Early setback for GB eventers
Great Britain's eventers must overcome an eve-of-competition setback in their quest to regain the European title from Olympic champs Germany.
Championship debutant Tom McEwen saw his horse Diesel eliminated from contention after failing the first inspection.
Although the 22-year-old Wiltshire rider was only expected to compete as one of two individual challengers alongside Izzy Taylor and KBIS Briarlands Matilda, it still came as a blow to team morale.
The British quartet that will target team honours comprises world number two William Fox-Pitt (Chilli Morning), Tina Cook (Miners Frolic), Pippa Funnell (Mirage d'Elle) and Lucy Wiegersma (Simon Porloe).
It is a much-changed team following the silver medal-winning exploits at London 2012, with only Fox-Pitt and Cook remaining.
Mary King, Nicola Wilson and Zara Phillips, who is expecting a baby, are all absent, but team chief Yogi Breisner can still call on quality replacements in former European individual champion Funnell and 2009 European Championship rider Wiegersma.
"We are devastated for Tom, it is a blow to the squad," Fox-Pitt said. "These things do happen, unfortunately.
"You can never take anything for granted in the trot-ups, that's for sure."
World number two Fox-Pitt has won nine European medals during his career - six team gold, one team bronze and two individual - and he is widely backed to increase that impressive haul this week.
"Chilli Morning has arrived in good form, we've got quite a good draw and it's all to go for," he added.
"We are not starting as favourites, but you never know. If things go our way, we could be in the running.
"On his day, Chilli is some horse. He's a real professional, and if he is feeling in good spirits he should give me a good ride."
Pivotal to the outcome of team and individual medals is likely to be Saturday's cross-country course, with Fox-Pitt under no illusion about the test it could pose.
"It is very twisting," he said. "In places, you can hardly get a bicycle around some of those turns, let alone a horse.
"I think it will be very challenging. You have got to know exactly when to prepare to turn. It would be very easy to over-shoot some turns or come into a turn too quickly.
"There are lots of questions out there, and to do the time you have to take some risks.
"It is a little bit similar to Greenwich (London 2012), although parts of it would make Greenwich look galloping. If you thought Greenwich was uncomfortable, you haven't seen anything until Saturday here.
"We are also going to need some good dressage tests. The Europeans are very good at their dressage, and we will have to put in big performances ahead of Saturday.
"The Germans are favourites, but I think the Swedes are strong on home ground and the French also look strong. It's all to play for."
Britain has a remarkable record in the European Championships, even though Germany burst their bubble by winning on home soil at Luhmuhlen two years ago.
Germany's triumph ended a run of eight successive British team golds, while 18 individual gold medallists over the past 58 years include Cook, Funnell, Phillips, Lucinda Prior-Palmer, Ginny Leng and Ian Stark.
But the Germans have arrived at Malmo's picturesque seaside Ribersborg venue as firm favourites, with reigning Olympic, world and European individual champion Michael Jung spearheading their challenge.
Although Jung's London 2012 horse La Biosthetique Sam is absent through injury, Jung can still call on his quality back-up ride Halunke FBW, while he has experienced campaigners alongside him in Ingrid Klimke, Andreas Dibowski and Dirk Schrade.
Host nation Sweden are also considered strong contenders, and they could feature at the business end, especially if their top rider Sara Algotsson Ostholt recaptures the form that saw her win individual Olympic silver behind Jung last summer.
McEwen's horse was the only one that did not pass the inspection, meaning a total of 61 starters, with 10 nations contesting the team competition.
The action starts on Thursday with day one of dressage, followed by Friday's second phase, with cross-country on Saturday ahead of Sunday's showjumping finale.
Funnell and Wiegersma will perform their dressage tests on Thursday, with Cook, Fox-Pitt and Taylor all entering the arena on Friday.