The British squad made an excellent start at the HSBC FEI European Eventing Championships in Fontainebleau, France, today.

After the first day of dressage, the British team lies in silver medal position behind Germany, with William Fox-Pitt (pictured) third individually. German team member Frank Ostholt and individual Dirk Schrade hold the top two placings as the only riders to break the 40 barrier.

“We came here fully expecting to surrender the dressage to the Germans, and to be so close behind Frank is very exciting,” said William, who scored 41.5 on the chestnut Badminton runner-up Idalgo, a horse making his championship debut.

“He’s always had huge potential, but he’s also got a huge sense of humour and not a great work ethic — but so did Tamarillo. He’s very mentally active and like a troublesome child, but he couldn’t have gone much better today.”

German team member Frank Ostholt was also delighted with the experienced 14-year-old Air Jordan 2 (pictured left): “He arrived a little stiff from the 9hr journey, so we’ve been working on gymnastics and transitions to get him looser. He knows the basics so well we can work on the small details and he’s like red wine — as he gets older, he gets better.”

The judges suddenly seemed to find the 8 and 9 buttons this afternoon with Frank and William’s tests. German pathfinder Michael Jung was disappointed to score only 45 this morning with his Luhmühlen winner La Biosthetique-Sam FBW, while the first British team member, Nicola Wilson, had also hoped for a better mark than her 56.7 with Opposition Buzz (20th equal overnight).

“He’s not the easiest on the flat, but I’m really pleased with him, though I’d have loved to be in the 40s,” she said.

British individual Lucy Wiegersma and Woodfalls Inigo Jones equalled Michael Jung’s score this afternoon to tie for fourth overnight. Their test was only marred by a bounce through the first flying change.

“That was a shame as he’s actually got very good changes, but he finds them harder on the turn than the straight,” explained Lucy. “He’s a relatively young, inexperienced horse, being only 10, and he did some lovely work, despite getting a bit tense as he went in.”

Several riders said that first impressions of Pierre Michelet’s cross-country course suggest that this competition will not be settled in the dressage.

“It’s twisty, the time will be difficult to get, and although it’s not dimensionally massive, it is technical,” said Lucy Wiegersma. “Even the straightforward fences ask a question by being on a turn or downhill.”

The organisers are watering parts of the track, which runs on sandy paths through woods and over grassed areas which are quite firm.

“I worry the tracks will get deep and you don’t want to be making up time on the turns — it would be easy to have a silly fall on the flat and get eliminated,” said William Fox-Pitt.

RESULTS AFTER FIRST DAY OF DRESSAGE

1. Frank Ostholt on Air Jordan 2 (GER) 39.2
2. Dirk Schrade on Gadget De La Cere (GER) 39.6
3. William Fox-Pitt on Idalgo (GB) 41.5
4eq. Michael Jung on La Biosthetique-Sam FBW (GER) 45
4eq. Lucy Wiegersma on Woodfalls Inigo Jones (GB) 45
6. Eric Vigeanel on Coronado Prior (FRA) 46.7

TEAM SCORES AFTER TWO TEAM MEMBERS
1. Germany 84.2
2. Britain 98.2
3. France 101.3
4. Belgium 105.9
5. Italy 115.4
6. The Netherlands 117

Pictures of cross-country course

Full individual results

Official website

Read daily reports from the Europeans at www.horseandhound.co.uk/eventingeuros2009 and don’t miss H&H on 1 October for our full eight-page special report.