Cathrine Dufour leads the pack at the FEI Dressage World Cup opener ©Getty Images

Defending champion Cathrine Dufour headlines the opening leg of the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) Dressage World Cup season, as the circuit returns to its traditional venue of Herning in Denmark.

The 29-year-old Dane was victorious in both the grand prix and the freestyle disciplines at last year's event, which was moved within Denmark to Vilhelmsborg due to COVID-19.

Tomorrow's action at Jyske Bank Boxen Arena will mark the opening round of a season which includes nine qualifying legs in total.

Dufour will ride gelding Atterupgaards Cassidy who won the penultimate leg of the 2019-2020 Western European League in Gothenburg in Sweden.

She will face fierce competition from Germany's Ingrid Klimke and her compatriots Helen Langehanenberg and Frederic Wandres.

Klimke is a two-time Olympic champion and comes into the event in good form having taken team silver and individual fifth place at the 2021 FEI Eventing European Championships in Avenches in Switzerland.

Sweden's Patrik Kittel should not be written off as he competes this weekend with Fiontini, the 11-year-old mare that won gold at the FEI World Breeding Federation for Sport Horses World Championships for Young Dressage Horses in 2015, 2016 and 2017.

Following this weekend's action, the Dressage World Cup series will then move on to Lyon in France for competition from October 27 to 31.