Laura Collett leads after the first day of dressage at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials, having scored 36.5 on Rayef.
Although Laura has been a prolific winner at under-21 level — she is a former junior and young rider European champion on this horse — it is still massive step up for her to lead overnight at the world’s premier four-star. She is a first-timer at Badminton and also the youngest rider in this year’s field.
Laura, 21, said: “I’ve dreamt of being in this position, but I never thought I’d actually be sat here now [in the press conference as dressage leader]. I couldn’t have asked any more of the horse.
“My trainer Yogi Breisner said to go in and build the four walls of my indoor school at home around the arena and ride like I was there. Luckily, the horse reacted to that with his best test ever.”
The 12-year-old Rayef did not compete last year after picking up a tendon injury at the 2009 young rider European Championships.
“We could have brought him back at the end of last year, but we decided to give him the time to completely recover and this has been the aim since then,” said Laura.
Comeback rider in second place
German rider Marina Kohncke, 43, is second on 39.8. Marina (née Loheit) led the dressage at Badminton in 1994 on Sundance Kid but fell at the second Luckington Lane fence.
Since then, she has had two children and said her return to four-star has only been possibly because her ride here, the 12-year-old mare Calma Schelly is “so wonderful”.
Italian Susanna Bordone is third on another mare, Carrera, despite going wrong in her test and making the first serpentine too big. Susanna explained that ground jury president Anne-Mette Binder “half rang the bell”, but she carried on through the test, although she was penalised for an error of course.
The most hotly anticipated test after Laura’s was that of last year’s dressage leaders Kai Ruder and Le Prince Des Bois, but they failed to sparkle as much as they did in 2010 and lie fifth. With Ingrid Klimke fourth on FRH Butts Abraxxas, there are three Germans in the top five.
British rider Laurence Hunt, 32, put in an accurate and consistent test on Phoebus to slot into sixth.
With some top-class combinations at the end of the draw tomorrow, Laura Collett in no way has the eventual dressage lead in the bag — but her score of 36.5 is certainly in the ballpark of what’s needed to head a four-star first phase and she is likely to go into the cross-country in a very competitive position.
Don’t forget to buy Horse & Hound next week (28 April) for our 15-page special Badminton report including comments from Carl Hester and Mark Phillips, day-by-day analysis of all the action and more.