The German show jumping team appears to be cruising to a facile victory at the European Show Jumping Championships in San Patrignano, Italy, after this morning’s first round of the nations cup.

The defending champions are also on target to retain the title – plus a clutch of individual medals if early performances are anything to go by.

Christian Ahlmann, the reigning European Champion, is in pole position in the individual leaderboard, with team mates Marco Kutscher in fourth and Marcus Ehning now fifth after knocking a rail.

The Netherlands are in team silver, more than three fences in arrears, with the Swiss now breathing down their necks thanks to a resurrection led by the young Steve Guerdat (Iovlas Pialotta) and a delighted Christina Liebherr (LB No Mercy), who rode one of only seven clear rounds.

Belgium is now fourth, ahead of an excited Italian team whose youngest member, 22-year-old Andrea Herholdt, jumped clear. France has plummeted to sixth, though Laurent Goffinet and the remarkable Flipper d’Elle are currently in individual bronze medal position.

Britain has slumped to a disappointing seventh. None of the quartet had less than eight faults, and William Funnell racked up 16 on a lacklustre Cortaflex Mondriaan.

“To be honest, they’ve all been pretty disappointing,” said a clearly demoralised Derek Ricketts, team manager. “I expected John [Whitaker] to be the only eight faults, because that horse is difficult [he had 12], I thought William would have, at worst, four faults, and I thought Nick and Michael could go clear.”

Sweden, also, had a demoralising morning when the normally reliable Malin Baryard on Butterfly Flip clocked up 16 faults before being eliminated for refusing twice at the final double, a spooky double of water trays facing into the sun. The mare has since been tested and found to have a low blood count.

The Swedes are in a lowly eighth place but their Rolf-Goran Bengtsson, whose horse MacKinley has been well schooled to overcome a water problem, is in individual silver medal position.

Ireland, already down to three horses, is now out of the competition when Dermott Lennon was eliminated for two refusals at the final double.

Current positions

1, Germany, 10; 2, Netherlands, 23.76; 3, Switzerland, 26.42; 4, Belgium, 30.04; 5, Italy, 34.78; 6, France, 35.48; 7, Great Britain, 40.03; 8, Sweden, 41.75.