Houghton Horse Trials dominated by Germany for a fifth successive year
German riders left Houghton Hall on Sunday, clutching the silverware, winners' sashes and the honour of winning the first leg of the Eventing Nations Cup for the fifth successive year.
At the end of four days of competition at the West Norfolk venue they finished at the top of the leader board with the Swedish team a close second and the British contingent a creditable third.
The Germans went straight into the lead at the end of the dressage phase with their Ingrid Klimke, the reigning European champion, and their Christoph Wahler leading the field by a large margin.
At that point the British team of four was in fifth place, well behind the leaders.
Saturday's show jumping phase saw the gap narrow with Ingrid toppling two fences and all of the Swedish riders jumping clear to pile on the pressure.
Belgium moved up to third and the Brits, Piggy French, Bubby Upton, Richard Coney and Eliza Stoddart climbed into fourth place.
The top two teams stayed there at the end of the cross country phase on Sunday and Britain galloped into third and on to the podium.
Wahler's clear cross country round earned him the individual trophy with Sweden's Louise Romeike as runner-up.
Not surprisingly, the chef d'equipe of the German team said: We always enjoy coming to Houghton and tackling Alec Lochore's good courses”.
On behalf of the British team. Philip Surl said he couldn't be happier especially as they had three first timers in the team.
Nine teams had come forward for the Nations Cup round and there were huge entries in the other two, three and four star level classes which also ran over the weekend.
Notable winners included Piggy French who was born in Norfolk and started her eventing career in the county.
Piggy was already on a winning streak after winning the prestigious Badminton horse trials earlier in May and at Houghton it just got better.
As well as her success in the Nations Cup team, she led from pillar to post in the two-star class on a horse that has just come back after a long rest with serious injury.
Fellow team member, Bubby Upton, from Newmarket, was less lucky.
Her hopes of adding the three star Young Rider British Eventing National Championship to her weekend tally was dashed when she crashed through a fence for four penalties and had to settle for second and third places on her two horses.
As usual Houghton was not just about international competition. The organisers also hosted classes for potential event horses, show jumping and dressage which gave local riders a chance to compete in the stunning parkland.