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Royal Zara Phillips makes Olympic equestrian debut

Britain's Zara Phillips on High Kingdom competes in the Dressage phase of the Eventing competition of the 2012 London Olympics at the Equestrian venue in Greenwich Park, London, July 29, 2012.
JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images

(AP) LONDON - Zara Phillips, granddaughter of Queen Elizabeth II, had a few royal fans in the stands as she made her Olympic equestrian debut Sunday, earning a respectable score in the eventing dressage competition despite a slight mistake.

Phillips' grandfather, the Duke of Edinburgh, as well as her mother, Princess Anne, were in the VIP seats at Greenwich Park as Phillips rode her horse, High Kingdom, through the paces of a standard dressage test to demonstrate the horse's obedience.

She scored a solid 48.10 penalty points, despite a mistake toward the beginning of her canter in the first "flying change." In the stride, the horse is supposed to change the sequence of his steps, but High Kingdom didn't respond immediately to Phillips' cues.

Despite the bobble, Phillips said she was pleased with the performance.

"It was disappointing about his first change, but his other ones were really good," she said afterward. "But he coped with all the crowd and is only getting better."

Cheers and applause broke out as she rode into the stadium and erupted anew when she finished. Anne, wearing a bright red canvas hat to protect against the strong sun, applauded politely at the end.

Phillips, a former world and European eventing champion, said the mistake had nothing to do with the enthusiasm from the stands - a rousing welcome that prompted the announcer to remind the audience to keep applause to a minimum until the test was finished.

"He's very chilled," she said of her bay gelding. "That was nothing to do with the crowd. It was just inexperience and getting stronger, and he's getting stronger all the time."

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She said she was looking forward to Monday's cross country event, the most difficult and dangerous of the eventing competition, which also includes show jumping.

The 28-obstacle course over 5.7 kilometers through the bucolic Greenwich Park is unusually hilly with several tight turns.

"He's quite quick and easy to turn so hopefully it'll be good," Phillips said. "I think he wants to get out there now; he's a bit bored of dressage."

In an indication of the respect the royal granddaughter has in the equestrian world, Phillips was greeted warmly after she competed by Mark Todd and Andrew Nicholson of New Zealand, who ride later Sunday.

The gold-medal question going into the competition was whether the queen herself would attend Phillips' brief four-minute test. Instead, Prince Philip represented the monarchy. Princes William and Harry, as well as William's wife Kate, are expected to make an appearance at the equestrian event at some point over the next two days.

Fittingly enough, the equestrian event is being held in a very royal venue: Greenwich Park, which dates from 1433 and is the oldest royal park in London. The main equestrian arena sits right in front of Queen's House, a 17th-century building designed as a summer palace for Queen Anne of Denmark, the wife of James I.