Germany is on track to win a fifth successive team gold medal after their third and fourth team riders, world champion Sandra Auffarth and Ingrid Klimke, rode superb Dressage tests at the Longines FEI European Eventing Championship at Blair Castle (GBR).
However, their team manager Hans Melzer is taking nothing for granted. “These riders are professionals and pressure is a good thing,” he said. “We have learned a lot from Fontainebleau [the 2009 FEI European Championship] when, having just won the Olympics in Hong Kong, we had a team disaster. So we will be concentrating hard and watching other teams, and also the weather, in case we need to change our plans about certain fences. But our horses are all well and we’re excited.”
World champion Sandra Auffarth, now in the lead on Opgun Louvo with 31.4 penalties, just 0.3 ahead of British individual Holly Woodhead, added: “Tomorrow is another day and I am focussed on that now, but I must admit that I am hopeful of doing well. I think this course will suit my horse.”
Klimke is currently in eighth place individually on Horseware Hale Bob with a score of 37.8. “I was a bit worried because the wind was blowing and ‘Bobby’ might be thinking he was going across country, but he did a wonderful job and was supple and obedient,” Klimke said of her Badminton runner-up.
“He has a rather ‘thoroughbred’ canter, which isn’t so great for Dressage, but he was very ‘through’ in his transitions and let me show how responsive he is to my aids. The Cross Country will be perfect for him because he is well balanced and full of energy. Our trainer Chris Bartle always reminds us that it’s not a Dressage competition!”
Great Britain, whose last European team gold medal was in Fontainebleau (FRA), are currently in second place, 10 penalties behind Germany.
Unusually, William Fox-Pitt (GBR) is the team discard score after a Dressage test that will have left the world number two slightly disappointed. He scored 43.0 on Bay My Hero, but any hopes of breaking the 40-penalty barrier were dashed with average marks for trot work and paces.
Instead, it was former dual European champion Pippa Funnell (GBR) who produced the counting score, 41.0, on the inexperienced nine-year-old Sandman 7. “I think the horse was a little nervous with all the people and the atmosphere and I know he could have done better but, for this stage of his career, I am very pleased with him,” she said of the gelding by Sandro Boy that she bought from Germany as a six-year-old.
“It’s a huge honour to be in the team. I was a little surprised, but I’m thrilled to be with William [Fox-Pitt] and Nicola [Wilson] again, and Kitty [King] has been going so well. What is exciting is the strength and depth we’ve got. Every one of the 12 British riders here could get a medal.”
The cost of one Cross Country mistake covers the top four teams after Dressage. France and Sweden, the bronze and silver team medallists in Malmö (SWE), are now in third and fourth positions and looking good in their quest to secure qualification for the Olympic Games in Rio next year.
Niklas Lindbäck (SWE), a team silver medallist in 2013, is best of the Swedish team in 10th place with a score of 38.1 on the 12-year-old bay mare Cendrillon. “I tried to do my best to help the team,” he said. “My horse did some amazing trot work but was a little bit tense in the canter. We struggled to keep it together but she was doing her best for me.
“We still have a long way to go as a team but if we do our usual Cross Country performance we should get there [to Rio]. However, we’re not thinking about that too much; we’re competing for medals!”
Individual Results after Dressage
1 Sandra Auffarth/Opgun Louvo (GER)* 31.4 penalties
2 Holly Woodhead/DHI Lupison (GBR) 31.7
3 Michael Jung/fischerTakinou (GER)* 33.5
4 Nicola Wilson/One Two Many (GBR)* 34.6
5 Thibaut Vallette/Qing du Briot ENE HN (FRA)* 36.8
6 Kitty King/Persimmon (GBR)* 36.9
7 Francis Whittington/Easy Target (GBR) 37.5
8= Ingrid Klimke/Horseware Hale Bob (GER)* 37.8
8= Laura Collett/Grand Manoeuvre (GBR) 37.8
10 Niklas Lindbäck/Cendrillon (SWE)* 38.1
*denotes team rider
Team Results after Dressage
1 Germany 102.7; 2 Great Britain 112.5; 3 France 115.2; 4 Sweden 119.4; 5 Italy 140.9; 6 Netherlands 143.0; 7 Ireland 143.7; 8 Belgium 148.1; 9 Switzerland 150.9; 10 Spain 156.4; 11 Russia 179.8