Equestrianism: Armstrong handed opportunity for Nations Cup experience: British riders warm up for European Show Jumping Championships at meeting in Aachen

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The Independent Online
BRITAIN'S probable quartet for next month's European Show Jumping Championships - David Broome, Nick Skelton and the Whitaker brothers, John and Michael, will be competing at the Aachen Nations Cup meeting which begins today in Germany.

These top four riders are joined by Mark Armstrong, who has his first trip to Aachen as the result of good Grand Prix performances (seventh at Hickstead and fourth at St Gallen) with the mare Corella. Michael Bullman, the new chairman of the selection committee, is anxious to give top level experience to promising riders and Armstrong is the latest to benefit from his policy.

The 15 countries in contention (10 with full teams for Friday's Nations Cup) represent the best in Europe. Powerful teams from Germany, the Netherlands, France and Switzerland will give the British tough opposition in the big outdoor arena, where the courses are always big and testing.

The show jumpers' European title will be decided at Gijon in Spain from 28 July to 1 August. The French defending champion, Eric Navet, on the ebullient stallion, Waiti Quito de Baussy, will be competing in Aachen.

Three-day event riders - including Britain's reigning champion, Ian Stark - will have their final trial at Thirlestane Castle in Scotland before travelling to Bavaria for the European Championships at Achselschwang from 9 to 12 September.

Thirlestane (21 to 22 August) has been chosen for the final trial because of its availability and terrain. The old turf has never been ploughed and good going is virtually assured.

The event is one of Stark's favourite contests. Thirlestane is also the birthplace of Glenburnie, the horse he rode to win the European title two years ago. The grey, who is now retired, will be paraded in the main arena during the event.

Stark's hopes of retaining the European title rest with the big, rangy chestnut, Clan Royal, one of the exciting younger prospects in his yard in the Scottish Borders.