Course designer Pierre Michelet says riders “need to be ready from step one” as the world’s finest eventers prepare to tackle his Rio Olympics cross-country track.
Reigning Olympic champions Germany go into Monday’s action holding just a 0.2 of a penalty lead over France, while Australia are third and Great Britain fourth.
William Fox-Pitt and Chilli Morning still lead the individual competition, with Australia’s Christopher Burton second, Frenchman Mathieu Lemoine third, then the German pair of Ingrid Klimke and Michael Jung in fourth and fifth, respectively.
But attention is now all on the cross-country test that awaits competitors in Deodoro, and Michelet said: “I want the best to win without asking too big questions to the less experienced riders. The reputation of the sport is important.
“I want to challenge the riders. To get on the podium, they need to be brave, accurate and bold. On this course, it is not about one fence, but about clearing all of them.”
Pippa Funnell, riding Billy The Biz, launched the British challenge on day two with a dressage score of 43.9, before Kitty King and Ceylor LAN posted 46.8, recovering well following an early mistake in the canter.
Funnell, who is competing at her first Olympics for 12 years, said: “”You always know with him that if you suddenly ask him to canter, he can have a little squeal, a little buck and a little wiggle of his head, and he did that a few times outside the arena.
“Three years ago, when he was scrabbling around, the only reason I started eventing him was a personal challenge to see if I could get a test out of him. He didn’t know about dressage, so I am proud of him.”
And looking ahead to the cross-country challenge, Funnell added: “The course is a big ask. It’s a very good track, a meaty track, and there is no denying it will be the horse’s biggest challenge.
“It is a course we are all going to have to ride with our heads, and we’ve got to really know all the routes.
“I think it could well be a very tactical game tomorrow. How will the heat affect them? How is the course riding? We’ve got to know the A-, B- C- and probably even the D-plan.
“I am going to set out and ride him like the good horse I believe he is.”
King added: “It will be a tough tracker tomorrow and an eye-opener for him. There are plenty of places where you can make mistakes.
“It’s disappointing because he is capable of a lot better (in the dressage). He did some lovely work, but made some uncharacteristic mistakes.
“It’s a shame, but it is a massive atmosphere for a horse that is only nine. I was delighted with how he tried — he wasn’t being naughty, he just made a few errors which were very expensive.”
William Fox-Pitt bounced back from a serious head injury to take the lead after the dressage phase at the Olympics, by FEI/Dirk Caremans