Luhmühlen, Germany—Aug. 29
Belgium leads the team standings at this early stage of the Longines FEI Eventing European Championships, with Great Britain’s Laura Collett holding the individual top spot after the first day of dressage.
Collett, 30, competing as an individual, produced some stunning work to take the lead, 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 the Boekelo CCI4*-L (the Netherlands) last year and winner of the Chatsworth CCI4*-S (England) 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 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 medalists Lt. Col. Thibaut Vallette on the elastic moving Qing de Briot ENE HN.
Watch Collett’s test via FEI.
Both the French army rider, a member of the 2016 Olympic (Brazil) 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,” said Rüder. “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 (Germany), Anne-Mette Binder (Denmark) and Peter Andrew Shaw (Australia)—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.
Watch a wrap-up of day one via FEI.
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.
British rider Pippa Funnell, who won the European title at Luhmühlen 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 and Quarrycrest Echo, members of the winning team at the FEI World Equestrian Games (North Carolina) 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 heat up tomorrow when all eyes will be on the defending champion Ingrid Klimke of Germany and her brilliant horse SAP Hale Bob OLD, plus her teammate and three-time champion Michael Jung with his exciting new ride fischerChipmunk FRH.
Other potential highlights are world number two Oliver Townend of Great Britain riding the dual Land Rover Kentucky CCI5*-L winner Cooley Master Class, Ireland’s Sam Watson on the attractive dun Tullabeg Flamenco and France’s dual European champion Nicolas Touzaint on Absolut Gold TDC.