The British dressage team took silver in the team competition at the FEI Dressage European Championships in Aachen, Germany . After excellent tests from Michael Eilberg and Fiona Bigwood, it was down to Gloucestershire’s Carl Hester and Charlotte Dujardin.
They now all head into the individual freestyle championships today on the back of an outstanding team performance that should see them heading for the Olympics in Rio in a year’s time.
Sussex-based Fiona was particularly impressive, having overcome an accident and ensuing double vision which means she has to wear an eye patch when competing. She was only 0.01% adrift of the leader, Diederik van Silfhout (Arlando) on 75.814%, with Fiona in second place on 75.8%.
She was delighted with her ride on Atterupgarrds Orthilia ( Tillie) for this was the first time the 10-year-old Oldenburg mare by Gribaldi had ever performed in such a big atmosphere.
“She was nervous in the 10-minute box,” said Fiona, “and as this was only really our sixth show together, my main aim was to achieve a clear round and we achieved that, putting down a good score for the team.
Having occupied the bronze medal position overnight, it was a nail-biting finish to the team event, with all to play for as the last two British team riders took to the arena. Team stalwart Carl Hester was the first of the Brits into the impressive Aachen stadium. Riding Miss Jane De La Mare’s Nip Tuck the pair produced a good test as the temperature soared to be rewarded with a score of 75.400%, for a ninth place Grand Prix finish.
Carl commented after his test; “He’s so consistent, he’s a horse that’s never had under 70%; it’s his second Championship at eleven years old; I’m really, really happy with how he’s going and a lot of horses have had issues in there, so for a horse that’s very young to go in there and have just a couple of minor mistakes, I’m delighted with him.
“For me personally that’s the best ride I’ve ever had at an Aachen, having finished last here – probably about 15 years ago, it was a great improvement.”
Charlotte and Valegro, owned by Mrs Roly Luard, Mrs Anne Barrott and Carl Hester, were the final combination in for Great Britain. With the crowd buzzing, Charlotte produced a test with just a couple of small mistakes for a final score of 83.029%.
Chef d’Equipe for the dressage team Richard Waygood said; “What a fantastic day for the sport it was very exciting right up until the end; we’re very proud of all our riders. We’ve got some great potential for next year and it’s going to make the Olympics very exciting.”