The tension is mounting here in Madrid. We may still be in the midst of the team competition in the European Showjumping Championships but, from a British and Irish perspective at least, eyes are starting to turn towards the individual competition where Billy Twomey (Tinka’s Serenade) and Nick Skelton (Carlo) currently sit second and third behind leader Carsten-Otto Nagel of Germany with the wonderful grey mare Corradina.

But, tempting as it is to daydream at this early stage — the individual final is on Sunday — there’s still plenty at stake in the team contest, the riders’ first priority.

The first round of the Nations Cup on Thursday caused seismic shifts on the leader board as the riders faced a 40degree furnace in the Club De Campo. The water jump at fence nine caused almost 50% of the 67 combinations to fault. Discussions are being held between the course-designer and the technical delegate as to whether they can change the colour of the take-off board (currently white, sitting on a light-coloured surface) for tomorrow’s second round over the same track.

While the French team dominated in the first leg of the competition yesterday, three forceful clear rounds from the Dutch riders have spun them straight to the top of the standings.

“As the first to go for the team, it was very important I had a clear round today,” said the Netherlands’ senior team member Eric van der Vleuten, whose 23-year-old son Mikael is also on the team.

Germany now lies second with the French cascading down the rankings to third – with overnight leader Olivier Guillon (Lord De Theize) down to ninth – while Great Britain, tantalisingly, is within snapping distance of a medal in fourth place after some solid results today.

The 10-year-old Contender gelding Carlo has yet to touch a pole for Nick Skelton in Madrid.

“I couldn’t be more pleased with him,” said Nick. “It was a big course, not overly-technical, but it’s hot and he’s a nervy horse. He’s jumped well all year.”

But Ben Maher (Tripple X III) and John Whitaker (Peppermill) both made a splash at the water in otherwise impeccable rounds.

“There’s not a lot to the boards so the horses are not getting a lot of height – usually Tripple X is a great water jumper,” said Ben.

At least the wall, through which John and Peppermill crashed yesterday, held no problems this time around for the Yorkshireman. A disappointed Guy Williams described his 12 faults with Titus as “a disaster”.

“We’re dropping back a little bit now, but we still believe we can win,” said a positive Ben.

Ireland is back in seventh, although the mood there remains equally upbeat.

“We’re still in the hunt but need to improve tomorrow — it’s all about the team at the moment,” said Billy Twomey. “I’m feeling the pressure a bit, but my horse is jumping so well and I just hope to keep jumping the clear rounds.”

Tomorrow, the top 10 teams return for the final round of the team competition and medals will be decided. Stay tuned for the final outcome…

Top 10 team standings:
1, Netherlands (7.42); 2, Germany (10.41); 3, France (15.95); 4, Great Britain (17.46); 5, Belgium (17.78); 6, Sweden (18.74); 7, Ireland (30.12); 8, Switzerland (31.66); 9, Spain (33.53); 10, Portugal (36.21).

Top 10 individual standings:
1, Carsten-Otto Nagel (Corradina), GER; 2, Billy Twomey (Tinka’s Serenade), IRL; 3, Nick Skelton (Carlo), GB; 4, Gregory Wathelet (Copin Van De Broy), BEL; 5, Gerco Schroder (Eurocommerce New Orleans), NED; 6, Rolf-Goran Bengtsson (Ninja La Silla), BEL; 7, Jeroen Dubbeldam (BMC Van Grunsven Simon), NED; 8, Janne-Friederike Meyer (Cellagon Lambrasco), GER; 9, Olivier Guillon (Lord De Theize), FRA; 10, Luciana Diniz (Winningmood), POR.

Don’t miss full reports, comments and pictures in next week’s Horse & Hound, out 22 September.