Aachen, Germany - Members of the U.S. Olympic Show Jumping Team performed in the Mercedes-Benz Nations Cup at CHIO Aachen Thursday, which served as their final Nations Cup competition prior to the Rio Olympic Games. Led by Chef d'Equipe Robert Ridland, the Hermès U.S. Show Jumping Team of Lucy Davis, Laura Kraut, Beezie Madden, and McLain Ward put in valiant efforts in a very competitive field to tie with France for the Silver medal on four faults. Germany won the Gold medal on zero faults, posting seven clear efforts over two rounds of competition.
"We planned our European tour as preparation for the Olympic Games and there is no better or harder place to compete than here at Aachen," said Ridland. "We are very pleased with where our riders are. We have done five Nations Cups in Europe and we have been second four of those times. We feel confident. We came here for the preparation against the best in the world and we got it."
With the U.S. drawing first in the order, the pathfinders for the U.S., Ward (Brewster, N.Y.) and Sagamore Farm's Rothchild, had the undesirable job of being the first combination around the course. The pair posted a foot-perfect clear round over the Frank Rothenberger-designed course, and set the tone for brilliant round-one performances. Davis (Los Angeles, Calif.) and Old Oak Farm's Barron and Kraut (Royal Palm Beach, Fla.) with Old Willow Farms, LLC's Zeremonie followed suit with clear rounds of their own, allowing Madden to sit out round one as the U.S. had secured a round-one total of zero faults. The U.S. entered round two tied with the home nation of Germany, also on zero penalties. Close behind the leading nations, there was a three-way tie between France, Great Britain, and Belgium, who all sat on four faults.
Round two proved to be a nail-biter down to the last ride. Ward was not able to duplicate his round-one success, putting 12 faults on the board. With Germany's first rider going clear, the pressure was on the rest of the U.S. to deliver. Both Davis and Kraut again marked flawless rounds, but were matched by their German counterparts. France was also able to post three clear rounds to put them on a two-round total of four faults, leaving no room for error for U.S. anchor combination Madden (Cazenovia, N.Y.) and Abigail Wexner's Cortes 'C'. The pair started the round strong, but had a foot down in the water at fence six, sealing the second-place tie with France.
"It was a memorable day for me at Aachen for sure," said Kraut, who won the STAWAG-Prize aboard St. Bride´s Farm Confu earlier in the afternoon. "The Nations Cup course was very fair. There are a lot of horses here that are going to the Olympics, so I think it was built to be difficult, but not take a lot out of the horses. Overall it was a brilliant design. Zeremonie has grown up so much in the course of these European observation events. I am honored to have been named as an alternate [to the U.S. Olympic Show Jumping Team] and I think the mare proved today that she's ready to step up if needed."
On Wednesday, Ward and HH Carlos Z bested the field in the Prize of StädteRegion Aachen to take the victory.
The U.S. is also being represented at CHIO Aachen in dressage, driving, and eventing. Following day one of team competition for dressage and driving, both U.S. teams lie in second place. Find out more on USEFNetwork.com.
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