Germany’s title defence of the HSBC FEI European Eventing Championships has got off to the best possible start with a typically brilliant performance from Ingrid Klimke, this time on a new young star, FRH Escada JS.
Klimke, who scored the only sub-40 mark on the first day of dressage in Malmö, Sweden, has produced an incredible transformation in the nine-year-old Hanoverian owned by Madeleine Winter-Schulze.
“When I first rode her last year she wouldn’t halt and she would paw the ground. We were often nearly last after dressage. I didn’t know where to start,” Klimke said.
“But I wanted to continue with the mare because she has so much potential and is very tough and brave. During last winter I took her to all the dressage shows and now she knows she has to listen. She has really taught me patience.”
Klimke has won three team gold medals on FRH Butts Abraxxas, her ride in the last six championships, but she may now have her best chance of an individual medal since capturing European bronze in 2005 on Sleep Late.
German pathfinder Dirk Schrade scored a satisfying 44.2 on Hop and Skip to lie in individual third place at this halfway stage of the dressage. Germany also leads the team standings with a 4.4 penalty advantage over Sweden. Britain is in third place and Ireland is fourth.
Schrade said the 14-year-old British Sport Horse “was with me every second. We all know that he isn’t the most extraordinary mover, but riding him was a real pleasure today. I’m quite happy to go first – it means it’s all over early!”
The home crowd was thrilled when the first Swedish rider, Frida Andersen, who was making her senior team debut, scored 46.0 penalties on Herta and took individual fifth place.
Her team mate Niklas Lindback did even better with a smooth performance on the much-admired Mister Pooh to lie second to Klimke on 42.0.
“It’s always fun to be competing in Malmo, especially because it is near my home,” said Lindback, who has the confidence of having twice won a CIC3* on Mister Pooh at this venue and was clearly reveling in the high levels of local support.
Lucy Wiegersma, who was one of Britain’s most successful under-21 riders, has made no secret of her longing to be on a senior team and she made a stylish debut on the 13-year-old Simon Porloe. She is currently in fourth place on 45.2, and the mark would have been higher had the Polish warmblood not resisted in the rein-back, earning fours from all three Ground Jury members.
“I think it will be a whole different competition on Saturday [cross-country],” the 36-year-old said. “The course should suit my horse; he’s very well balanced and will come back to you easily. I didn’t expect to feel such pleasure in being in the team, nor to be so nervous. It’s a different experience to just riding for yourself, but it’s a great feeling.”
Britain’s first rider, Pippa Funnell, already has a gold medal in the family this summer, as her husband, William, was a member of Britain’s winning jumping team in Henning in Denmark last week.
Currently in 10th place, Funnell said her Selle Francais gelding Mirage d’Elle would never achieve the amazing scores recorded by her back-to-back European Champion Supreme Rock, but she was nonetheless delighted. “I’m really chuffed,” she said.
“My aim today was to put in a solid team test. This horse is so difficult to maintain in a round shape. I love him dearly, but it’s like Russian roulette. The amount of warm-up time is always a gamble. If you overdo it, he starts to struggle and says ‘I really can’t do it any more mum’.”
Funnell was overjoyed to be back on the team for the first time in nine years. “It’s all about being with your friends and being part of it. It’s so special and I’ve missed it so much.”
Away from the dressage arena, riders were taking Rϋdiger Schwarz’s cross-country track very seriously. The German designer is the master of creating influential courses on compact sites and he has managed to eke out every possible twist and turn in this public park which is much prized by Malmö residents.
Spectacular pictures are assured, with the backdrop of blue sea, the striking landmark of the Turning Torso and the flowers and waterways of the park.
Riders, however, will be concentrating more on the many challenging accuracy tests, especially the big corner which follows a step out of the water at fence 10 and the major question at the end of the course at fence 30, where a big spread is followed by a skinny brush to a corner.
“If you are happy to take your time, then you could do it perfectly,” Dirk Schrade said. “But if you want to go fast, then it will be tricky.”
Individual results after first day of dressage
1 Ingrid Klimke/FRH Escada JS (GER) 39.4
2 Niklas Lindback/Mister Pooh (SWE) 42.0
3 Dirk Schrade/Hop and Skip (GER) 44.2
4 Lucy Wiegersma/Simon Porloe (GBR) 45.2
5 Frida Andersen/Herta (SWE) 46.0
6 Astier Nicolas/Piaf de b’Neville (FRA) 46.0
7 Sanna Siltakorpi/Lucky Accord (FIN) 46.4*
8 Sarah Ennis/Sugar Brown Babe (IRL) 46.8
9 Arnaud Boiteau/Quoriano ‘ENE HMN’ (FRA) 47.7
10 Pippa Funnell/Mirage d’Elle (GBR) 47.6
* denotes individual rider
1 Germany, 83.6
2 Sweden, 88.0
3 Great Britain, 92.8
4 Ireland, 99.2
5 France, 101.6
6 Netherlands, 104.0
7 Italy, 105.0
8 Belgium, 110.4
9 Switzerland, 118.2
10 Belarus, 125.4