British team members Oliver Townend (left) and William Fox-Pitt during the first horse inspection.
© Julia Rau
"For a few years now we have always been second [6 times since 1993] and the British team has won. I think the French team really deserves to win this year and I really hope that we do so."
Riders from 18 nations, eight of which will form teams, trotted up horses in the first inspection yesterday. There were anxious moments for Swedish veteran Anna Hilton with L'Ester de la Pree, Irish rookie Sam Watson with Horseware Bushman and Poland's Lukasz Kazmierczak with Ostler when their horses were sent to the holding box, but all passed.
With a great weather forecast, the fierce battle to unseat 20-time team gold medalists Great Britain and the prospect of Pierre Michelet's revamped cross-country course, this promises to be a vintage Championship.
Oliver Townend, who will be Great Britain's anchorman on his Badminton winner Flint Curtis, commented: "It's a very challenging course, as you would expect for a European Championship."
Michael and Patricia Ryan (IRL) are the only married couple competing, although Carl Bouckaert and long-time partner Karin Donckers are on the Belgian squad;
Stand By Me, ridden by Linda Algotsson (SWE), is the oldest horse, at 19; his team career started 10 years ago and he won individual silver medals in 1999 and 2003. Eric Vigeanel's (FRA) horse, Coronado Prior, is also 19;
Bridget, ridden by Jan Van Beek (NED), is the youngest horse, at 8;
Sam Watson's (IRL) father, John, was a member of the winning Irish team in 1979; Ingrid Klimke's (GER) father, Reiner, won team silver in 1957; Nicolas Touzaint's uncle, Thierry, the French team trainer, won team bronze in 1979;
Two members of the Italian team competed in the 2009 Alltech FEI European Jumping and Dressage Championships recently, Susanna Bordone (dressage) and Juan Carlos Garcia, who won a team silver medal in the jumping.
In 1995, the Championships at Pratoni del Vivaro in Italy went "Open" to the rest of the world, and were downgraded from four to three-star level. Confusion was avoided when the gold medals were won outright by Europeans (Great Britain and Ireland's Lucy Thompson, with France's Marie-Christine Duroy in silver and Britain's Mary King, who was subsequently discovered to have been five months pregnant at the time, bronze), but the New Zealand team finished second, as they did two years later at Burghley in 1997.
This time the double Olympic gold medallist Mark Todd (NZL) won overall on Broadcast News, the nearest he has got to a World title, the one accolade to elude him, and Bettina Overesch (now Hoy, GER) became European Champion on Watermill Stream.
Austria, Belgium*, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France* (as host nation, they are allowed 12 riders), Germany*, Great Britain*, Ireland*, Italy*, Lithuania, Netherlands*, Poland, Portugal, Russia and Sweden*.