John Whitaker may be the oldest member of Team GB, but he had a youthful spring in his step after riding clear in the first qualification round of the jumping.
The 61-year old, who made his Olympic debut in 1984, steered Ornellaia to a flawless round of jumping at the Olympic Equestrian Centre, taking his place at the top of the leaderboard in the individual qualifiers, and helping Team GB qualify for the team event in eighth.
And the Huddersfield rider admitted he couldn’t find faults with his 11-year-old mare after their perfect start.
“I’m very happy with the round,” said Whitaker. “It was good from start to finish.
“The second last fence, the double, has been causing problems throughout the competition so I was a little bit wary because she [Ornellaia] doesn’t have much experience at this level.
“But she didn’t look at it to be honest. Everything went to plan. She felt fresh, she was listening, she was jumping and it’s nice to get the first day behind with a bit of confidence for the rest of the week because it’s going to get tougher.
“I knew it would be nice to jump it clear to keep us up there for the draw tomorrow and it keeps me in there qualifying for the individual.”
Whitaker’s teammates Nick Skelton, Ben Maher and Michael Whitaker all picked up four faults after clipping one fence in their rounds to finish joint 27th in the individual rankings on the day.
But all three were in confident mood as they look to the first round of the team competition on Tuesday, in which the Brits will begin the defence of their Olympic crown in earnest.
And Skelton, who is competing at a record seventh Olympics in Rio, was the first to admit responsibility after stallion Big Star caught the final fence to spoil an otherwise impressive round of jumping.
“He feels incredible and he jumped incredible,” said Skelton, who rode Big Star to fifth in the individual event at London 2012 as well as team gold.
“It was me – I messed up and it was my fault but hopefully I don’t do that again.
“If you’re going to have a jump down today’s the day to do it. I’m happy with him and if he jumps two clears in the team which he can do, we’ll be hopefully qualifying [for the individual].”