Lee Rutter, 28, lifted the British reining team’s hopes this afternoon in Kentucky with a strong performance riding the experienced 12-year-old dark bay mare Setting Off Sparks.
Lee scored 216.5 with a smart turn of speed, good sliding stops and correct flying changes.
“She’s got a big heart and is a fantastic horse,” said Lee, who is hoping he has done enough to see himself through to the individual competition but is “all about the team”.
This is only the second time he has ridden the mare in competition.
“We’ve really clicked in the two weeks I’ve ridden her,” said Lee.
Our first British team rider to go tomorrow is Francesca Sternberg. Her husband Doug Allen goes last and is “feeling confident” about his and the teams’ chances.
“Things are going to hot up tomorrow,” said Doug. “All the nations are going to bring out their best riders, and my horse is on great form.”
Italian Stefano Massignan leads the team competition over night, having scored 224 on his American Quarter Horse Yellow Jersey.
“He’s a very easy horse to ride,” admitted Stefano. “Today’s pattern really suits him as well; he has a lot of power which he can put to good use in the fast circles, but he is then still fresh enough for the rest of the movements.”
America are predictably in the lead after the first day and are expect to take tomorrow’s team title. Craig Schmersal filed the second best score so far, 223.5, and joked: “Without wanting to put pressure on my teammates, I expect us to have better scores to come.”
Team Germany are down to three riders having lost their number one, Nico, this morning; his horse lost balance and fell on his near hind following his first spin and Nico retired. Their second rider to go, Grischa Ludwig, was joint third with America’s Tim Mcquay at the end of today and admitted that fortunately he: “shows the best when he’s under the most pressure.”
For full report and pictures don’t miss next week’s Horse & Hound, out 30 September