British eventers get off to a good start after the first day of dressage at the European Championships at Pau in France.

The British team has taken the first step towards defending its European title and, at the end of the first day’s dressage at the championships at Pau, France, has a slim lead over Italy. France, the host nation, is third.

Fabio Magni, a 34-year-old professional rider who competes for Italy’s State Forestry Corp and is based at Pratoni del Vivaro, is the individual leader on his veteran Cool’N’ Breezy, fifth in the individual Olympic competition last year and the winner of the Saumur three-day event this year.

“I had planned to retire Cool ‘N’ Breezy after Badminton this year because he is 17,” said Magni. “But he has surprised me by how well he has gone this year and so I decided to bring him here.

“He gave me a very willing ride in the dressage and I was able to really ride and askhim what I wanted. He was in a good mood.”

German student Inken Johnannsen is in joint second on the 14-year-old Holsteiner Brilliante, a horse she produced herself to win three gold medals in the Young Rider Europeans of 1995-96, with Pia Pantsu,riding Karuso as an individual for Finland.

Pia, who has twice finished fourth in the Europeans, in 1995 on Cyna and 1999 on Uppercut, is cautious about her chances on the Swedish Warmblood Karuso, on whom she won Luhmuhlen in July.

“He is only eight and, although he has done seven two-star and five three-star events (including CICs), the course here is far more technical than Luhmuhlen and my first priority is to look after him, as he is a horse for my future.”

Leslie Law, Britain’s number two, is fourth on Shearwater Insurance’s Shear H20, his mount in Britain’s silver medal winning team at the Olympics last year.

“I thought Pia’s test was lovely so I’m thrilled to be only a point behind,” said Leslie. “He is a consistent horse and he tried hard, but he does let the atmosphere get to him, which is why his test was better in Sydney. It’s a bit quiet here at the moment!”

Jeanette Brakewell, Britain’s ever-cool trail-blazer, is lying eighth on Over To You, who produced the best test he could with his inherent “peacocky” movement.

Still to come are Marie-Christine Duroy, silver-medallist in 1997, riding Elton, Bettina Hoy the1997 champion on Unsung Hero and the reigning champion, Pippa Funnell on Supreme Rock.

The field of 63 comprises 10 teams: Germany, Belgium, Spain, France which, as host nation, can field 12 riders, Britain, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Sweden and Switzerland, plus riders from a further seven nations – Austria, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Hungary and The Netherlands. Ireland is down to just four riders, owing to last-minute lameness for Austin O’Connor’s Horseware Fabio and Ken Mahon’s stallion Test Flight.

Caroline Pratt got the call to replace Rodney Powell on the British squad just a week before travelling when the eternally unlucky Rodney discovered that Flintstone had tweaked a muscle in his pastern. Caroline, wearing her first Union Flag, is lying 10th on Dick and Frances Kinsey’s Primitive Control.

“It’s a great opportunity,” said Caroline, who hastily re-routed Primitive Control from Boekelo.

Click here to read preview of cross country course

Click here to read results after first day dressage.