June 14th, 2013 -- he United States sent two teams into competition Thursday afternoon in the $100,000 Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup at the CSIO5* Spruce Meadows 'Continental' Tournament. Not only was the U.S. eyeing top finishes but qualification for the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup? Jumping Season Series Final as well as a chance to win the North American, Central America and Caribbean League of Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup Jumping Series were all on the line.
In its inaugural season the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup Jumping Series has been a major focus for the U.S. and Chef d'Equipe Robert Ridland. Thursday's competition marked the second and final Nations Cup competition for the North America, Central America and Caribbean League and a strong finish by the designated "point team" the Stars Team was vital to winning the League and Final's qualification. Additionally, to demonstrate the strength and depth of the U.S. program the second American squad, the Stripes Team, was also looking for a podium finish.
The U.S. did just as they had set out to do as the Stripes Team of Brianne Goutal, Katie Dinan, Candice King and McLain Ward cruised to a second place finish. While the Stars Team of Kent Farrington, Reed Kessler, Charlie Jayne and Christine McCrea earned a fourth place finish and in doing so clinched the top spot in the League and Final's qualification for the U.S.
"This really fit into our plan. It would have been nice to win but we had two good finishes," said Ridland. "We've now qualified for the Finals and won the League to boot."
Ridland also believes the strategy of having two equally powered teams helped the U.S. on Thursday and is an example of things to come.
"We did it a little differently than most by having two equal teams but I think it really worked out today. Each team had a mix of veterans and young riders or young horses with more experienced riders. I believe the future looks really good."
Course Design Leopoldo Palacios built a demanding 12 obstacle track that tested not only rider's ability to leave the rails in place but also ride efficiently to finish within the time allowed. It was made all the more difficult in the second round as high winds and pouring rain picked up.
Goutal (New York, N.Y.) and Remarkable Farms LP's Nice de Prissey were the pathfinders for the Stripes Team, collecting four faults after rolling the pole at fence three in the first round. In round two the 12-year-old Selle Francais stallion produced another four fault trip after dislodging the rail at the bicycle jump at eight.
Next up for the Stripes was Dinan (Wellington, Fla.) and Grant Road Partners LLC's 12-year-old Selle Francais gelding Nougat Du Vallet. In round one the pair jumped an immaculate clear over Palacios' challenging track. They returned later in the afternoon to repeat their faultless effort to be one four combinations to jump double clear.
"I was really pleased, Nougat felt great, I knew when we walked the course it was do-able but you still have to do it. There's always more pressure when you're on a team and it was only my second Nations Cup and I just wanted to rise to the occasion, stay calm and poised. I knew after the first round I was only halfway done and needed to make some adjustments for the second round. Which I was happy I was able to do. I'm just so happy and my horse jumped great," said Dinan of her double clear effort on Thursday.
Jumping in the third spot, King (Wellington, Fla.) and Campbell VDL produced a 13 fault trip in round one after lowering the heights of three obstacles and collecting a single time fault. In their return effort the pair demonstrated improvement with Stateside Farm's LLC's nine-year-old Holsteiner stallion just faulting at two fences and again collecting a time fault for a second round score of nine.
Rounding out the Stripes Team effort was Ward (Brewster, N.Y.) and Sagamore Farm's 12-year-old Warmblood gelding Rothchild. The veteran pair produced a tidy and efficient effort as a clear never looked in doubt in the first round. Jumping in a deluge of rain in round two, the pair repeated their clear effort to join Dinan and Irish riders Conor Swail and Cameron Hanley on the double clear list.
The Stripes Team finished on a two round total of nine faults.
Leading off the Stars Team was 2011 Pan American Games Team Gold medalist Farrington (Wellington, FLa.) and Robin Parsky's Blue Angel. In round one the 11-year-old Anglo-European mare lowered the heights of two fences for an eight fault effort. The pair returned with an improved trip in round two, just collecting four faults for a foot in thewater at fence four.
Kessler (Lexington, Ky.) and Mika jumped in the second spot for the Stars producing a near foot perfect trip in the first round that was just marred by a mistake at the plank at fence five resulting in four faults. The 2012 Olympic Games veteran and her own 14-year-old Selle Francais gelding returned in round two producing their second four fault of the day after also putting a foot in the water at four.
Jayne (Elgin, Ill.) and Alex Jayne and Maura Thatcher's 10-year-old Zangerscheide stallion Chill R Z produced a four fault effort in the first round after knocking a block off the top of the wall at fence 10. In round two they again jumped a four fault trip, just rolling the front rail of the oxer at fence nine.
Riding in the anchor position for the Stars Team was McCrea (East Windsor, Conn.) with Candy Tribble and Windsor Show Stables' Zerly. The pair jumped a stylish first round but after losing a shoe early in the course the nine-year-old KWPN mare rolled the poles at the final two efforts coming out of the triple at seven for eight faults. In round two the 2011 Pan American Games Team and Individual Gold medalist used all of her experience as she guided Zerly to an impressive fault free trip.
The Stars Team finished on an overall total of 24 faults.
The Stars Team's fourth place finish resulting in 75 points paired with the 100 points the U.S. earned with a win at the $75,000 Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup presented by G&C Farm at CSIO Wellington meant they finished with a total of 175 points to top the North American, Central America and Caribbean League. The U.S. and Canada (172 points) have now qualified for the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup? Jumping Season Series Final to be held in Barcelona, Spain September 26-29.
The team from Ireland finished on a score of four to earn victory in the $100,000 Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup, with the Stripes Team finishing second and Team Canada One earning third place on a score of 14.
To learn more about the CSIO5* Spruce Meadows 'Continental' Tournament visit; http://www.sprucemeadows.com/tournaments/view_tournament.jsp?id=25
Follow the 2013 U.S. Jumping Team here.