Holly Woodhead, a 21-year-old making her debut at a senior championship, tops the leaderboard at the end of the first day of dressage at the Longines FEI European Eventing Championships 2015.
It has been a wonderfully successful day for the British squad at Blair Castle, with the host nation occupying five of the top seven places and sitting top of the team standings. The first two riders, Kitty King and Nicola Wilson, scored 36.9 and 34.6 respectively.
“It’s been an exciting day for us with a lot of personal bests in the dressage arena,” said Wilson, who was thrilled with her test on the elegant One Two Many.
Woodhead’s performance, though, was the main talking point of the day. It was soft, fluent and expressive and earned her and the 11-year-old gelding DHI Lupison, owned by her father and step-mother, Ian and Heidi Woodhead, a score of 31.7.
“My aim was to try and produce the same test as I did at Aachen [where they scored 34.3 in the recent Nations Cup]. It takes a lot of work to get him to that point, but I had a plan for the warm-up and stuck to it. He felt very relaxed and rideable in there,” said Woodhead, who was an individual silver medallist at last year’s Young Rider European Championship in Portugal and won the Under-25 CCI3* at Bramham earlier this year with DHI Lupison.
Riding the youngest horse in the field proved no handicap to German team member Michael Jung, who has made the best possible start to his title defence at the Longines FEI European Eventing Championship by scoring 33.5 on the eight-year-old FischerTakinou.
The world number one has an extraordinary ability to ride for every possible mark and, as the test progressed and the horse relaxed, his scores steadily improved; he earned three 9s for his riding from the Ground Jury, President Sue Baxter (GBR), Andrew Bennie (NZL) and Sandor Fulop (HUN).
“I’m very happy,” said Michael. “Takinou is a wonderful horse, very good at dressage and relaxed. He has been to a few bigger competitions this year with a bit of atmosphere, but he listens to the rider.”
Jung, who is still limping after his fall at Burghley, has been enjoying travelling around the event site on a Segway vehicle.
“I’m having great fun,” he said after using it to get around the cross-country course. “It’s a true championship track, tough with big hills and I think the optimum time will be difficult.”
If Jung wins this weekend, he will equal Ginny Elliot’s record in the 1980s of three consecutive European titles on three different horses.
Frenchman Thibaut Vallette got his country off to great start this morning, posting a mark of 36.8 with Qing de Briot ENE HN. Karim Florent Laghouag boosted France’s team score further with a mark of 38.7 on Entebbe de Hus to leave the French in second place in the team standings, just ahead of Germany.
Laura Collett, back on the British squad for the first time since 2011, was thrilled with her test on the big-moving Grand Manoeuvre, which left her on a score of 37.8 and in sixth place at this stage.
“After Holly’s test, I knew I couldn’t let the side down,” said Laura, who followed her friend into the arena.
Sarah Bullimore, whose last-minute call-up to the British squad yesterday following the withdrawal of Dani Evans’ Smart Time left her with no time for arena familiarisation, still conjured a beautiful test from her chestnut mare, Lilly Corinne. Despite some tension in the walk it was still good enough to break the 40 barrier [38.2].
“It’s been a whirlwind 24 hours,” admitted Sarah. “She’s a hot-headed mare and it was a pity about the walk, but I’m thrilled with her overall.”
Sweden’s Anna Nilsson (Luron) and Switzerland’s Patrizia Attinger (Raumalpha) complete the top 10 at this stage.
1. Holly Woodhead (GBR) and DHI Lupison on 31.7
2. Michael Jung (GER) and FischerTakinou on 33.5
3. Nicola Wilson (GBR) and One Two Many on 34.6
4. Thibaut Vallette (FRA) and Qing du Briot on 36.8
5. Kitty King (GBR) and Persimmon on 36.9
6. Laura Collett (GBR) and Grand Manoeuvre on 37.8
7. Sarah Bullimore (GBR) and Lilly Corinne on 38.2
8. 8. Karim Florent Laghouag (FRA) and Entebbe de Hus on 38.7
9. Anna Nilsson (SWE) and Luron on 39.7
10. Patrizia Attinger (SUI) and Raumalpha on 42.4
1. Great Britain on 71.5
2. France on 75.5
3. Germany on 76.6
4. Sweden on 91.4
5. Ireland 96.6
Holly Woodhead and DHI Lupison, by Jon Stroud, courtesy of the FEI