(FEI/Oliver Hardt for Getty images)
Belgium leads the team standings at this early stage, with Britain’s Laura Collett holding the individual top spot after the first day of Dressage.
Laura Collett (30) competing as an individual for Great Britain, produced some stunning work to take the lead at the end of the first day of Dressage at the Longines FEI Eventing European Championship Luhmuhlen (GER), but it looks as though the door has been left open for a potential new order tomorrow.
The graceful Collett, a neat rider known for her prowess in this phase, scored 25.5 on the German-bred 10-year-old London 52, a runner-up at Boekelo CCI4*-L last year and winner of the Chatsworth CCI4*-S this year, but only one of the three judges placed her first.
“He’s still a bit green and shy,” explained a delighted Collett of London 52, who made only small errors in the second flying-change and with a misstep in the canter work. “He saw the grandstand and was a little overwhelmed. He’s never been in a situation like this before, but he listened to me and kept his head.”
"He's a bit green and shy....he knows all the moves and trust me so much. If I keep riding and hold his hand, he's all right."
Laura Collett (Great Britain)
“He knows all the moves and trusts me so much. If I keep riding and hold his hand, he’s all right. I’m obviously delighted with his score and it’s exciting for the future.”
The former Junior and Young Rider European Champion is a mere 0.3 ahead of Germany’s second team rider Kai Rüder on Colani Sunrise and France’s 2015 European team and individual bronze medallists Lt Col Thibaut Vallette on the elastic moving Qing de Briot ENE HN.
Both the French army rider, a member of the 2016 Olympic gold medal team, and Rüder are reliably elegant in the Dressage arena and the pair are in joint second place on 25.8 penalties.
“It was a super dressage test with lots of highlights,” commented Ruder. “Colani was very relaxed, with good half-passes and the extended canter was just brilliant. It’s wonderful to see how much he improves from test to test. He’s a very strong character and you have to respect him - then he’ll do anything to please.”
The Ground Jury – Martin Plewa (GER, President), Anne-Mette Binder (DEN) and Peter Andrew Shaw (AUS) – awarded sub 30 marks to seven of today’s 35 riders, including the first two for the Belgian team, Laura Loge (Absolut Allegro) and the hugely experienced Karin Donckers (Fletcha van’t Verahof).
The Belgian pair is in equal fourth place on 28.8 penalties which gives the nation, in search of qualification for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, a boost in first place in the team competition at this stage.
Germany, the host nation, is second – their pathfinder, Andreas Dibowski (FRH Corrida) scored 34.6 – and France is third. Defending champions Great Britain are fifth.
Pippa Funnell (GBR), who won the European title at Luhmuhlen 20 years ago, was a late call up to the team on Monday and is taking the pathfinder role on Majas Hope, currently 17th individually on 35.4. Second to go, Piggy French (GBR) and Quarrycrest Echo, members of the winning team at the FEI World Equestrian Games™ Tryon (USA) last year, are in seventh place on 29.8.
“This is no dressage competition,” pointed out French. “I’ve walked the cross-country course once and my first impression is that it’s a proper championship course. You have to think really hard about which lines you choose. It’s a quick track with decent waters.”
Competition is expected to hot up tomorrow when all eyes will be on the defending champion Ingrid Klimke (GER) and her brilliant horse SAP Hale Bob OLD, plus her team mate and three-time champion Michael Jung (GER) with his exciting new ride fischerChipmunk FRH.
Other potential highlights are world number two Oliver Townend (GBR) riding the dual Kentucky winner Cooley Master Class, Ireland’s Sam Watson on the attractive dun Tullaberg Flamenco and France’s dual European champion Nicolas Touzaint (Absolut Gold TDC).
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