Britain’s Eccles sisters hold third place after the first freestyle of the pas de deux vaulting competition at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.

“You wouldn’t believe how much harder work it is doing 2min of pairs compared to a minute individually,” gasped Joanne. “In pairs you are always lifting someone or balancing on someone.”

The sisters had one problem early in the routine today when Hannah lost her footing coming down from a lift. They scored 8.570.

“Maybe I came down too fast, I’m not really sure,” she said.

The soundtrack to the Eccles’ routine includes the Robert Frost poem Fire and Ice, which is Joanne’s favourite poem and provided the inspiration for the theme and costumes.

The pair have been doing this routine since Aachen in July, having changed the roller their horse WH Bentley wears for this class to enable them to show off more of their individual moves.

“The other one was just very thin circles and it was really old — people laughed at us because everyone else had changed but we didn’t because I was really good at standing backwards in the old one with Hannah on my shoulders,” said Joanne.

Using the individual roller meant Joanne had to find a new way to stand, but the highlight of their routine was still Hannah standing on Joanne’s shoulders, though with Joanne facing forward.

“It took us a while to do it, but it does set us apart — I used to do it competing in a team, but with someone supporting me from behind,” explained Joanne.

The sisters, who are lunged by their father John on 20-year-old WH Bentley, treat pairs as more of a fun competition than the individual. Joanne currently leads that contest after three of the four tests, while Hannah lies 10th.

“We’ve won four silver medals in pas de deux and if you keep trying to beat that you put the pressure on,” said Hannah. “We made the decision this year not to care about marks and results and just to show what we can do.”

The winners tonight were Austria’s Jasmin Lindner and Lukas Wacha, who pulled off an incredible series of lifts with confidence for a mark of 9.070.

Germany’s Gera Marie Grün and Justin van Gerven, the junior European pas de deux medallists last year, scored 8.631 tonight to hold second.

The pas de deux concludes with a second freestyle tomorrow morning.

Bluffer’s guide to vaulting

Vaulting times and results

More updates from WEG online until Sunday; report on the vaulting in H&H magazine next week, out Thursday, 11 September.