For the second year in a row the U.S. team has won the only FEI Nations Cup™ eventing competition held outside of Europe. Following the first phase of competition, the U.S. sat with only a 1.1 point lead over Canada, but with some trouble for the Canadians in show jumping the team from Great Britain moved into second and the U.S. extended its lead by 12.5 points. Cross-country proved to be an influential finale with only two of the British riders finishing the course and dropping the team out of contention, Canada slotting back into second, and the U.S. taking the easy win on a final score of 151.1.
As is often the case with the horses only two of the original named U.S. team were able to compete at the Great Meadow International CICO3* with both alternates (Boyd Martin and Lynn Symansky) being called up in the final hours. Joanie Morris stepped in as the chef d’equipe as the U.S. is in transition and led the riders and the quad of bay geldings to the top spot on the podium.
Martin played his traditional role as trailblazer setting the pace for the team as the only U.S. team pair to finish on their dressage score. Martin rode Gretchen and George Wintersteen, Pierre Colin, and Denise Lahey’s Steady Eddie (Jetball x Tudnela), a 14-year-old Australian Thoroughbred gelding.
“It was an unusual team, actually,” said Martin. “It’s the first time the team hasn’t had a coach. I think Joanie Morris did a fantastic job. She’s done that job a number of times, and Phillip unofficially was the team leader, captain, cross-country guy, and we followed his lead. I’ve gone first for a team a number of times and it was a bit weird because the first horse fell and it was hard to gauge how [Jessica Phoenix] went because she was held up so much. I zipped around and everything rode really well, and I came back and told Phillip the details of the course and met up with Jennie and Lynn out in the warm-up and told them what I felt from the course. All three of them ripped around, thanks to my advice.”
Symansky has ample experience as the alternate having been designated to that spot at both the 2011 Pan American Games (where she ultimately competed and was a member of the Gold medal winning team) and the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. Riding the Donner Syndicate, LLC’s Donner (Gorky Park x Smart Jane), a 14-year-old Thoroughbred gelding, Symansky finished in second individually adding just 1.2 time penalties to her dressage score of 48.9.
While she had the least amount of team experience, only competing as a member of the 2012 Nations Cup team at Boekelo and as an alternate for the 2015 Pan American Games, Jennie Brannigan proved a valuable team member, finishing as overall individual winner aboard Nina Gardner’s Cambalda (Balda Beau x Cathy’s Lady), a 15-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding.
The team was anchored by Phillip Dutton riding Kristine and John Norton’s I’m Sew Ready (Lupicor x Jarda), a 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding. The pair finished in third individually on a 51.6.
The U.S. team comes together during the playing of the National Anthem. USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.
Following the trend from last year’s debut Nations Cup event, Canada took second place with a strong showing in both the dressage and cross-country phases. Two of the 2016 horses returned to the Canadian team, Kelecyn Cognac and Foxwood High and they were joined by two new horses: Pavarotti and Honor Me.
Jessica Phoenix brought three horses to this year’s Great Meadow competition and with the Nations Cup rules she had to ride her team horse first, so was the lead rider for Canada aboard Don Good’s Pavarotti (Pavarotti van De Helle x Fidelia), a 15-year-old Westphalian gelding. They headed into cross-country in the lead, but was held on course when Justine Dutton fell from Jak My Style. They ended up accruing 12.4 time penalties to finish in sixth individually.
“It was a really exciting weekend for Canada. We all almost got personal bests this weekend, which is a great weekend for us,” said Phoenix. “Just to be in the barn with these people is fun. Every day you show up for work and get to do this is awesome.”
Selena O’Hanlon was the highest placed Canadian, finishing in fifth place individually aboard John and Judy Rumble’s Foxwood High (Rio Bronco W x Evita), a 14-year-old Hanoverian gelding. As one of only three double clear cross-country rounds, Waylon Roberts with Anthony Connolly and L. Skye Levely’s Kelecyn Cognac (Fusaichi Pegasus x Dreamland), a 14-year-old Thoroughbred gelding, moved up to finish in eighth place.
In her debut Canadian team performance, Lisa Marie Fergusson added just a rail and two time penalties to her dressage score to finish in 16th place riding Honor Me (Brynarian Brenin x Dream Contessa), an 11-year-old Thoroughbred gelding.
Great Britain has traditionally been big supporters of the FEI Nations Cup™ series and they sent a team across the pond for the second year in the row. Unfortunately they haven’t had the best luck at the event, finishing in third both years.
Nicky Roncoroni with Lorna McWilliam and Janey Roncoroni’s Watts Burn (Zero Watt x Deards Lady of the Knight), a 12-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding, was the highest-placed British rider finishing in fourth individually. Emily Llewellyn rode Camilla Harries' Emirati Night Sky (Hamlet x Helena) an 8-year-old KWPN gelding to a good finish as well – adding just 8.8 time penalties for an individual ninth finish.
The remaining two riders didn’t complete the competition, which caused Great Britain to be assessed 1,000 penalty points. Matthew Heath with his own and Hazel Livesey’s One of a Kind II (Jumbo x Lady Tiggi Winkle), a 10-year-old gelding, was eliminated for three refusals at 9B, the Beverly Equestrian Brush Corner in the main arena. American-based Justine Dutton fell from her own and Kathleen Cuca’s Jak My Style, a 12-year-old Thoroughbred gelding at the in at the Adequan water.
Despite the British team result, they are still heading home with a positive outlook. “We’re coming back again! For sure, we’re all desperate to come back again, I’m certainly putting my in for it again for next year.” Llewellyn said. “We’ve had the most incredible experience here, not only the facilities, but the people. What an incredible event you guys have created here.”
About the FEI Nations Cup™
The FEI’s team eventing series, the FEI Nations Cup™ eventing, is open to all nations fielding one team composed of 3 or 4 riders at each leg, and runs under FEI Eventing rules at CICO and CCIO 3* level with riders accumulating points under a dedicated system detailed here.