Laura Bechtolsheimer was the jam in a German sandwich today: she and Mistral Hojris filled second place between two German riders on black stallions at Horses And Dreams Meets Great Britain, CDI Hagen, Germany.

Matthias Rath brought Totilas out for the first time this year and produced the pair’s best test to date, an 83.809% test – littered with 10s just like in the old days – to take home the winner’s rug.

It’s taken time, but Matthias has finally found the right buttons on the 12-year-old son of Gribaldi. In today’s grand prix qualifier for the freestyle tomorrow afternoon, he scored a personal best, just 0.271% shy of previous rider Edward Gal’s world record score achieved at the European Championships in Windsor in 2010.

Totilas received a host of tens for the piaffe-passage tour and even one for his final halt and salute in front of a tightly-packed and appreciative capacity crowd.

Asked if the win was a relief, he said: “I’m relieved it was a good score, but I’m not surprised. I was very happy to start the season this strongly, but we’ve been training hard all winter and it was what I was expecting.”

Laura rode a secure test for 82.745%, but a mistake in the two-time changes, where “Alf” jumped together behind, saw them scoring mostly fives and sixes for that movement – with the exception of an eight from German judge at H Katrina Wust, who obviously didn’t notice.

“He felt fantastic,” said Laura. “It’s a shame I didn’t get to take the rug with the lovely British flag on it home as I really wanted it, but I’ll just have to try harder tomorrow.”

One to watch
At any other time in history, 81.851% would likely have secured you the top spot on the podium, but Kristina Sprehe and her 11-year-old De Niro/Wolkenstein stallion Desperados II had to settle for third place.

Last to go of the 30 starters, Kristrina – a young lady of few words – had all the pressure on her shoulders after beating Laura and Alf in Dortmund in March. Despite improving on their score and hitting the magical 80% barrier for the first time in a grand prix (as opposed to special or freestyle) they couldn’t catch Laura this time.

At the end of March, Kristina jumped up the world rankings from 125th to 17th and now looks a likley medal contender in London.

The stage is now set for tomorrow’s competitions; the special in the morning and the freestyle in the afternoon.

For all full report on all the action from Hagen, see Thursday’s Horse & Hound magazine