Great Britain fell agonisingly short in the quest for a second European team dressage title on Thursday as Holland ended a six-year wait for gold-medal glory.
A thrilling finish to two days of team competition in Aachen’s main stadium effectively came down to a head-to-head between Britain’s reigning Olympic champion, Charlotte Dujardin, and Dutch star Edward Gal.
Although Dujardin once again came out on top aboard the brilliant Valegro, her score of 83.029% meant Britain finished on 234.229, just 1.4% behind Holland after Gal guided Glock’s Undercover to 82.229% and a 235.629 team total.
Host nation Germany, whose final rider Kristina Bröring-Sprehe was ultimately left with too much to do, finished third in an exact podium replica of the 2009 European Championships held at Windsor Castle, while Spain took fourth place, Sweden fifth and France sixth.
Britain, the 2011 European gold medallists, had already secured qualification for next summer’s Rio Olympics, and all four of thee team combinations — Dujardin and Valegro, Carl Hester and Nip Tuck, Fiona Bigwood and Atterupgaards Orthilia and Michael Eilberg and Marakov — now go forward to contest Saturday’s grand prix special individual competition, which sees Dujardin start as defending champion and gold-medal favourite.
Although there appeared to be a slight sense of disappointment at claiming silver, given the narrow final margin between Britain and Holland, the team can now reflect on claiming four team medals — one gold, two silver and a bronze — at the last four European Championships.
Dujardin said of her test: “I had a problem on the zig-zag that was completely my fault, and then I think I still had that on my mind when I went into the changes, so then I had a mistake in the changes. I will curse myself. At the top end, mistakes get expensive.
“I am a little bit disappointed with that, but the beginning of the test felt really good. I don’t think there are many horses that have gone in and not had a mistake. We all went in to try our best and enjoy it.”
Looking ahead to Rio, Hester’s score of 75.400% on Nip Tuck provided further evidence of the combination’s Olympic potential, and Hester said: “He is so consistent. He is a horse that has never had under 70%, and I am really happy with how he is going.
“A lot of horses had issues in the arena, so for a horse that is very young to go in there and have just a couple of minor mistakes, I am delighted with him. His impression is just so great, with his size and his look, his presence that he has.
“We have a great team, and we are very happy. When you see the results from today, it could be any team that could win a medal next year in Rio.”
Image: Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro by Kit Houghton, courtesy of the FEI