Britain is in fourth place after the first day of the team competition at the European dressage championships in Hagen ATW, Germany. They are 0.333% behind the bronze placed Swedish team.

Fiona Bigwood was the second of the British team to compete. Her impressive performance on the 12-year-old Swiss-bred gelding Mr. G de Lully saw her finish on 69.708% and in fifth position individually.

“It’s only my fourth international competition with him so this is a really big step for us,” said Bigwood. “He’s been working well ever since we arrived and I felt we really bonded out there in the arena.

“I was impressed with the way he handled himself too, his temperament was excellent,” she added. “The piaffe and passage are his real strength and these earned good marks.”

Less than 4.5% separates the third to sixth placed teams.

“Four nations including the British are within marks of each other,” said Bigwood. “But if our riders can pull it off tomorrow we’re in with a real chance of a medal.”

Emma Hindle (pictured) and the 15-year-old stallion Wie Weltmeyer — first to go for the British effort — scored 68.792% and are ninth individually. The top 25 competitors after tomorrow’s competition will qualify for the grand prix special on Saturday.

The British team is defending the bronze medal won at the European championships at Hickstead in 2003. Hindle and Wie Weltmeyer were part of that team and also competed for Britain at the Athens Olympics.
Team debutante Wayne Channon with Lorenzo CH, and best of the British in Athens 2004 Carl Hester and Escapado, will compete tomorrow to retain that bronze medal.

“Lorenzo’s looking fantastic and is on good form,” said Channon. “His paces are so expressive if I just ride a normal test he should get the marks.”

The Netherlands is in the lead with Germany in silver after two riders from each nation have performed.

Ann Kathrin Linsenhoff took the lead with the Oldenburg stallion Sterntaler-Unicef. The pair won team gold at the Jerez world equestrian games in 2000.

“I think the competition can stop now,” she said of her individual ranking.

Edward Gal is second with the 12-year-old Dutch-bred stallion Gestion Lingh.

“He had a fever two weeks ago so I couldn’t ride him for a week. By competing today as the second team horse he will have time to rest before the individual competition,” said Gal, who was second at the World Cup in Las Vegas with this horse, behind his trainer Anky van Grunsven who will compete tomorrow.

Third is Hexagon’s Ollright and the 23-year-old Lauren van Lieren, who is described as “a great new talent for the Netherlands”. Lieren has earned two gold and two silver European medals from the young riders and junior competitions.

“This is a great start for the Dutch team, it will be exciting tomorrow,” said Gal, of the Netherlands first step to take gold from last year’s champions, Germany who are 0.25% behind them.

After first two riders – team results
1. The Netherlands 143.750%
2. Germany 143.500%
3. Sweden 138.833%
4. Britain 138.500%

After first two riders – individual results
1. Sterntaler-Unicef (A-K Linsenhoff) 74.250% (GER)
2. Geldnet Lingh (E Gal) 72.917% (NED)
3. Hexagon’s Ollright (L van Lieren) 70.833% (NED)
5. Mr. G de Lully (F Bigwood) 69.708% (GBR)
9. Wie Weltmeyer (E Hindle) 68.792 (GBR)