One if by land, two if by sea . . . three if by air? Three of the four members of the British Nations Cup team that will represent Great Britain in the FEI Eventing Nations Cup CICO3* at Great Meadow International (GMI) this weekend arrived in the United States on Tuesday and have been stabled at Beverly Equestrian while they await the start of competition on Saturday. The team, made up of Sophie Brown, Ben Hobday, Georgie Spence, and U.S.-based Leslie Law, had a jump school early this morning to beat the heat before heading over to GMI for ring familiarization in the afternoon.
With two Olympic medals to his name, Law is no stranger to team competition (although it has been 10 years since he last was on a team!) but this will be the first senior team experience for both Brown and Hobday. Law will be competing this weekend aboard Tre' Book’s 9-year-old Selle Francais gelding Voltaire De Tre (Gentleman IV x Jasmina Du Fresne), with whom he finished fourth in the CCI3* at Jersey Fresh International this past May.
Leslie Law and Voltaire de Tre in the Jersey Fresh International CCI3*. USEA/Jessica Duffy Photo.
“He’s had a great spring,” said Law, who has had the ride on Voltaire de Tre for nearly three years. “We moved him up to Advanced at Rocking Horse in February and we went one step at a time from there. Jersey was only on the schedule if everything went absolutely spot on this spring. He’s turning into a very nice horse.”
Hobday, who was originally slated to attend the Nations Cup at GMI last year aboard Mulrys Error but had to withdraw, is back this year to compete in his first Nations Cup aboard Shadow Man (Fidjy of Colors x Favorite Van De Keezerswinning), his own and Jane Chambers’ 8-year-old gelding. Hobday acquired “Fidgy” as a 2-year-old and has produced the horse up the levels.
Emma Hobday helping Ben Hobday and Jane Chambers’ Shadow Man show his team spirit. USEA/Jessica Duffy Photo.
“He’s always, from day one, wanted to be a winner,” said Hobday. “The lady that owns him with me, Jane, she’s brilliant. She deserves a brilliant horse and he’s a brilliant horse. But I’m very biased, because I love him to pieces. So far, when I’ve asked him the question, he’s answered and I’m very aware this year as he steps up to three-star just to make sure he’s comfortable and happy.”
Initially it was Will Rawlin and Andrew and Miranda Rawlin’s 10-year-old Hanoverian gelding VIP Vinnie (Valentino X Gianna Nannini) who filled the fourth slot on the team, but when they were unable to attend Brown and Wil (Silverstone x Sjoukje), her own 15-year-old KWPN gelding, traveled across the pond for their first crack at a Nations Cup. Brown bought Wil as an unbroken 6-year-old nearly 10 years ago and she and him have come up the levels together.
Sophie Brown’s Wil. USEA/Jessica Duffy Photo.
“He’s a people person,” described Brown of her longtime partner. “He’s taken everything in stride. The heat is doing me a favor because it’s settling him quite quickly,” she laughed. “Normally at an event he can be a bit go-ey for a bit longer but he’s actually coming out and he’s quite laidback.”
While she’s never competed in the states, Brown said she’s traveled to America on holiday before. “As a family we’re quite happy with the states, we love it! It’s our favorite place.”
This will be Spence’s second Nations Cup for Great Britain after riding on the Nations Cup team that competed at Wiener Neustadt in Austria last year, taking first place individually aboard her own and Suzanne Doggett’s 12-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding Halltown Harley (Harlequin Du Carel x Cummer Beauty).
Georgie Spence and Halltown Harley schooling at Beverly Equestrian. USEA/Jessica Duffy Photo.
The horses that make up the British team range from 8 years old up to 15 years old and have varying levels of experience, “A bit like the riders really,” quipped Law. “I’m a bit like this one,” he said, gesturing to 15-year-old Wil with a laugh.
The team said that the horses traveled quite well, thanks in no small part to team groom Alex Van Tuyll, who flew over with them and took excellent care of them during their journey. Van Tuyll explained that the temperature differential has been quite significant and she has been hard at work keeping the horses comfortable until things cool off a bit over the weekend.
Brown commented that the team went over to Great Meadow yesterday to have a look around. “It looks fantastic. We haven’t obviously looked at the course [yet] but we could see some of the fences. The arena is very big – very American! Americans do everything the best, don’t they? Bigger and better!”
What part of the weekend is Hobday most looking forward to? “The finish bit, where hopefully we’re winning!”
Stay tuned to the USEA website and social media for more coverage from the only FEI Eventing Nations Cup on North American soil this weekend at Great Meadow International!