Great Britain’s eventers made it an opening day to savour at the Longines FEI European Championships in Perthshire by delivering a dazzling dressage demonstration.
Senior championship debutant Holly Woodhead made light of her inexperience at the highest level to take an overnight lead with DHI Lupison on 31.7 penalties.
There were some amazing dressage tests today, which is very excitingNicola Wilson
The 21-year-old, from Marlborough in Wiltshire is almost two penalties clear of reigning Olympic champion Michael Jung, with Britain’s team riders on day one – Nicola Wilson (One Two Many) and Kitty King (Persimmon) – occupying third and fifth places, respectively.
Laura Collett (Grand Manouevre) and Sarah Bullimore (Lilly Corinne), meanwhile, hold sixth and seventh spots as Britain posted an immediate statement of intent at Blair Castle.
Dressage continues today, when multiple major championship medallists Pippa Funnell and William Fox-Pitt take centre stage for the host nation, while individual competitors Izzy Taylor, Oliver Townend, Francis Whittington and Wills Oakden also perform their tests.
Reigning European champions Germany, though, will look to up the ante after Jung’s impressive start, with team riders Ingrid Klimke and current world champion Sandra Auffarth waiting in the wings as a gripping gold medal battle looms large. Reflecting on her performance, Woodhead said: “I am absolutely over the moon with him [DHI Lupison].
“I had a really good warm-up plan with him, and all I could remember was the test that I did with him at the Aachen Nations Cup event recently, and I tried to do exactly the same. It is hard work to get him like that but when it comes off, he’s amazing.”
In terms of the team competition, Britain are attempting to reclaim a title last won six years ago when Wilson, Fox-Pitt, Townend and Tina Cook claimed an emphatic triumph in Fontainebleau, France.
Wilson added: “There were some amazing dressage tests today, which is very exciting. Hopefully, tomorrow will be the same, and then bring on the weekend. It is going to be a true test of cross-country and stamina on Saturday. I know that One Two Many is fit enough – he hasn’t missed any work and he has been bang-on all summer – so hopefully he will cope as well as any on Saturday.”
Tomorrow’s cross-country phase is followed by the showjumping finale on Sunday, when team and individual medals will be decided.