The Hermès U.S. Show Jumping Team rode to victory today at the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup presented by Edge Brewing Barcelona hosted at CSIO4* Ocala at HITS. The team of Lauren Hough, Beezie Madden, Todd Minikus, and McLain Ward, put in a stellar first round, entering round two on zero faults and were able to hold off a tough field of eight teams for the win. Led by Chef d'Equipe Robert Ridland, the U.S. earned valuable qualifying points for the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup Jumping Final in September in Barcelona, Spain.
"We knew coming in the competition was going to be tough," said Ridland. "We had to bring our best team to be able to have a chance to win and it was stressful - we did it a little differently than we have in the past few [Nations Cups] where we have eased off unintentionally in the first round and came back in the second round. We came with our best hand and we were fortunate enough to come away with the win."
Starting off strong over the Alan Wade-designed course for the U.S. was pathfinder Ward (Brewster, N.Y.) aboard longtime partner Rothchild, Sagamore Farm's 2001 Warmblood gelding. The Team Bronze and Individual Gold medal winners from the 2015 Pan American Games set the tone with a clear round. Following Ward in for the U.S. was Hough (Wellington, Fla.) with Paris Sellon's 2004 Oldenburg gelding, Cornet 39. The pair had the only rail of the round for the U.S. at the second element of the triple combination. Both Minikus (Loxahatchee, Fla.), with Jack Snyder's 2005 Oldenburg mare, Babalou 41, and Madden (Cazenovia, N.Y.) with Abigail Wexner's Breitling LS, a 2006 Dutch Warmblood stallion, produced brilliant clear rounds, sending the U.S. into round two on zero faults.
Round two proved to be a challenge for many of the combinations as clear rounds were much harder to come by. The first three U.S. representatives collected faults and with Mexico and Columbia trailing within striking distance the pressure was on Madden who entered the ring with two rails in hand. The steely veteran delivered a clear round that added only one time penalty aboard rising star Breitling LS, in the horse's first Nations Cup appearance.
"I had a nice position because I could afford to have two rails down and still win; as an anchor rider that's the best position you can be in. Thanks to [my teammates] we were in that position. My horse jumped great the first round so I had confidence that he could come back and do the same or at least come through so I wasn't too worried," said Madden.
The U.S. riders will all compete on Sunday in the $100,000 Grand Prix of Ocala, taking place at 2:00 p.m. ET.