After the excitement of Britain’s silver medal in the dressage, attentions turned to the show jumping championships on Wednesday evening where riders from Switzerland and the Netherlands dominated in the opening round.
A total of 77 riders from 24 nations came forward for the speed leg — the first qualifier for both the team and the individual competition — and a third of the field posted clears. A treble combination at fence 10 and the H&M upright at fence 11, jumped at an acute angle, proved costly for many but this competition was all about who could come home fastest.
Swiss rider Pius Schwizer and the 12-year-old gelding Ulysse made light of Bob Ellis’s 13-fence track, taking an early lead in 68.31sec. Only his team-mate Steve Guerdat (Jasica Solier) looked like threatening, finishing clear in 68.42sec, putting the Swiss team into the lead at this early stage.
“I would have been happy to finish second or third,” said Pius of the anxious wait he faced after setting an early target. “But I know this is a top horse who has jumped well all season. He’s brave and is used to jumping under the lights.”
Snapping at Switzerland’s heels are the Netherlands, as the times from Wednesday’s competition are translated to penalties and carried through to Friday’s second round. Harrie Smolders (Exquis Walnut De Muze) and Angelique Hoorn (Blauwendraad’s O’Brien) filled third and fourth places respectively.
There were mixed fortunes for the British team, although arguably this speed leg does not play to the strengths of their four horses. Tim Stockdale (Fresh Direct Corlato) posted eight faults for a total time of 78.71sec, while Peter Charles (Murka’s Pom D’Ami) and Geoff Billington (Rosinus) both collected four faults to finish just above Tim in the pecking order.
Last to go of the British quartet, Robin Hood W dazzled under the Windsor floodlights for Ben Maher and never looked like rubbing a pole. A quick round put them into ninth individually (70.92sec) and the British team into seventh.
“If someone had told me this morning that I’d be only 2sec behind the leaders, I’d have grabbed it,” said a delighted Ben. “I didn’t expect this to be his best day — he’ll get better as the show goes on.”
The team medals will be decided on Friday and the individual competition finishes on Sunday.
Follow the rest of the action from the European dressage and jumping championships at www.horseandhound.co.uk and don’t miss the full report, pictures, comment and analysis in Horse & Hound 28 August issue.