Edward Gal (pictured) made a triumphant return to the international dressage stage with his talented equine partner Lingh to take the fifth round of this season’s FEI World Cup dressage western European league with an impressive score of more than 80%.

The Dutch partnership were runners up at the 2004 FEI World Cup Final but narrowly missed the Athens Olympics when the 12-year-old injured himself just before they were due to leave. Their 81.6% score left the rest of the field in their wake, although it was a hot contest in which the top seven horses scored more than 76%.

“It’s very nice to be back with Lingh again”, Gal said. “We have not competed since Aachen last year, and while he was a little tense at the start of yesterday’s grand prix, he loves the atmosphere and rises to it.”

Switzerland’s Silvia Ikle, who was so thrilled when Salieri came third in Maastricht, went one better here to gain second place. In doing so she ascended to a strong third place in the points standings on 52, having recorded an early Central European League victory in Kaposvar.

“Salieri is a wonderful horse”, said the delighted Ikle. “I was astonished at his attitude as there was so much noise and so many people. I thought he might be difficult but he just went in as if to say ‘Here I am, I’m the best’.”

Also returning to the fray after a minor knee injury sustained just before Aarhus, Jan Brink’s Bjorsells Briar placed third on the Swedish pair’s first outing since the Athens Olympics.

“Briar felt very fresh and very good”, Brink said. “He was a little bit excited at the start of the grand prix, which is normal for him, but he felt great in freestyle, really up in the neck and with not many mistakes.”

Wim Ernes, President of the Ground Jury, had a lot of praise for the riders. ” The atmosphere was like a pop concert. It was really exciting, as was the grand prix, and the standard was really high in the freestyle. That so many horses were very close together was also exciting.

“Lingh was back on form with marvellous extensions and very nice piaffe and passage. Edward Gal took risks and rode to true power, which you have to if you want to win.”

With the solid combination of Hubertus Schmidt and Wansuela Suerte in fourth, Sven Rothenberger and Barclay II showed improved piaffe and a happier impression for fifth place. Isabell Werth’s Satchmo also got better and better over the show to take sixth position.

Carl Hester had to hang on to his hat as Escapado got off to a hot start after the crowd roared when he waved a front hoof in his first halt. Despite this, the one-time tempis were the only real loss in an otherwise admired test, which drew mixed scores from the jury members to leave Hester in seventh place on a solid 76.550%.

This leaves Hester in second place in the overall standings on 60 points with Germany’s Ann Kathrin Linsenhoff out in front on 65. Sven Rothenberger shares fourth position with Denmark’s Andreas Helgstrand, who was placed eighth here on Blue Hors Cavan. With Lone Jorgensen sixth, Edward Gal now occupies seventh place with Richard Davison in eighth.

FEI World Cup Freestyle to Music Qualifier results

1. Lingh (Edward Gal) NED 81.600
2. Salieri (Silvia Ikle) SUI 78.925;
3. Bjorsells Briar (Jan Brink) SWE 77.925;
4. Wansuela Suerte (Hubertus Schmidt) GER 77.075;
5. Barclay II (Sven Rothenberger) NED 76.675;
6. Satchmo (Isabell Werth) GER 76.575;
7. Escapado (Carl Hester) GBR 76.550;
8. Blue Horse Cavan (Andreas Helgstrand) DEN 75.050;
9. Guinness (Louise Nathhorst) SWE 73.550;
10. Just Mickey (Tinne Vilhelmson) SWE 73.400;
11. Ballseyr Royale (Richard Davison) GBR 71.000.