Equestrianism: Dressage could break out and provide a thriller

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The Independent Online

Dressage is not normally associated with nail-biting tension, but its rather staid image could be about to change during the European Dressage Championships, which begin today at Hickstead. The four members of the British team - Richard Davison, Emile Faurie, Nicola McGiven and Emma Hindle - will be under pressure, trying to secure one of the last two Olympic qualifying places.

Dane Rawlins, the mastermind behind dressage at Hickstead, is convinced the goal is achievable, and believes this team could win medals because all the horses are capable of high scores; Davison and Faurie have been regular team members for the last decade while McGiven and Hindle are making their championship debut on horses that have scored more than 69 per cent in international grands prix this year. British supporters should therefore be in for some exciting viewing today and tomorrow when team placings and Olympic qualifications are decided.

As usual, Germany will be favourites for team and individual gold medals - especially as Ulla Salzgeber, the defending champion, is being allowed to compete despite a positive dope test on her mount, Rusty, after she won the World Cup Final in March.

The British Jumping Derby meeting runs concurrently, so there could be a well-worn path between the two arenas - notably on Sunday, when the Freestyle to Music decides the individual dressage placings before the annual Jumping Derby gets under way.