Wow! What a rollercoaster ride we’ve had in the European Showjumping Championships in Madrid – and it’s only day one.

The first leg for teams and individuals is against the clock and, although not overly complicated, the track caused several upsets.

France look the dominant force so far – holding two of the top five places individually. Olivier Guillon took first place, riding for his life on Lord De Theize from late draw, with Kevin Staut (Silvana De Hus) in fifth.

“I had a good feeling today – I was lucky with the draw but it was difficult to wait all day to ride,” said Olivier.

But it’s close at the top – Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands are chomping at the bit in second, third and fourth respectively, going in to Thursday’s Nations Cup.

The British team currently stands in fifth position. The stars of the show were Nick Skelton (Carlo) and Ben Maher (Tripple X III), who both produced immaculate clears to finish eighth and 21st respectively as individuals. Guy Williams had two down on Titus (41st), but the talk of the show was John Whitaker’s round on Peppermill. Having jumped with eye-catching exuberance, a stop at the wall (fence 10) was as much a shock to the spectators as to his rider.

“I don’t know what happened – it was all going to plan,” said John. “He’s never done anything like that in his life. It was perhaps a funny-looking wall, but he’s jumped funny-looking walls many times before. The only good thing was that I stayed on – if I do say so myself, I did a very good job to stay there!”

Britain’s performance manager Rob Hoekstra remains positive, adding: “If something like that is going to happen, it’s best it happens on the first day when there are only fractions in it.”

Ireland also suffered mixed fortunes on day one. Billy Twomey and Tinka’s Serenade looked world class for sixth position individually while Shane Sweetnam’s clear with Amaretto Darco leaves him in 27th. Nicola Fitzgibbon, making her championship debut, met the combination all wrong but did well to recover (53rd).

Worst case scenario is to lose your chances at the first fence and, unfortunately for Denis Lynch and Lantinus, this was the fate that befell him as the 13-year-old gelding ducked out. With Olympic qualification of as much importance as European honours, the Irish team have work to do from ninth.

However, as I said, this is still day one and, with only two fences separating the top two-thirds of the individual field and three fences separating the top seven teams, who knows where tomorrow’s ride will take us. The only guarantee is that 16 countries will be giving their all for that coveted spot on the championship podium. Bring it on.

Individual top 10 after day one:
1, Olivier Guillon (Lord De Theize), FRA; 2, Stefan Eder (Chilli Van Dijk), AUT; 3, Beat Mandli (Louis), SUI; 4, Carsten-Otto Nagel (Corradina), GER; 5, Kevin Staut (Silvana De Hus), FRA; 6, Billy Twomey (Tinka’s Serenade), IRL; 7, Luciana Diniz (Winningmood), POR; 8, Nick Skelton (Carlo), GB; 9, Gregory Wathelet (Copin Van De Broy), BEL; 10, Gerco Schroder (Eurocommerce New Orleans), NED.

Team standings:
1, France (2.95); 2, Germany (4.41); 3, Sweden (6.74); 4, Netherlands (7.42); 5, Great Britain (9.46); 6, Belgium (9.78); 7, Spain (11.53); 8, Italy (12.49); 9, Ireland (13.12); 10, Switzerland (14.66); 11, Portugal (15.21); 12, Austria (19.59); 13, Norway (22.89); 14, Denmark (23.22); 15, Hungary (24.37); 16, Poland (40.29).