For all three years the FEI Eventing Nations Cup has been running at Great Meadow International the same nations have been represented – the U.S., Canada, and Great Britain. The last two years the U.S. has finished on top with Canada second and Great Britain third, but this year the British are out to shake up the status quo. Following the first two phases, the British are winning by an impressive 23.7 points over the U.S. with all four team members sitting inside the top 20.
Great Britain selected a team of younger riders to fly over to the U.S., and the trio is anchored by the experienced Olympic gold medalist, Leslie Law who is also the coach of the U.S. Eventing Emerging Athletes.
“We are all about promoting our young riders and Leslie obviously has a lot to offer,” joked British Chef d’equipe, Philip Surl. “All joking aside – it is great to have Leslie on the team after all he has done for the sport both in his country and now over here.”
The individual leader after dressage, Kim Severson, added nothing to her score with a double clear show jumping round aboard Cooley Cross Border, the syndicated 11-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Diamond Roller x Whos Diaz). However, Severson has decided to withdraw Crossy as the pair are members of the U.S. team competing in the Nations Cup at Aachen in Germany in two weeks. With Severson’s withdrawal Ben Hobday is now leading the way for both the British team and all of the competition.
Ben Hobday and Shadow Man. USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.
Sitting in fourth after dressage on a 28.3, Hobday jumped a double clear show jumping round with his own and Jane Chambers’ Shadow Man II, an 8-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding (Fidjy of Colors x Favorite Van de Keezerswinning).
“We were meant to come last year with Mulry’s Error and the preparation didn’t quite go to plan so it is really nice to be asked to come again with Shadow Man – I think a lot of him so hopefully we will have a good round tomorrow and we will keep moving forward,” said Hobday.
The British team had quite the shock when they came off the plane to the scorching Virginia heat, but luckily temperatures cooled off a bit today to give the horses and riders a reprieve. “I was a little bit concerned about the heat with him,” continued Hobday. “He was quite calm in the warm-up so we didn’t do too much and the bigger the atmosphere the bigger he jumps and I just have to point him in the right direction and he does the rest so I am fortunate to have such a lovely horse.
“Whether [Severson] is in the lead or I am in the lead doesn’t matter. We are going to go for it. My horse is just an 8-year-old, but he is a great horse. We will do the best we can. If we end up on top we will be smiling,” concluded Hobday.
Sophie Brown and Wil. USEA/Jessica Duffy Photo.
Sophie Brown and Wil, her own and her mom’s 15-year-old KWPN gelding (Silverstone x Sjoukje), made a big jump up the leaderboard – moving from 13th to sixth after show jumping by adding nothing to their score of 34.4.
“This is my first selection for a Nation’s Cup and it’s extra special with the trip being so big and grand,” said Brown. “Wil has coped with the heat quite well. He can be quite buzzy, but the heat mellowed him so it is has been really good. The flatwork he did what he does best and wasted no marks and that is what our plan is. He was jumping his little heart out – bless him – and he looked after me a few times and just kept moving and he is very neat in front.”
Georgie Spence said that her own and Suzanne Doggett’s Halltown Harley, a 12-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Harlequin du Carel X Cummer Beauty) can be a “bit of a pony on the flat.”
The pair scored 35.2 and were in 22nd after dressage, but clear show jumping rounds weren’t very common today so they were able to move up to 13th by leaving all the rails in their cups.
“He is a complete machine jumping so I really don’t have to do anything but steer him around,” said Spence. “I am very lucky to be here and very excited to be in this position, so hopefully we will all go well tomorrow.”
Law was the only member of the team to have a rail down, but his horse, Tre’ Book’s Voltaire De Tre, a 9-year-old Selle Francais gelding (Gentleman IV X Jasmina du Fresne) only stepped up to Advanced in February. “To be sitting here with these three is fantastic,” said Law. “I haven’t been to Great Meadow before and it is a fabulous event. Hopefully they will get the job done tomorrow before I actually even go out on cross-country.”
Allison Spring and Lord Willing moved up to second with a clear show jumping round. USEA/Jessica Duffy Photo.
Tomorrow’s cross-country gets underway at 9:30 a.m. and while the British have a significant lead anything can still happen! Hobday said, “The course looks really nice, Mike [Etherington-Smith] has done a great job. It is obvious what we have to go and do. Doing it is another thing. The ground is good – the team has done a good job. The jumps in the arena – the water jumps. There are a few tricky questions, but hopefully our horses will answer the questions. What Philip has done a great job of doing is keeping us focused on doing well individually because if we do that as a team we can end up on top.”
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