Will Furlong (pictured) got off to a strong start in the Young Rider European Eventing Championships in Montelibretti, Italy today (23 September).

In a bid to defend his 2015 individual and team gold titles, Will rode an almost perfect dressage test on 13-year-old Livingstone to score 40.9.

“I’m so pleased,” said Will. “Livingstone has been quite fresh this week so we’ve put quite a lot of work into him and I think we had him just right today. He was slightly on edge in his canter work and his two halts weren’t quite where I would have wanted them, but other than that I thought it was good.

“I knew what we were capable of doing and Livingstone performed as well as he could. More people suddenly arrived for the final session of dressage [in which Will was included] and so there was quite a bit of atmosphere, but my horse really tried.”

Chef d’equipe Alex Colquhoun said: “If riders got anything wrong in their tests, they were really battered for it by the judges.”

Twenty-one year-old Will said that the cross-country tomorrow could catch quite a few out.

“There’s not one fence in particular that I think will cause problems, but there’s plenty of cleverly built combinations scattered throughout the course which I think could prove problematic for some. Going later in the day [Will will be the third from last rider out on course], should work in my favour.”

Other top British young rider, Sam Ecroyd, made one significant mistake in his dressage test on Opera House when his horse struck off in the wrong canter lead twice out of the extended walk movement. The pair are in 17th place after the first phase on a score of 49.5.

India Wishart is the second best placed Brit in 11th place riding The Masters Harry, who is typically a good performer in the jumping phases.

Rocky Rockstar, the mount of Ella Hitchman, unfortunately got his tongue over the bit at the start of their test and they sit in 44th place on a score of 56.6, while Katie Bleloch (individual rider) is in 48th on Bulano on a score of 57.9.

Germany’s Marie-Sophie Arnold is in individual second place on Remember Me 74 and Giulio Gugliemi of Italy is in individual third riding Mister Brightside.

There are two Irish riders in the top 10 — Elizabeth Hayden in eighth riding Lougnatousa Joey and Susie Berry is in 10th riding Vanir Hello Duca.

In the team standings, Britain are in bronze medal position on a score of 137.1, but things are tight at the top. Germany are in gold medal position on 132.5 while second-placed France are on a score of 136.3. Ireland are in fifth place in the team competition, just 0.5 of a penalty behind fourth placed Italy who are on 141.5.

Junior European Eventing Championships

German rider Jerome Robine has a commanding lead in the junior competition. Riding the eight-year-old Guccimo R by Grafenstolz, the 18-year-old rider scored 33.4, over five penalties clear of second placed German rider Anais Neumann. Frenchman Romain Sans sits in third place on Enzo Van’t Vennehof.

The best placed British rider is Phoebe Locke riding Union Fortunus in 10th place. Richard Coney is in 12th, Chelsea Pearce (individual rider) is in 16th, Felicity Collins is in 18th, Chelsea Round (individual rider) is in 21st and Isabelle (Bubby) Upton is in 28th.

The British team is in bronze medal position after the dressage on a score of 134.5. Germany lead the team competition on 113.8 while France are in silver medal position on 125.5.