September 28, 2013 -- With Friday's disappointment behind them, the U.S. Nations Cup Jumping team was determined to jump well at CSIO5* Barcelona on Saturday. The day wasn't without its ups and downs, or its thrills and disappointments, but it ended with a hard fought U.S. win in the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup Jumping Final Consolation Round.
The U.S. team had the advantage of being the last in the order of go. McLain Ward (Brewster, N.Y.) gave them another advantage early by delivering a clear round in the leadoff spot. He and Sagamore Farms' Rothchild made Santiago Varela's course look easy, and gave the team a quick burst of energy. That energy helped Lucy Davis (Los Angeles, Calif.) keep up with her veteran teammate and guide Old Oak Farm's Barron to a clear round, one that looked equally effortless.
"I think this weekend has been incredible for me," said Davis, after the competition was over, "the team's been great, it's a different experience really for me to have them." About that first ride Saturday she said simply, "that's what I'd hoped to do."
Third in the order was Katie Dinan (Wellington, Fla.) with Grant Road Partners LLC's Nougat du Vallet. Though they were a little shaky early on and had a rail down at fence 2, they recovered well and finished with only four faults.
That's about where the roller coaster ride began.
The U.S. and Switzerland were tied for first before each team's final horse, so when Pius Schwizer had a rail down on Toulago, U.S. Anchor Beezie Madden (Casenovia, N.Y.) had a chance to win outright with a clear round. But Madden and Abigail Wexner's Simon had an uncharacteristic miscommunication before the vertical at fence 4 and Simon refused. It was an otherwise beautiful ride, but with the refusal and two time faults they took as a result, it ended up a six fault effort.
With the two teams tied at four, a jump off between Switzerland and the U.S. was needed to determine the winner. Because this was part of the Nations Cup Final, the format for the jump off was a little different than at a normal Nations Cup competition. Rather than a one on one matchup, each team would bring back three riders to face off, with the winner determined by the lowest combined score.
U.S. Chef d'Equipe Robert Ridland chose Ward, Davis, and Madden to return against Beat Mändli, Paul Esterman, and Steve Guerdat.
Mändli led off for Switzerland and had four faults. Beezie Madden got a quick chance for redemption as she came back first for the U.S. She produced a clear round, but had everyone on the edge of their seats as Simon hesitated at the Longines oxer, then made a valiant push to jump it clean, and finish within the time allowed.
Advantage U.S. 0-4
Paul Esterman was next for Switzerland. He was trying for a quick round, but knocked down the plank at fence 2 while doing so. Davis and Barron followed with a chance to secure things for the U.S. team, but she picked up four faults on the same plank, and six more with a rail down and two time faults for a total of ten.
Advantage SUI 4-10
With that, the favor shifted toward Switzerland and it was 2012 Olympic Champion Steve Guerdat's chance to win for his side...but after a surprising eight faults the day came full circle. McLain Ward had a rail in hand and needed only a solid ride to ensure the U.S. win. With veteran poise he led Rothchild through a well-paced careful round. He sacrificed two time faults for safety, but ended the day as he began it, with a clear round, and led the U.S. team to well-earned victory.
"[Rothchild] has been great all year," said McLain Ward, reacting to his jump off round, "I knew he was going to give his best, I just had to stay out of his way."
Reflecting on the last two days, Ward recognized how exciting the new Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup Final has proved to be, "the new format's phenomenal," he said, "it's great sport and exciting for the future of the Nations Cups."
The final score in the jump off was U.S. 12 - Switzerland 16.
For full results click here.
Follow the U.S. Jumping Team at www.usefnetwork.com/featured/2013Jumping.