Demonstrating their customary elegance in the dressage arena, the German team took an emphatic lead at the end of the first day of the European Eventing Championships in Luhmuhlen. Their total to date is 79.8pen, with Britain 14pen in arrears and Sweden lying third.

Though Sweden’s Sara Algotsson-Ostholt had interrupted a German 1,2,3 over the lunch break with a test she rated as her mare’s best ever, the Germans soon reasserted themselves in the afternoon with a series of dazzling tests and they end the day with six in the top eight.

Britain’s Piggy French lies fourth, having scored a very solid 40.4. Nevertheless, she was disappointed with her mark on her father Wally and Michael Underwood’s Jakara: “It wasn’t as good as it had been outside [in the warm up] she explained. “He just got a bit tight and strong in the arena so a couple of small mistakes crept in. It could have been five marks better than that.”

Combined with Nicola Wilson’s earlier mark of 52.7 aboard Rosemary Search’s homebred Opposition Buzz (marred by an error of course when she forgot to rein back), Britain needs to reduce the Germans’ lead tomorrow.

Sweden’s Sara Algotsson-Ostholt (who is married to German rider Frank Ostholt) now lies second, having forfeited the lead to Germany’s Sandra Auffarth, 25.

Sandra is making her senior team debut on Opgun Louvo (who curiously, does not have German bloodlines but is a selle Francais, by Shogoun II.) The pair burst to attention finishing second at Luhmuhlen’s June four-star. “I think people had probably underestimated her,” said German team coach Chris Bartle at the time. “They won’t now!”

Bartle has no doubt about her ability to handle pressure. “She’s very strong in her mind.”

“My horse concentrated well today and was very relaxed. He’s good in all three phases,” said Sandra, who scored the only 10 of the day for her entry, and spent time training from Bartle’s Yorkshire Riding Centre a couple of years ago.

Lying third is German individual Dirk Schrade with King Artus, who was on Germany’s World Equestrian Games team last year with a different ride.
Britain’s remaining two team riders, William Fox-Pitt and Mary King, ride tomorrow, as do individuals Laura Collett and Polly Stockton.

Friday’s cross country runs right handed for the first time ever at this venue, and throws some complex questions quite late in the course. “It’s trickier than it looks,” says Piggy French.

Team positions at end of day one

  1. Germany (79.2pen)
  2. Great Britain (93.1pen)
  3. Sweden (97.7pen)
  4. Belgium (101.9pen)
  5. Italy (106.2pen)
  6. Switzerland (107.8pen)
  7. France (108.7pen)
  8. Netherlands (109.8pen)
  9. Ireland (111.4pen)
  10. Spain (135pen)
  11. Poland (153.8pen)

Individual positions at end of day one

  1. Sandra Auffarth (GER), Opgun Louvo, 35.4pen
  2. Sara Algotsson-Ostholt (SWE), Wega, 36pen
  3. Dirk Schrade (GER), King Artus, 36.7pen
  4. Piggy French (GBR), Jakata, 40.4pen
  5. Julia Mestern (GER), FRH Schorsch 40.6pen
  6. Andreas Ostholt (GER), Franco Jeas, 42,5pen
  7. Andreas Dibowski (GER), FRH Fantasia, 43.8pen
  8. Julia Krajewski (GER), After the Battle, 44.4pen
    18. Nicola Wilson (GBR), Opposition Buzz, 52.7pen