THE Irish dressage team departed the FEI Dressage European Championships disappointed after a week when not much went their way in Riesenbeck, Germany.

The team of Abigail Lyle, Judy Reynolds, Anna Mervaldt and Sorrell Klatzko – who withdrew before the competition started – finished last of the 16 teams and without Paris Olympic qualification. Britain won team gold – their first since the gold they won at the London 2012 Olympic Games – ahead of the home nation of Germany in silver while Denmark took the bronze.

“Obviously we are very disappointed with the final outcome,” Irish High Performance director Anne Marie Dunphy told The Irish Field.

“We faced an uphill battle from the start with the withdrawal of Turbo. Heading into a European Championships with a team of three is a tough ask at the best of times and even more so when Olympic places are on the line. Any mistakes at this level are extremely expensive.

“Of course, the big disappointment is that we did not qualify a team for the Olympics but our focus now turns to an individual place for Paris. The athletes and I have spoken as a group and while it is a big challenge, we are committed to targeting this. Everyone is prepared to dig in and give it our best shot because that’s what we do,” added Dunphy who was taking charge of the senior team at her first championships.

Disaster first struck for Ireland on Wednesday when Sorrell Klatzko did not re-present her 10-year-old gelding Turbo who was held at the first horse inspection the previous day after he “bumped himself”.

Abigail Lyle was first into the arena for Ireland on Wednesday with the Fenella Quinn-owned 12-year-old gelding Farrell and some mistakes saw them finish below their best score on 64.037%.

Judy Reynolds was next up on Thursday with BG J. Hinnemann and Next Generation Dressurpferde’s 13-year-old gelding Rockman Royal NG. The pair were making their championship debut as a combination and the test wasn’t always easy. A few mistakes, plus a big blip on the final centre line, resulted in them scoring 63.401%.

‘Blip in the road’

Reynolds was disappointed, commenting: “We had an unfortunate evening yesterday [Wednesday], he got an insect bite and had a reaction and it left him feeling a bit flat today. I just didn’t feel like I had all the energy I would normally have and that was absolutely the reason for the two canter mistakes. It’s his first time at a championship.

“I was really happy with his first two piaffe/passage tours, because that’s where we have found it harder to get together on our journey since January. But the tank was running a little empty and the last piaffe was a bit of a miscommunication. He wanted to go out after four steps and I said hang on a second and he lost his security and got stuck. I’m still proud of him for going in there; he didn’t spook, he didn’t look at anything so that’s really positive for going forward.”

Reynolds added that the pair are still getting to know each other. “His previous rider - Steffi Wolf - rides 10 holes longer than me, and she rode him from when he was three to 13. So it’s a totally different language we are both dealing with - he’s having to learn my language and I’m having to learn his and he’s a sensitive chap. We are still learning and I’m looking forward to the rest of the year with him. I think we can do some really good stuff, this is just a blip in the road.”

Best of the Irish

The best of the Irish scores came from two-time Olympian Anna Merveldt with the 14-year-old stallion Esporim, owned by Giovanna Mazza and Mario Grecco. The pair scored 67.997%.

“He did his job. I had a mistake in the zig-zag which was expensive, a very slight one but it was there. That was costly. I did a very short warm-up to try to conserve energy but, in this heat, it’s unbelievable,” Merveldt commented.

“For him it’s a difficult job in 30 degrees, poor little guy and those long sides are long with those short legs! But on the whole I’m pleased we got through, it’s not our best score but it is what it is.”

Para dressage

The Irish para dressage team of Michael Murphy, Sarah Slattery, Jessica McKenna and Katie Reilly also missed out on their Paralympic qualification when finishing 10th of the 13 teams on Friday.

Murphy just missed out on the bronze medal in Tuesday’s Grade I Grand Prix and has qualified for the Freestyle final taking place today (Saturday) with Cleverboy.

Full reports from the FEI Dressage and Para Dressage European Championships in next week’s paper.