June 27, 2008 -- We are riding high here in Lipica as we won the prestigious Nations' Cup competition today--this is what these riders came to accomplish!
The first round started at 9 a.m., and then we had a long, tedious wait to finish with the second round at 5 p.m. The course was big enough but mostly single fences with a final technical bending line vertical/water/oxer that rode in six-and-six. The triple combination was a triple bar/vertical/oxer with two strides between each element. The challenge of the course became the time allowed.
The course designer was the assistant at Rotterdam last week, where George Morris told me the time was difficult to make. That was definitely the story here as well.
After the first two horses flew around the course and still had time faults we felt sure the time would be adjusted. James Benedetto was third in the ring and barely rolled a vertical behind but incurred one time fault, finishing on six. No adjustment was made so everyone knew they had their work cut out for them.
Alexa Lowe on Nadyleen was our second rider and jumped a beautiful hard-earned clear but had one time fault as well. Tracy Magness on Tarco, who admitted she had never had time faults before, copied Alexa's score with one. But Michael came through under the pressure and put a 0 on the board for team USA with Crelido. He was spectacular!
I felt badly for the girls to have one fault as they worked so hard and deserved their clear rounds. With our drop score, we finished on two faults with Austria less than a rail away on five, followed by Italy with nine and Germany with 14.
Anyone who knows me well knows that I hate time faults (and water faults). We had to be better in the next round if we were to keep this win from slipping away.
In between the two rounds of the Nations' Cup was a speed class in which Alexa finished third out of 51 entries--a wonderful ribbon for her and Credit Cruise.
For the second round of the Nations' Cup, we could only come back with three riders, which meant no drop score--that is a lot more pressure. I felt I needed to use the riders with the most experience so Alexa didn't ride, but it was nice for her that she had contributed a great score for the team in the first go.
The teams went in reverse order, which meant USA was last to go--even more pressure. James rode first again on Gigi and this time was perfect, finishing with no faults at all. Tracy was next and was clear until the next-to-last fence--got a bit long to the water and just hit the tape for four faults. That dropped us behind Austria as they had two clears so far--now more pressure.
The final rider from Austria felt the pressure and had eight faults, leaving the door ajar for us to come back. Michael was our anchor, and he did his job. Crelido just lightly touched a rail behind at #7 so then he had to finish the rest of the course clear for us to win--and that he did! I am surprised you couldn't hear the cheers in America from here! USA finished on 10, Austria 13 and Italy 14.
The award ceremony was so special. To me there is nothing in the sport of show jumping that can mean as much as winning a Nations' Cup for yourself, your teammates and your country. Hearing our national anthem brought tears to everyone's eyes. These are moments that last a lifetime. We are so lucky to share them.
I want to say how proud I am of this group of riders, including our alternate, Jeanne Hobbs, for coming through in the clinch. They truly rose to the occasion. Now everyone has won a class here and is the proud owner of a lovely bronze trophy. And congrats to a great group of grooms--Lalo, Jen, Lauren, Violet and Lorna--for a wonderful job and great camaraderie and team spirit.
On to the last two days of our tour--a small grand prix tomorrow and the big one on Sunday.