Friday, August 26, 2011

Eventing: European Championships: Britain poised in second place after dressage at the HSBC FEI Eventing European Championships 2011

Dressage at the HSBC FEI Eventing European Championships may not have all gone GB’s way but despite this the professionalism of the British quartet has won through. The team of Mary King, Piggy French, William Fox-Pitt and Nicola Wilson chased every mark, pulling through to maintain their overnight position and finish in second place after the dressage phase of the competition on 121.90.

The score keeps them in touch of home nation Germany who leads the competition by 23.20 points going into the cross country phase. It also sees off competitive scores from the Italians in third and the Swedish in fourth on 128.30 and 128.70 respectively.

Four of the five Brits currently lie in the top 20 of the individual standings with championship rookie Laura Collett top of the bunch. Cantering down the centre line for her first senior call-up as an individual the 21 year old proved she can more than hold her own with Mr Jason Houghton’s 12 year old gelding Rayef. The pair rode a polished test for 35.4 to go into joint fourth place after dressage, scoring 9’s for their trot work.

“He was such a good boy, I’m so chuffed with him” said Laura. “He’s been quiet all week as there’s not much atmosphere elsewhere but he got quite bright going into the arena. As soon as we went in he knuckled down though and is becoming a real performer as he gets used to these bigger occasions. Apart from one mistake in his final change he was faultless; this test is definitely up there with his best.”

Mary King ends the dressage best of the team riders in 10th position with the 14 year old Irish Sports horse Imperial Cavalier owned by Miss Janette Chinn and Mr & Mrs Edwin Davies. They rode a smooth, consistent test to produce their best score together of 38.80.

“Thank goodness the test wasn’t yesterday!” said Mary “Today Archie [Imperial Cavalier] got control of his nerves, he was very bright but much more relaxed; at WEG he was uncontrollable; better in Badminton and now finally seems to be beginning to settle. There’s quite an atmosphere in there and the wind has picked up but I was pleased he let me ride him; I’m really thrilled.”

Just behind her team mate, Piggy French’s 40.40 she posted yesterday proved good enough for 11th place after a confident ride with the 13 year old bay gelding Jakata owned by her father, Wally French and Michael Underwood. Meanwhile trailblazer Nicola Wilson’s 52.70 with Opposition Buzz places them 39th in the individual standings.

Reigning world silver medallist and team anchorman William Fox-Pitt recovered from a shaky start in the arena on Cool Mountain, regaining their poise and producing some wonderful work for 42.70 to go into 17th place.

“He got edgy towards the end of his warm up and carried this into his test” explained William. “He’s usually very reliable and steady but I presume this atmosphere just reminded him of all the excitement in Lexington! It’s a shame as overall the horse has improved so much and is a stronger, much more capable horse. It’s disappointing that he just didn’t quite do it here.”

Germany currently occupies the top four spots with Ingrid Klimke heading the leader board on 30.00 penalties after a sublime test that rocked the crowd with FRH Butts Abraxxas. They may may have won the dressage phase but it’s still all to ride for as we head into the cross country tomorrow.

Captain Mark Phillips has designed the course that he hopes will “keep the attention of the best riders while giving those with less experience a way to get round.”
Commenting on the test ahead William said: “It’s an inviting, galloping course that should ride really well, there are lots of little places where things could go wrong but it’s the timing of the course that will prove crucial, it needs to be tight enough to force some penalties.”


Britain come into the championships as World and European team Champions and are chasing their ninth successive European title as well as individual honours.

The host nation Germany are bidding for a first European team gold since 1973

All the British riders are on the UK Sport funded World Class Programme which works with talented riders to maximise their potential and deliver success on the world stage in the three Olympic sports of dressage, eventing, showjumping and the Paralympic sport of para-equestrian dressage. The Programme has been funded by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, through Exchequer and National Lottery funds, via UK Sport since 1998.

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