Having been assured that Blair would be both freezing and wet, Friday morning’s dressage session saw another beautiful day on the edge of the Cairngorms. Izzy Taylor riding as an individual for Great Britain kicked off proceedings on Briarlands Matilda. It’s hard to know what more the judges are looking for from this combination, who produced a lovely relaxed test which disappointingly only scored 44.
Oliver Townend, riding as an individual for Great Britain, was next in on new ride Fenyas Elegance, the only combination in the first group to break into the top ten. This mare has a reputation for not coping with the pressure in the dressage, and she certainly came into the main arena looking hot. However Oli had the mare completely on side by the time they passed between the flower barrels and into the white boards, and apart from the first flying change, which was late behind, they performed a mistake-free test to give Fenyas Elegance her first FEI dressage score in the thirties, 38.7.
After the break, Pippa Funnell for Great Britain produced a solid test to score 41 and slot into 13th. She commented that she was “surprised to be included in the team because the horse is relatively inexperienced, which showed in the dressage when he was a little shy and made a couple of mistakes.” However she professed herself “very pleased with him for this stage in his career.”
There was a palpable buzz in the air when Sandra Auffarth trotted into the main arena on Opgun Louvo for Germany. As the current World and European Champion, she confessed that she “gets a real thrill” from hearing the commentator mention that as she circles the arena. This experienced pair produced a real dressage masterclass, with the atmosphere working in their favour to give the 13 year old gelding lift and elevation in his paces. A mistake-free test with plenty of 8s and 9s flashing up on the scoreboard made it obvious that if anyone was going to challenge Holly Woodhead for the lead, it was this pair. And so it proved, when they took the lead by 0.3 of a penalty with a score of 31.4 to Holly’s 31.7.
The French riders have been quietly producing proficient tests throughout this competition, clearly looking to redeem themselves after the fiasco of the World Equestrian Games, where they gained, and then lost their Olympic qualification. Gwendoline Fer’s Romantic Love did a polished test to leave them just outside the top ten on 40.3, though they ride as individuals for France, whose third team member Thomas Carlile finished on 43.2.
The European Championships are the last chance for European teams to qualify for the Olympics in Rio next year. With Germany, Great Britain, the Netherlands and Ireland already qualified, France, Sweden, Belgium, Spain, Russia, Italy and Switzerland will all be fighting to gain the last two spots. Sara Algotsson Ostholt, whose test with Reality 39 put them in 14th at the lunch break noted that “this is Sweden’s main aim for the competition.”
Sam Watson got Ireland off to a flying start yesterday with a personal best score at Championship level of 44.10 to leave him in ninth overnight. Sadly for Ireland, he’s riding as an individual on the inexperienced Horseware Lukeswell. The team currently sit in fifth with a 44.6 by Padraig McCarthy on Simon Porloe, the former ride of his fiancée Lucy Wiegersma and a 50 from Joseph Murphy and Sportsfield Othello. Michael Ryan was their third team member to go, riding Ballylynch Adventure, who unfortunately looked somewhat tense, with occasional missteps in the early trot work hampering their score to leave them in 35th on 51.9.
Current team standings at lunch time on Friday are Germany in gold on 108, Great Britain in silver on 112.5 and France in bronze on 118.7. Sweden are fourth.
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