After securing the lead Friday, August 19, in the FEI Eventing Nations Cup™ Canada following solid dressage scores from all team riders, the American eventers defended their lead with formidable jumping performances to win the seventh leg of the FEI Eventing Nations Cup™ Canada. As one of the most important equestrian events in Canada, the trials serves as the venue for the only FEI Eventing Nations Cup™ leg to be held in North America.
With an experienced team of athletes, most of whom had ridden at the five-star level, three of the four Team USA riders jumped clear in both the show jumping and cross-country tests. The American quartet was made up of Liz Halliday-Sharp, Lillian Heard, Colleen Rutledge and Andrew McCannon. They finished on a score of 138.6 ahead of the host nation, Canada, who closed out the competition on a score of 158.3. Australia was the only other nation competing, but only one rider completed the entirety of the competition.
Liz Halliday-Sharp, a stalwart of the U.S. Team, maintained her position at the top of the leaderboard to secure the overall win in the CCI4*-S on Miks Master C (Mighty Magic x Qui Luma CBF) a 10-year-old Swedish Warmblood gelding owned by Deborah Palmer and Ocala Horse Properties LLC. The duo finished on an overall score of 37.6 points after jumping a double clear round in the show jumping phase and laying down one of the fastest cross-country rounds of the day.
“It was a proper course here but my horse was world-class,” stated Halliday-Sharp. “Hopefully we will go to Boekelo for the final [Nations Cup].”
Teammate Lillian Heard has been to Bromont many times and cites it as her favorite event. Despite riding at the five-star level, this was her first Nations Cup experience. She and Debby Greenspan’s 9-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding Dassett Olympus (Lancelot x Cushlamochree) finished in fourth place for their first ever Nation’s Cup performance, serving as the second-highest ranked U.S. horse-and-rider pair on a final score of 49.4.
“This is my first time being on a team since Young Riders 15 years ago, it was really cool and elevates the stakes by which you're playing,” stated Heard. “I am usually only competing for myself so it was cool to go out and think I’ve got to be good for me but I have to be good for other people which adds a different element and is good practice.”
While the riders faced a tough cross-country challenge in terms of the course design and elements, which resulted in a number of retirements, the competitors were full of praise for the ground conditions.
“The course was awesome, this event is never easy and you don’t come here thinking anything is a given. The footing is great but the courses are tough,” noted Heard. “This is my horse’s first run back and he’s quite experienced - this feels more like a championship competition which is good because when we go to the other events, it feels easy. I was the first out so I didn’t have any intel which worked out fine because my horse doesn't always do what the others do. The waters were tough and almost five-star questions and my horse was really good. The jumps were big and technically hard and the terrain makes a difference here too, but it’s supposed to be getting us ready for the five-star level so it’s good.”
Andrew McConnon was another rider on the U.S. team having his first Nations Cup experience and was happy with his double clear aboard Ferrie's Cello (Chello III VDL x Karelza), Jeanne C. Shigo’s 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding. The duo was the third-ranked U.S. pair on the team scoring a 51.6 overall.
“This was my first team challenge and it was great to work with these three experienced ladies who were very kind and giving with information,” stated McConnon. “I love it [being part of teams] and would love to be a part of more.”
Canada’s Colleen Loach managed to hold onto her second and third place standings throughout the course of the weekend posting double-clear efforts with Peter Barry’s 10-year-old Hanoverian gelding, Vermont (Van Helsing x Hauptstutbuch Hollywood) resulting in an overall score of 43.3, while her own 10-year-old Hanoverian gelding, FE Golden Eye (Goldfever x Cascade) held onto the final podium position with a score of 45.1.
Jessica Phoenix and Saskia Goedhart’s 13-year-old Warmblood gelding Mighty Mouse (Contenda x Jubilee Jadore) rounded out the top three Canadian performances with an overall score of 51.3. After her dressage performance on day one, Phoenix sat lower in the standings on a score of 39.7, only to rise up the leaderboard during the difficult second and third legs of the competition posting a double-clear effort in the show jumping portion and going clean on cross-country to finish sixth overall.
With the conclusion of the FEI Eventing Nations Cup™ Canada, the focus now turns to Belgium where Team Germany now leads the overall standings on 290 points as the FEI Nations Cup™ competition moves to Arville (BEL) which concludes today (21 August).
There were surprisingly few shakeups to the top of the leaderboards Friday at the MARS Bromont CCI, but the incredibly close scores leave no margin for error heading into Saturday’s exciting cross-country phase across all five levels.
Tomorrow, the first of five regional clinics for the USEA Emerging Athletes U21 (EA21) Program kicks off in the central region of the country in Benton, Louisiana, at Holly Hill Farm. Throughout the summer, the remaining clinics on the East and West Coast will follow. At each clinic, 12 hand-selected riders will participate in a two-day clinic led by USEA Eventing Coaches Program (ECP) coaches. The purpose of the EA21 program is to create a pipeline for potential team riders by identifying and developing young talent, improving horsemanship and riding skills, and training and improving skills and consistency. The intention is to provide young athletes with access to an added level of horsemanship and riding skills to further their training and skill development with greater consistency.
After the first day of competition, Canadian Olympian Colleen Loach and her horse FE Golden Eye lead an international field in the CCI4*-L division of the MARS Bromont CCI.