The British dressage team has a new achievement - a gold medal in the team competition at the European Dressage Championships in Rotterdam, the Netherlands! The weather was rather miserable, from uncharacteristically hot one day to rather cold the next, with a surprise display of fireworks courtesy of a serious electric storm. The British team consists of veterans Carl Hester and Emile Faurie, as well as young star Laura Bechtolsheimer and "total newcomer" Charlotte duJardin. In reality, it takes a long time to become a 'total newcomer', and Charlotte dJ has earned every step of the way, starting as a working student at a dressage stable years ago. The horses, Uthopia, Elmgarden's Marquis('Max'), Mistral Hojris (long the crowd's favorite and called "Alfie") and Valegro('Blueberry'), all did a super job. Uthopia put in the top score for the team and was just breathtaking, a real 'this is how it should be' performance - he simply floated across the ring in beautiful, free movements without seeming to touch one foot to the ground. Mistral Hojris and Laura: http://www.google.com/imgres?q=mist...18&ndsp=9&ved=1t:429,r:1,s:18&biw=741&bih=313 Emile Faurie and 'Max': http://www.google.com/imgres?q=emil...t=0&ndsp=6&ved=1t:429,r:0,s:0&biw=741&bih=313 Carl Hester and Uthopia: http://www.google.com/imgres?q=carl...18&ndsp=8&ved=1t:429,r:0,s:18&biw=741&bih=313 Charlotte du Jardin and Valegro: http://www.google.com/imgres?q=char...art=42&ndsp=8&ved=1t:429,r:6,s:42&tx=65&ty=61 Emile's horse Marquis did a very good solid job as the anchorman. Mistral Hojris and Laura had some mistakes that just weren't typical for them. They have in the past scored much higher, but simply weren't having one of their best days. The big surprise was Charlotte and Valegro, an unbelievable performance for a young person just breaking into the top ranks of dressage. Uthopia is probably the biggest standout at the competition so far. The German team finished second in the team competition. Totilas, who has moved from the Dutch to the German team recently, did a super job. His new rider, the young Alexander Rath, had incredible pressure put on him to match the top scores of Totilas' previous rider, Dutch Edward Gal. Despite a few small mistakes, Rath did a super job, especially considering he only had a few months to get familiar with this horse. The competition was made all the more suspensful as the last few riders had to wait while an awful rainstorm passed through, just as the last member of the Swiss team was starting his ride. The poor guy had to pick up the ride where he left off about 45 minutes later, and the wait really affected his horse's concentration. However, after 'doing the math' the British team was so confident that no one could better their combined scores, that they were observed to be toasting at the hospitality table quite a few times, well before the competition was over! Meanwhile the team manager, Richard Davison was stuck in the broadcast booth griping about all those toasts taking place without him! Davision however was heard to gloat at one point, 'We aren't just competing now, we're really kicking - ' well you know what he said. My favorite ride, however, was from the Spanish rider Juan Diaz and his horse Fuego, the crowd favorites from the 2010 World Equestrian Games. Despite an excellent score, many observers felt 'they was robbed' last year. Criticized by the judges then for missing technical details and being too flamboyant, Diaz put in a ruthlessly correct and cool performance and made absolutely sure that he did not miss a beat. Both he and his horse looked fitter and far more organized and focused. He put in a beautiful correct performance with plenty of energy and style. One of the biggest surprises was to see the broadcast include a view of many of the horses being unwound AFTER the tests, trotting around with their necks stretched down to the ground, so they could loosen up and stretch. It's really nice to see the broadcast show how the riders look after the horse's welfare. It was also nice to see all the noses that got kissed and all the necks that got hugged after the rider was done!