William Fox-Pitt on Oslo - photo by Oliver Townend on Armada - photo courtesy E-Venting's Katie Mortimore

Oliver Townend on Armada – photo courtesy E-Venting’s Katie Mortimore

The crowds were out for day one of dressage at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials, despite colder temperatures and an overcast sky. Unfortunately, all the best seats behind C were for reserved ticket holders only, so the ticketless horse junkies among us had to sit in not so great vantage points, even though many of the ticketed seats were empty. Those who came early were rewarded, with many big names in the top 10 starters. Oli Townend kicked off the starters with an obedient test from Armada.

An audible hush fell over the crowd as each rider proceeded down the centreline. That’s the great thing about watching such a high-profile event in England. The people in the crowd are all so knowledgeable; I was sitting in and amongst many ‘experts’. Any disobediences were met with ‘tut tut’ and low scores groans and gasps.

Everyone held their breath as a small plane flew low over the arena during William Fox-Pitt’s dressage test. If there’s one thing I admire about WFP, it’s his unflappable demeanour. He gives the impression that a bomb could go off during his test and he would just keep calm and carry on, no doubt achieving a brilliant score. His score of 45.8 wasn’t enough to stave off his competition for the Rolex Grand Slam, Andrew Nicholson, who put in a nearly flawless test with Avebury besting WFP by 0.8 penalty points with a score of 40.0.

William Fox-Pitt on Oslo - photo by E-Venting's Katie Mortimore

William Fox-Pitt on Oslo – photo by E-Venting’s Katie Mortimore

- photo courtesy Andrew Nicholson on Avebury - E-Venting's Katie Mortimore

– photo courtesy Andrew Nicholson on Avebury – E-Venting’s Katie Mortimore

Team Australia were also on fire on the first day of dressage. By lunchtime, Christopher Burton (Holstein Park Leilani) and Sam Griffiths (Happy Times) had stormed the top two spots, with the former taking the lead by a mere 0.3 penalty points on Holstein Park Leilani. The Australian stronghold continued throughout the afternoon leaving them in top spots going into day two.

Chris Burton (AUS) riding Holstein Park Leilani - photo courtesy Rolex

Chris Burton (AUS) riding Holstein Park Leilani – photo courtesy Rolex

Nicola Wilson and Opposition Buzz currently tied in 11th place - photo courtesy E-Venting's Katie Mortimore

Nicola Wilson and Opposition Buzz currently tied with Jonathan Paget in 11th place – photo courtesy E-Venting’s Katie Mortimore

I missed out on the afternoon’s dressage as I was lucky enough to catch up with our North American riders – Rebecca Howard and Clark Montgomery. More on that tomorrow! Thanks to our friends at E-Venting for the awesome photos and for filling me in on the afternoon’s dressage drama. Find their recap of today’s action here. Full results here.

Céleste
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