The dressage was an incredible two days and the standard was higher than I expected at the European Eventing Championships. Usually there is a bigger discrepancy between the top nations and the lesser-known ones, but the arena here let everyone show their best.

The horses had confidence on the surface and the atmosphere brought out positive energy rather than tension. Competitors felt they could ride boldly, rather than just managing the situation.

Bettina Hoy (pictured) was in a class of her own — she was sensational and it’s good for the sport to see that quality of training.

Her transitions were seamless, Seigneur Medicott showed self- carriage and expression. I gave her 10s for extended canter, her final halt and her riding.

The vital movements

Some movements are indicative of correct training. Many struggle with the walk pirouettes. The test asks riders to move from medium to collected walk, but few manage to collect the energy rather than just slowing down, so the agility and engagement of the hindlegs is affected and horses get stuck, pivot or swing wide behind.

I gave both Bettina and Tom Carlile nines here. Others must focus on the pirouette as a training tool because improving that would teach them about flexibility of the hindlegs and taking weight on them. This would make it easier to produce the collecting transitions after the extended canter and before the expensive flying changes.

I had a fantastic view of the extended canter — we saw impressive range, stretching through the back and neck, freedom of the shoulder and riders were brave. Some let themselves down in the collecting transition, which marred the serpentine after the first extended canter and the final halt after the second.

I gave Ros Canter nines here — she showed ability to ride the transitions while keeping the energy, balance and throughness. Overall, Ros was incredible to ride with such courage and confidence at her first championship and she has a platform to work towards a winning test.

Sitting at B, it’s difficult to see the extended walk as it’s straight towards you, but often the steps are too short.

Many were too progressive in the first halt — they showed trot steps rather than going from canter to walk. Michael Jung was among those who stepped back in the transition. I gave him a mark of five, but the other judges couldn’t see it from their viewpoint so gave him eights.

Sweden’s Ludwig Svennerstål’s Paramount Importance and Sara Algotsson-Ostholt’s Reality 39 impressed with their flexibility and range of crossing in the trot half-passes. I put Sara second because you have to reward that self-carriage, lightness and harmony when you see it from the side.

I liked their team-mate Louise Svensson Jähde’s Wieloch’s Utah Sun too. It was great to see such a good connection on a horse with big movement, which often results in a loss of balance and the horse getting tight in the neck. Louise is training him well.

I was surprised Pietro Roman did so well (18th with 41). At the Europeans two years ago, I remember Barraduff had movement, but lacked natural engagement. He’s done a fantastic job improving that.

Gemma Tattersall had very consistent quality in her test and didn’t lose any marks. To get a higher score, she now needs to unleash Quicklook V’s power.

Ref: Horse & Houd; 24 August 2017