Britain’s Joanne Eccles (above right) lies second after the compulsory test, the first part of the female individual vaulting competition at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games (WEG).

“I’m fairly pleased — I felt like there was one bit that wasn’t particularly smooth in the scissors, but it’s difficult to know. Sometimes I do something in training and I don’t think it’s good and Hannah [sister and fellow WEG competitor] and Dad [John, lunger and coach] say it’s fine,” said Joanne, who won individual gold at the last WEG in 2010.

The arena for the vaulting in Caen has a great atmosphere — the audience are very close to the action, which is under lights with the audience in darkness.

“Once you start you can’t see the audience as they are in the dark. It’s just you and the horse as one, which is how it should be,” said Joanne.

The final horse in the female competition, Landar, became quite upset and it was difficult for his Czech vaulter, Jana Bartonkova, to even make the leap onto him. But the Eccles’ WH Bentley is an old pro at 20 years old.

“He’s done so many competitions we knew he’d go in there and do his best,” said Joanne, who scored 8.35.

The leader is Denmark’s Rikki Laumann, with a mark of 8.435, who took the title at last year’s European Championships.

Joanne’s younger sister Hannah (above left) lies 16th having made one error where she touched down with her hands on the ground after dismounting.

“This is our weakest round — the next is my favourite,” said Hannah.

Joanne added: “We know we can improve from here.”

Today’s test consisted of each vaulter showing the eight compulsory moves in a set sequence for the eight judges, six of whom mark the vaulter and two the horse. Tomorrow the vaulters perform a freestyle to music and these first two days of competition constitute round one.

After tomorrow, the top 15 vaulters progress to the next two tests on Thursday and Friday (round two). The medals are awarded on an average score from all four days.

The third British vaulter, Lucy Phillips, is currently within the cut-off for round two after scoring 7.711 on Pitucelli, lunged by her mother Elizabeth.

“You feel like everyone’s watching you and getting excited when you run down the tunnel — it’s such an honour to compete for your country,” she said. “I’d like to get through to the second round. If I can do a personal best in each round I’ll be happy.”

Swiss competitor Simone Jäiser currently holds third, with Italy’s Anna Cavallaro fourth — Anna is another of the favourites after claiming individual European silver last year, but made a mistake in her dismount today.

Austria took the lead in the squad competition this morning, with a score of 7.873 for their compulsory test, performed on Alessio L’Amabile, who was lunged by Maria Lehrmann. Germany hold the silver position for now, with Switzerland in bronze.

The home side has the upper hand in the individual male contest, with European champion Jacque Ferrari heading world champion Nicolas Andreani. Victor Brüsewitz of Germany lies third.

Britain is not fielding a squad or any male individual vaulters, but the pas de deux competition, in which the Eccles sisters are competing, starts on Thursday.

Bluffers’ guide to vaulting

Vaulting start lists and results

More WEG updates online all week; full report on the vaulting at WEG in the magazine out next Thursday, 11 September.