World Equestrian Games: Riders aim to earn Rio 2016 places

By Ollie WilliamsOlympic sports reporter
Zara Phillips
Zara Phillips became the first member of the Royal Family to win an Olympic medal when she won silver at London 2012
Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games 2014
Venue: Caen, France Dates: 25 August-7 September
Coverage: Watch live on BBC Two, Red Button, online, tablets, mobiles and the BBC Sport app (times listed below)

Zara Phillips says securing Britain's place at the Rio Olympics will be "huge" when she rides at the World Equestrian Games in France next week.

The Queen's granddaughter is in GB's eventing squad for the Games in France, held every four years to decide world titles in eight equestrian disciplines.

This year marks the first chance for teams to qualify places at Rio 2016.

"We want to make sure we've got that Olympic qualification as well as bring back some medals," said Phillips.

The 33-year-old won gold at the 2006 World Equestrian Games on Toytown, and this year will ride High Kingdom, with whom she won Olympic team silver two years ago.

The top six nations in the team eventing contest will earn places at the Rio Games, along with the five best showjumping teams and the three leading nations in dressage and para-dressage.

Nick Skelton of Great Britain riding Big Star in the Individual Jumping on Day 12 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Greenwich Park
Nick Skelton and his horse Big Star helped Britain to Olympic showjumping gold at London 2012

Phillips stepped away from the sport for seven months for the birth of daughter Mia in January this year.

"Coming back is hard. That was the longest I've ever been out of the saddle," she told BBC Sport.

"Getting back from doing nothing, getting your muscles and fitness working again as well as getting your partnership with your horse going, takes time.

"This season we've been going through the motions a bit, trying to get back to where we left off last year. But hopefully we're getting there."

Elsewhere at the World Equestrian Games, which begin in Caen, Normandy on Monday, British riders will pursue world titles in dressage and showjumping.

Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro
Olympic and European dressage champion Charlotte Dujardin is aiming for a hat-trick of titles

Double Olympic dressage champion Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro are favourites for individual gold on their world debut, particularly after the withdrawal of star German horse Totilas through injury.

Showjumper Scott Brash won on home turf at the London leg of the Global Champions Tour earlier this month, and enters the World Equestrian Games as the world number one, with team-mate Ben Maher ranked third.

Britain's para-dressage riders, including Natasha Baker, Sophie Christiansen and Lee Pearson, are undefeated in major team events since 1996 and will look to continue that streak in France.

Other disciplines include vaulting - in which Britain's Joanne Eccles hopes to repeat her victory at the last World Equestrian Games in 2010 - alongside reining, driving and a 100-mile (160km) endurance race.

BBC coverage times (all times BST)
Fri 29 August: 12:30-15:55 Red Button
Sat 30 August: 08:55-15:25 Red Button
Sun 31 August: 13:25-16:20 Red Button and 16:00-18:00 BBC Two
Thu 4 September: 14:25-17:15 Red Button
Fri 5 September: 14:35-16:45 BBC Two
Sat 6 September: 12:25-15:55 Red Button
Sun 7 September: 14:00-15:45 Red Button and 15:00-18:00 BBC Two (also the Burghley Horse Trials, alongside World Equestrian Games highlights).