Hester: Medal race is wide open
Olympic gold medallist Carl Hester believes Great Britain will be part of a four-way scrap for gold in the FEI European Dressage Championships.
Hester will be joined by equestrian's London 2012 golden girl Charlotte Dujardin when the team competition begins on Wednesday.
But the third member of last year's champion trio at Greenwich Park - Laura Tomlinson (formerly Bechtolsheimer) - is sidelined because of an injury to her horse Mistral Hojris.
Gareth Hughes was called up to replace her, meaning he will make his championship bow alongside fellow British debutant Michael Eilberg.
Britain won a first European dressage crown in Rotterdam two years ago, which was the prelude to their Olympic success, but seasoned campaigner Hester knows how tough a task it will be to repeat that feat.
"I think this is the most unpredictable championships I have ridden in for a long time," Hester said.
"There is a sense of quality in four teams - Germany, Holland, Britain and Denmark. Wouldn't it be brilliant to get a medal with two new team members? It would show the depth we have in Britain.
"Perhaps the build-up hasn't been structured as we would have liked. Losing Mistral Hojris is the biggest blow, but the fact Charlotte and I haven't done so much this year I don't think will make any difference.
"The horses feel great - they are very fit and fresh - and we have tried to really work on the detail in the last two weeks.
"What we need to is for Charlotte to go mistake-free, and then she will score 84 or 85 per cent, and I need to hit the form of two years ago when I was hitting 80-81 per cent in the grands prix."
Hester rides his London 2012 horse Uthopia, with Dujardin aboard her brilliant double Olympic gold medal-winning Valegro.
Valegro's two competitive outings with Dujardin this year - at Rotterdam and Hickstead - saw them win each time following a lengthy break during the first half of this year.
"Rotterdam was his first competition of the year," Dujardin said.
"He felt good, but he just wasn't as fit as I am used to. At Hickstead, he was fit, I just made stupid rider errors. Certainly, there are bits of him that are much better than last year."
Britain, meanwhile, will field three of their 2012 gold medal-winning riders when the para-equestrian dressage team competition begins on Wednesday morning.
Natasha Baker, Sophie Christiansen and Sophie Wells will be joined by Anne Dunham, forging a strong quartet firmly installed as favourites for a successful European title defence.
Grade Ib rider Ricky Balshaw will participate as an individual competitor, Britain's para-dressage world class performance manager David Hunter confirmed.
"I am very grateful to all involved in getting the team out here - the logistics went like clockwork," Hunter said.
"The venue in Herning is great, with excellent facilities and it promises to be an exciting competition. We are all looking forward to competing over the coming week alongside the dressage and showjumping riders."