After a hot and sticky first day at Aachen for the FEI European Championships, Great Britain have kept themselves right up in the medal hunt with two riders gone. It was a day of anticipation for Team GBR with two debutante horses but both performed brilliantly under their experienced riders to lie in bronze position with the home German team leading and the Netherlands in silver.
Worcestershire’s Michael Eilberg got the British team off to a solid start riding his father Ferdi’s Marakov (pictured right) with 69.943%.
Aachen is to dressage as Wimbledon is to tennis and the arena is a daunting one. Part of the Eilberg family as a youngster, Latvian bred Marakov was originally destined for a career in show jumping, as was Michael, but as the rider’s discipline changed, so did the horse’s and their focus was dressage. The horse was the first to take Michael to grand prix level so competing at a senior championships is all the more special.
‘Marco’, as Marakov is known, entered the impressive arena tentatively but a pat from Michael reassured him and they started on their biggest performance to date. The test was very regular with impressive piaffe and passage earning good scores from the seven-strong judges panel. Michael really let the horse fly in the extended canter before a smooth transition back. The duo came turned on to the centre line for the tricky canter zig-zag and a mis-communication put them off their stride to lose vital marks. A well-presented final centre line pulled up some marks and 70.314% was provisionally the score.
The score was revised to 69.943% on the final count, just missing out on a plus 70% score, but a great start for the team nonetheless.
After his test, Michael commented: “I’m really pleased with him; it was a daunting atmosphere. Perhaps I could have let go of him a bit more but that can go either way so overall, I’m happy. I still feel like I have to go in and hold his hand but it’s pleasing that even having to help him out we can still score plus 70. My score will free Fiona up so she can relax and ride to her best; her horse looked amazing this morning working. It’s a real championship atmosphere here and little mistakes can prove costly. It’s a lovely thing; when he was new to grand prix, he could be nervous and spooky and we’d get 59% but now he copes with the nerves and can score 70%.”
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