Germany extended its lead at the conclusion of the dressage phase of the HSBC FEI European Eventing Championships in Luhmuhlen and stands more than a cross-country stop ahead of Britain.

The final rider, current World Champion Michael Jung of Germany, was unable to overhaul this morning’s leader, compatriot Ingrid Klimke, his test on Biosthetique Sam marred by a broken extended trot and some less than perfect halts. But his score of 33.3pen was good enough for second. Incredibly, German team riders fill three of the top four places — with the other filled by a German individual, Frank Ostholt, whose Little Paint looks back at his best after an extended lay off for a mystery ailment.

Ingrid Klimke, (pictured), back after a knee injury earlier suffered in a fall at Badminton, seemed euphoric after her 30pen test on FRH Butts Abraxxass. She was the only rider to score three 10s from all three judges for her halt and rein back. “But when I heard the reaction from the crowd, for a moment I wondered if I’d gone wrong.”

Brits go well — but have to play catch up

William Fox-Pitt, Britain’s final rider to go, was unable to match these marks or beat the strong performances of Laura Collett and Mary King earlier in the day. Though much of Cool Mountain’s test was elegant and fluid and scored strings of eights, the horse broke in his first extended canter and resisted badly in the rein back.

William was philosophical: “He just wasn’t quite relaxed. Perhaps the arena reminded him a little of Kentucky where exciting things happened to him. He’s a sensitive horse and it’s a shame because overall he’s improved 25% on last year — he’s much stronger.”

Mary King’s Imperial Cavalier, on the other hand, was much calmer than at the World Games last year, despite looking very lit up as he first entered the arena. “I found the photographers’ pen right by the arena entrance quite off-putting but he coped and I was very pleased. He’s come on even since Badminton,” said Mary.

Britain’s best performance of the day though came from our sole remaining individual (the other, Polly Stockton, withdrew this morning as her horse is not quite sound) Laura Collett and Rayef. Cucumber cool at her first senior championship for Britain, she rode a gorgeous test, with just a small blip in the second flying change.

Cross-country will be key

The Germans are acutely aware that they have been in this position before, and lost it all in spectacular fashion across country — both at the last Europeans at Fontainebleau and at the Kentucky World Games last year. They are desperate to put that right in front of their home crowd.

The general feeling in the British camp is that the time may have to be quite tight if it is really to sort the wheat from the chaff tomorrow. “It’s not the most daunting championship course in the world,” said William Fox-Pitt. “If the time is not tight, forcing people to ride under pressure, it may not be our day. But then I thought last year’s World Championship course was very jumpable and look at the trouble that caused.”

Meanwhile, an interesting battle is developing for the bronze medal, with a great test from Italy’s Stefano Brecciaroli inching them ahead of Sweden. Both nations, along with France and Ireland, hope to secure their Olympic qualification this weekend.

Team standings after dressage

  1. Germany, 98.7pen
  2. Great Britain, 121.9pen
  3. Italy, 128.3pen
  4. Sweden, 128.7pen
  5. France, 136.6pen
  6. Netherlands, 140.7pen
  7. Belgium, 142.9pen
  8. Ireland, 158.9pen
  9. Switzerland, 163.9pen
  10. Spain, 173pen
  11. Poland, 184.4pen

Individual placings after dressage

  • 1)Ingrid Klimke, FRH Butts Abraxxass (GER), 30pen
  • 2)Michael Jung, La Biosthetique Sam FBW (GER), 33.3pen
  • 3)Frank Ostholt, Little Paint (GER), 34pen
  • 4=)Sandra Auffarth, Opgun Louvo (GER), 35.4pen
  • 4=)Laura Collett, Rayef (GBR), 35.4pen
  • 6)Stefano Brecciaroli, Apollo van de Wendi Kurt Hoeve (ITA), 35.8pen
  • 7)Sara Algotsson-Ostholt, Wega (SWE), 36pen
  • 8)Dirk Schrade, King Artus (GER), 36.7pen
  • 9)Nicolas Touzaint, Neptune de Sartene (FRA), 37.9pen
  • 10)Mary King, Imperial Cavalier (GBR), 38.8pen
  • 11=)Piggy French, Jakata (GBR), 40.4pen
  • 17=)William Fox-Pitt, Cool Mountain (GBR), 42.7pen
  • 39)Nicola Wilson, Opposition Buzz (GBR), 52.7pen