Britain lies 11th in the team ranking going into tomorrow’s Nations Cup at the World Equestrian Games show jumping championships in Aachen, Germany after a difficult opening day for Derek Rickett’s side today.

The forced withdrawal of Robert Smith’s Marius Claudius was an imperfect start, and with John Whitaker and Peppermill lying best of the British in 28th place individually, Michael Whitaker and Portofino in 46th, Tim Gredley and Omelli in 47th and Nick Skelton in 69th after a late call-up with Russel, it is going to take some considerable effort to pose a threat to the leading Dutch side.

However when today’s results were converted into points, just over two fences separate the British from the top of the order where Holland holds sway by a small margin over the USA in second and the three-man Brazilian side in third place.

“It’s very disappointing that Marius Claudius is out” Ricketts said this morning. “The blacksmith pricked the horse’s foot when he was shoeing him three days ago but he was perfectly sound in the trot-up on Monday. However his jump in the warm-up competition seems to have irritated the foot; it’s his off-fore, and two vets had a look at him and gave their opinion. He was re-shod with pads on his feet and still isn’t right so we were left with little choice but to take him out,” the team manager explained.

“There was nothing I could say” Robert Smith said today. “He just wasn’t happy, and I’m really disappointed.”

John Whitaker was first Briton to take on Frank Rothenberger’s 13-fence track which gave them plenty to think about. The problems started after the water with a double, oxer to planks, at fence five which was followed by a dog-leg with a difficult distance to a white oxer at six, while the doubles at nine and ten also proved extremely influential. The water-ditches under the oxers at 10 saw plenty of horses doing a double-take there but Peppermill looked fresh and happy as he cruised around to stop the clock in 84.98 seconds. However with time the deciding factor today that was never going to be quick enough to fill a top placing.

Tim Gredley found himself way off the white oxer at six, adding four time penalties to his score when Omelli landed on the back bar, but he steadied well to lower only the bogey second element of the ditches at 10 before crossing the line to finish.

Nick Skelton and Russel brave the elements in the team competition
Image by Trevor Meeks

Heavy rain as competition resumed after the lunch-break greeted Nick Skelton and Russel who were clear to the double at nine where the rider chose the left-hand option only to lower the second element there. And with eight seconds to add his score when the last also fell the veteran British contender finished well down the line, while the dreaded 10b ditch claimed another victim in Michael Whitaker and Portofino.

A dreadful silence descended on the arena when the former Joe Turi ride, Superville, took a horrible fall on landing over the first element at fence five and Hungarian rider Mariann Hugyecz watched in deep distress as the 16-year-old horse got to his feet and cantered off
carrying his near fore-leg limply. However there was a happier end to the day when it was announced that, after intensive veterinary attention, the brave gelding had suffered only a badly bruised shoulder.

In the Irish camp there was a last-minute replacement too when Cian O’Connor’s Waterford Crystal was lame on Monday night. And the replacement combination of Marie Burke and her home-bred stallion Chippison produced the performance of their career to date when jumping
themselves into ninth spot individually during a round in which the son of Cavalier was clearly enjoying every minute.

America’s Beezie Madden heads the leaderboard at the end of the first day after a great late run with Authentic while Canada’s Eric Lamaze is lying second following a near-kamikaze performance with Hickstead. Holland’s Gerco Schroder and Eurocommerce Berlin jumped themselves into third spot ahead of US rider McLain Ward with Sapphire in fourth.

Read the show jumping reports in full in next week’s Horse & Hound (7 September)