BARCELONA, Spain — The NetJets U.S. Jumping Team battled for second in the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup Final Challenge Cup on Oct. 6.
It came down to the final combinations, and a clear round from Germany meant the U.S. would miss out on a jump-off by a mere four faults. Led by Chef d’Equipe Robert Ridland, the young U.S. team of Andrew Kocher, Alex Granato, and Lucy Deslauriers closed out their Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup Final debut on a total of nine faults. Germany earned the win on five faults, while Brazil placed third on 10 faults.
Jessica Springsteen (Colts Neck, N.J.) and her mount RMF Zecilie, Rushy Marsh Farm LLC’s 11-year-old Holsteiner mare, withdrew just prior to the start of the Challenge Cup. With some minor swelling on her front limb and erring on the side of caution, Springsteen made the difficult decision not to jump RMF Zecilie.
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“[I’m] very happy with how they rode tonight,” said Ridland. “That is the ups and downs of the sport. Sometimes the luck is with you a little bit, sometimes it’s not. To go in with only three riders and no discard score is obviously a disadvantage, but we’ve done it before. Our backs were up against the wall and we came close to a jump-off. Marcus [Ehning] was on a roll and it was unlikely he was going to have a rail down. But, finishing second — it was a good performance and everybody rode really well! I am proud of them all”
With Springsteen no longer competing, Kocher (Howell, N.J. and Ocala, Fla.) and Kahlua became the new pathfinders for the U.S. team. In their first-ever Nations Cup appearance, Kocher and Top Line Sporthorse International LLC’s 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare finished on an eight-fault round.
“I’ve never jumped on any team, just for myself and my owners, but never on a team,” said Kocher. “[Competing on a team] is different and there are a lot more nerves that go into it than I was expecting. I had a good time. The place is amazing, it is a really good facility, and it was a fun week. [Kahlula] did really, really well. She has jumped some five-star grand prixes before, but this is her first time to jump something like this. She is just getting into the groove and I was happy. Under lights, she just walked in and was good.”
Granato (Wellington, Fla.), and Carlchen W, Page Tredennick’s nine-year-old Warmblood gelding, the combination selected to ride tonight in place of Laura Kraut and Confu, rode into only their second-ever senior Nations Cup arena. A clear round was needed to keep the U.S. team in contention for the top-three spots. Granato and Carlchen W delivered a beautiful and flawless round to keep the team on eight faults.
“It was awesome, I loved the show,” said Granato. “It’s my first time here and it was a little last minute that I ended up being on the team. I came as the reserve rider, planning to jump the Grand Prix. Then when some cards changed, we decided to go tonight and I am thrilled with the decision. I am thrilled with the horse, he felt fantastic and rose to the occasion.”
Again with the pressure of a clear round on the line, 19-year-old Lucy Deslauriers (New York, N.Y.) entered the arena with her longtime partner Hester as the last combination to compete for the U.S., as well as for the evening. She and Lisa Deslauriers’s 13-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding jumped a nearly flawless round, gathering a mere one time fault as they came over the finish line to solidify second place for the NetJets U.S. Jumping Team on nine faults.
“I think, overall, considering the prestige of this show I couldn't be happier,” said Deslauriers. “This is my fourth senior Nations Cup ever, so I am still quite new to this level. There is nothing quite like representing your country on the international stage, so I was very honored to be picked for this team. For it to go this well is just icing on the cake. I couldn't imagine doing anything like this on a different horse. I have 100% faith in [Hester] and I know he will quite literally do anything I ask, as evidenced by my third fence today. He is just an incredible partner and no better teacher at this level.”
A day earlier, the NetJets U.S. Jumping Team put forth a valiant effort in the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup Final Round 1, finishing in 10th on a total of eight faults. They were tied in a head-to-head battle for the eighth position with Switzerland, Germany, and France but after the tiebreaker had to settle for a spot in the Challenge instead of the final.
“I really couldn't be happier with our young riders,” continued Ridland. “They came here against some seasoned veterans. We lost out [on the Final round] in a tiebreaker; it came down to time deciding and it was a surprise when a veteran horse was our discard score. So, I’m really pleased. They did us proud. We had the least experienced team of all the contending teams here and we were in the fight!”
Springsteen and RMF Zecilie, Rushy were the first combination in the Real Club de Polo de Barcelona arena, putting in a solid four-fault round to lead off. Kocher and Kahlua, added four faults.
With the need for a clear round on the line, Deslauriers (New York, N.Y.) and Hester, Lisa Deslauriers’s 13-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding, would not disappoint, putting the U.S. team in contention for a top-eight spot for advancement to the final. However, Kraut and Confu would finish on an unfortunate eight-fault round as the drop score, tying the U.S. team on eight faults, with time determining the advancement of Switzerland and France to the final round.
“Our big emphasis was on WEG, we’ve always said that since the beginning of the year,” explained Ridland. “We sent our best team there, as most countries did. I’ve always liked to give the younger and less experienced riders experience at the highest level when they are ready for it. I’ve said for six years that the 3/2 formula is what I like using when it can be used, and we’ve done that pretty consistently: three veterans and two young riders. Often one of those younger riders is the reserve and that is kind of the make-up [of the team].”
In the six years that the U.S. team has attended the FEI Jumping Nations Cup Final, this was their third time competing in the Challenge Cup. In 2014, the U.S. team won the Challenge Cup in a jump-off against Australia and again in 2013 in a jump-off against Switzerland.
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