When Great Britain gained an early lead in the para-dressage competition this week at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, it was with the help of Lee Pearson and his gelding Gentleman.
Pearson, a nine-time Paralympic gold medal winner with great name recognition in Great Britain, is "quite the celebrity at home," said Winnie Murphy, a spokeswoman for Great Britain's team.
Pearson came in first in the team test Tuesday for the 1b division of athletes who have limited use of their limbs and received the highest score of all the athletes from his home country. There are five grades in para-dressage, based on the rider's disability.
Pearson, 36, was born with arthrogryposis multiplex congenita, which resulted in deformities in his legs and arms. His legs are encased in plastic splints.
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He received national recognition early in life when he received Britain's 1980 Children of Courage Award and met then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
In February 2009, after having won three gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games, Pearson and other members of Great Britain's team went to Buckingham Palace for a meeting with Queen Elizabeth II.
British riders have long won gold medals at the para-dressage world championships.
Pearson will compete again Thursday in the individual test. He said Gentleman did not let him down on Tuesday.
"He'd never heard so many cameras clicking going down the centerline," Pearson said, "but he was good."