The US fought off a strong European challenge to win the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup of Great Britain at the All England Jumping Course at Hickstead.
The quartet of McLain Ward (Rothchild), Reed Kessler (Cylana), Margie Goldstein-Engle (Royce) and Beezie Madden (Cortes C) led from the start in Friday’s feature class at the Longines Royal International Horse Show. After the first round, they were the only nation to finish on a zero score, having discarded 20-year-old Reed Kessler’s eight faults.
But Ireland and Belgium were very much still in the frame at this stage, carrying four faults apiece after round one, with Germany and the Netherlands on eight faults each.
The other three nations were starting to lag behind the leaders at this point with France on 12 faults, Great Britain on 16 and Sweden on 18 – and these were the teams that eventually took the bottom three places, with Great Britain and France in equal sixth (28 faults) and Sweden in eighth (38 faults).
The Netherlands and Germany took second and third places respectively by posting clean team sheets in round two, while Ireland and Belgium added eight faults to their tally in round two.
But the USA kept nailing the clear rounds, with Ward posting a double clear and Madden doing the same to prevent a jump-off with The Netherlands and Germany and put them in the lead with just four faults in total.
“I felt like we’ve been having a great time the past few weeks. I never got to ride in a winning team so this is a first for me and it’s very special to be a part of,” said US chef d’equipe Robert Ridland.
It was a fantastic return for Beezie Madden, who had a competition fall in May that left her with a plate in her left collarbone. “I don’t notice it much at all anymore. My main goal is to hopefully make the team for the World Equestrian Games, so I worked out when I needed to come back,” she said.
US team veteran Margie Goldstein-Engle was making her Hickstead debut. “I’ve heard all about it – there’s a great crowd out there, we don’t have anywhere quite like it in the US,” she said.
The Brits had mixed fortunes, with Ben Maher jumping two good rounds except for a foot in the water each time with Wings Sublieme. Jessie Drea and Touchable, making their Hickstead Nations Cup debut, had just the penultimate fence down both times, but the 22-year-old rode polished and mature rounds. Guy Williams improved on his eight faults in round one to have four faults in round two, while Robert Whitaker and Catwalk IV were the discard score in both rounds, with 12 faults each time.
The pressure is now on the British team to deliver a win at the final leg of the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup series in Dublin next weekend, where they must score maximum points if they are to stay in the top division next season.
“If we win in Dublin we’re all right and we won’t get relegated,” said chef d’equipe Rob Hoekstra. “It was a very mixed day today – I was very pleased with Jessie and also with Ben, he rode fantastically like he always does, but his horse was just a bit green at the water.”
Despite an almost perfect first round, the Irish team of Darragh Kenny, Shane Breen, Bertram Allen and Cameron Hanley slipped to equal fourth at the end of the two-round competition.
Highlight of the Irish effort was Darragh Kenny, who opened for Ireland with Imothep and recorded the first double clear round of the competition. However, Shane Breen and Golden Hawk left two poles down in their second round after a four-fault first attempt, while 19 year-old Wexford rider Bertram Allen, making his Hickstead Nations’ Cup debut on Molly Malone, failed to repeat his opening clear round, incurring eight faults.
Anchorman Cameron Hanley, however, who initially had one fence down with Antello Z, came back in the final round with a zero score. Despite this, Ireland finished on a team total of 12 faults, equal with Belgium.
Ireland’s show jumping manager Robert Splaine said after the Nations’ Cup: “We almost did everything right in the first round, but we failed to repeat the performances in the second round, which was somewhat frustrating. With Darragh Kenny’s great double clear on Imothep, we had it within our grasp to deliver a better result. However, this now lays down a marker for Dublin. We know where we stand now, and we’ll have to be good in Dublin.
Earlier in the day Darragh Kenny rode Quiz to win the Bunn Leisure International Stakes, with British riders Steven Whitaker and Douglas Duffin second and third.
In the showing, Lancashire rider Jonny Stevens won the TAAS BSPS Heritage Mountain and Moorland Supreme Ridden Championship, riding Balmoral Erica. The pair took the overall honours having won the Heritage Mountain and Moorland Open Ridden Championship for Fells, Dales and Highlands earlier in the day. Balmoral Erica is a Highland pony, owned by The Queen, who is also a patron of the Longines Royal International Horse Show.
Prolific show producer Louise Bell won the Horsedeals.co.uk Supreme Working Hunter Championship riding W Get Smart. The pair took the overall honours having won the Heavyweight Hunter Championship earlier in the day. Bell also competes this horse at Advanced level dressage.
Adam Winbourne won the Topham Barnes Supreme Riding Horse Championship, riding Kathryn Pitt’s China Rose.
Nations Cup result:
1. USA 4 faults: Rothchild (McLain Ward) 0/0, Cylano (Reed Kessler) 8/4, Royce (Margie Goldstein-Engle) 0/4, Cortes C (Beezie Madden) 0/0.
2. Netherlands 8 faults: Capetown (Wout-Jan van der Schans) 4/8, Lord Sandro (Bart Bles) 4/0, Winchester (Frank Schuttert) 4/0, VDL Bubalu (Jur Vrieling) 0/0.
2. Germany 8 faults: Liberty Son (Marco Kutscher) 4/0, Contanga (Andre Thieme) 0/8, Embassy ll (Hans-Dieter Dreher) 4/0, Plot Blue (Marcus Ehning) 8/0.
4. Ireland 12 faults: Imotherp (Darragh Kenny) 0/0, Golden Hawk (Shane Breen) 4/8, Molly Malone (Bertram) 0/8, Antello Z (Cameron Hanley) 4/0.
4. Belgium 12 faults: Dream of India Greenfield (Pieter Devos) 0/0, Challenge vd Begijnakker (Nicola Philippaerts) 12/4, Domino (Jos Verlooy) 4/8, Conrad de Hus (Gregory Wathelet) 0/4.
6. Great Britain 28 faults: Zaire (Guy Williams) 8/4, Catwalk lV (Robert Whitaker) 12/12, Touchable (Jessie Drea) 4/4, Wings Sublieme (Ben Maher) 4/4.
6. France 28 faults: Number One D’Iso Un Prince (Nicolas Delmotte) 4/8, U2 (Mathieu Billot) 4/4, Myself de Breve (Marie Hecart) 4/4, Qarat de la Loge (Julien Epaillard) 8/16.
8. Sweden 38 faults: Click and Cash (Niklas Arvidsson) 0/8, Echo de Laubry (Royne Zettermann) 14/21, Jordan ll (Angelie von Essen) 4/9, Caral (Niklas Jonsson) 17/4.
Detailed result here