nationality to compete for Canada, and Darcy opened their campaign on Sunday in the Grade III team test and finished in 10th place individually in the class.

She suffers from juvenile idiopathic rheumatoid arthritis – a condition that affects all of her joints, her spine, hips, hands and feet, causing fatigue and decreased mobility.

“It’s pretty incredible to have made my Paralympic debut for Canada,” added Sheffield who represented Canada at the 2014 FEI World Equestrian Games where she earned a fourth-place finish in the freestyle.

“I’ve spent the last six months seeing it on the horizon – just seeing all these steps in the road and in the way that I had to go through.

“So it’s incredible to have actually finally got here and down the centreline. I have a score on the board and I am a Paralympian for Canada – which couldn’t be better.”

As well as being thrilled with the experience, Sheffield was also pleased with Darcy.

She said: “It was a really good ride. It felt amazing.

“It was like being on one of those floor conveyors at the airport, she just swept me along.

“It was so fluidly-going – it was faster than my brain usually has to compute with her. It was a really good thing, though – it was lovely.”

Overall, the Canadian para-dressage team of Robyn Andrews, Lauren Barwick, Ashley Gowanlock and Sheffield finished in 13th place in the team standings after five days of competition.

The team results were based on the combined scores of the top three horse-rider combinations from each country in the team test and individual test.

Canada finished on a team score of 414.926 as Great Britain claimed gold with 453.306, Germany took the silver medal on 433.321 and the Netherlands earned bronze with a score of 430.353.

Barwick was the only Canadian to move on to the freestyle as Andrews, Gowanlock and Sheffield finished below the cut-off score in their respective divisions.

As per Paralympic rules, only the top third of the entries in each grade - based on the combined score of the team and individual tests - move forward.