Ingrid Klimke (pictured) set Germany’s sights firmly on gold at the European Eventing Championships in Pratoni del Vivaro, Italy, as she left the rest of the field trailing 10 marks behind her.

Second to go on Thursday morning, Ingrid used all her considerable dressage skills to ride a soft, obedient test for an excellent mark of 31.5 on FRH Butts Abraxxas.

Ingrid, individual bronze medallist at the 2005 Blenheim Europeans on Sleep Late, was only parachuted into the German team a week and a half ago, and this will be her dark bay 10-year-old’s biggest test yet.

“He does everything so correctly,” said Ingrid. “Chris [Bartle, the German team trainer] was very pleased, so I was too!”

Belgian rider Joris Van Springel lies second on Bold Action with 41.5pen, and Tiziana Realini is third for the Swiss riding Gamour CH on 41.9.

Fourth is Britain’s Daisy Dick (pictured), achieving her best ever international mark on Spring Along of 42.3. The little bay, who has tended to “light up” in the dressage arena, enjoyed the laid-back atmosphere in Pratoni and looked much more relaxed and rideable than a year ago at the Aachen WEG.

“I’m really, really pleased — he was as relaxed as he could be,” said Daisy. “We’ve worked hard finding ways to keep him soft — we’re both dizzy now from doing circles!”

France’s Arnaud Boiteau (Expo Du Moulin) splits Daisy and Britain’s only other rider on Thursday, Oliver Townend. Oliver, like Daisy, was as relieved as he was pleased with his horse’s test — Flint Curtis has also found the atmosphere in the arena too much at times. But today he performed a lovely test with just one mistake — an unwanted flying change — and was perhaps slightly harshly marked with 44.2.

“Thank God for that,” said Oliver with a grin afterwards. “We all know what he can do, but it felt good and I’m really happy with him.”

The best of the home side so far is Susanna Bordone, seventh on Ava with 44.8.

Many of those predicted to do the top tests are performing tomorrow, among them Britain’s Zara Phillips and Germany’s Bettina Hoy.

The cross-country course is, according to Oliver Townend, “serious” — both big and technical, with lots of skinny fences cleverly sited on Pratoni’s undulating ground.

European Eventing Championships – Thursday dressage results

1. Ingrid Klimke (FRH Butts Abraxxas, GER) 31.5
2. Joris Van Springel (Bold Action, BEL) 41.5
3. Tiziana Realini (Gamour CH, SUI) 41.9
4. Daisy Dick (Spring Along, GB) 42.3
5. Arnaud Boiteau (Expo Du Moulin, FRA) 43.5
6. Oliver Townend (Flint Curtis, GB) 44.2
7. Susanna Bordone (Ava, ITA) 44.8
8. Beeke Kaack (Sinjang 2, GER) 46.7
9. Peter Thomsen (The Ghost Of Hamish, GER) 47.5
10. Cedric Lyard (Jolly Hope De Trielle, FRA) 48.3

Teams after first day dressage
1. Germany 79
2. Great Britain 86.5
3. Italy 94
4. France 94.8
5. Belgium 95.7
6. Switzerland 98

Don’t miss Horse & Hound’s full report from the European Eventing Championships, including stunning photographs, in next week’s issue (20 September, ’07)