READING equestrian rider, Spencer Wilton, has helped Great Britain make a solid start to their defence of the Olympic dressage team title.

Both Wilton and team-mate from Fiona Bigwood put in strong performances at the Olympic equestrian centre in Deodoro.

The three-day competition began with Britain, Germany and Holland expected to be the major medal challengers.

And with London 2012 gold medallists Charlotte Dujardin and Carl Hester performing their first tests today (Thursday), Britain were third overnight behind Germany and the Dutch.

Bigwood posted a score of 77.157 per cent on Orthilia, while her fellow Olympic debutant Wilton scored 72.686 per cent on Super Nova II.

"I had a fantastic warm-up - probably one of the best I've had," said Wilton, who is based at Hare Hatch.

"I was really looking forward to it, and then unfortunately my horse had a little fright just before he started.

"He just had a little moment which unnerved him. I did get the feeling that as the test went on, he relaxed and I relaxed, and we did get into it."

Wilton has won 13 national titles in his 20-year career, but the 43-year-old’s selection for Team GB in Rio was his first senior call-up.

Speaking before flying out to Rio, the Reading rider said: “Apart from (my) face aching from grinning all the time, it feels amazing to be going,” said the trainer.

“From when I started thinking four years ago that it could be a possibility, it feels like an awful time.

“It’s really exciting, it’s my first Olympics and my first senior team competition, so I’m in at the deep end,; I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing, but I’m old enough now.

“I’ve been doing it for 20 years so that’s quite a long time, even though I’ve not been competing at this top, top level.

“But I’ve been competing internationally, abroad, on this horse for the last two years – so I’ve competed against lots of the other people that will be there.

One of Dujardin's main rivals for individual gold, meanwhile, retired her horse Parzival in the main arena.

Holland's Adelinde Cornelissen made the decision, and she said: "It started yesterday.

"When I came into the stable he had a swollen cheek, and we think he had been bitten by a spider or a mosquito.

"His body was full of toxics. This morning he felt better and the vet said I could give it a try.

"But in the arena he felt totally empty and I decided not to continue. He did not deserve this."