By Jennifer Wood
American Show Jumpers Experience Positive CHIO Aachen
The U.S. sent five show jumpers to Aachen, Germany, to compete at the CHIO, one of the most prestigious competitions in the world. As part of the “second tour,” these riders were there due to their strong finishes in the USEF World Equestrian Games Show Jumping Trials, held this winter at the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival. After winning the Meydan FEI Nations Cup at the CSIO Rotterdam a month earlier, the team became known as “George’s girls” – Laura Kraut, Lauren Hough, Nicole Simpson, and Candice King. Joining these top four females was two-time Olympic gold medalist Beezie Madden.
Madden Makes Her Mark
Madden could not be picked for the Nations Cup team since her tour-qualified horse, Danny Boy, is sick with a virus. However, she started the week off strong for the American team.
In their first class in Aachen, Madden and Coral Reef Via Volo, a 12-year-old BWP mare by Clinton x Heartbreaker, owned by Coral Reef Ranch, were clear and finished tenth in the NetAachen-Preis on Tuesday. Then on Wednesday in the Warsteiner Preis, Preis of Europa the pair was sitting in the final spot of a nine horse jump-off. Madden had the small luxury of knowing the time that she had to beat. With that knowledge, Madden and Coral Reef Via Volo were able to best the time of 50.07 seconds set by Sweden’s Rolf-Göran Bengtsson and Ninja La Silla by two seconds. Their time of 48.27 seconds and a fantastic clear round gave them the win in a class of 49 competitors.
California owner Gwendolyn Meyer purchased Via Volo in February this year, and the talented mare has certainly been impressive. They won two major classes at Spruce Meadows in Calgary in the past month before traveling to Europe.
“This is the biggest event that she’s been to,” Madden acknowledged. “She felt great. She seemed very comfortable in this ring, so I was pretty confident with her today. She’s gradually climbing her way up.”
Rain or Shine, Hough Holds Her Own
Yet another American scored a win when Lauren Hough of Wellington, FL (but grew up riding with her mother Linda Hough in California), and Prezioso S, owned by Highlife Farms, topped the field in the Preis der Städte Region Aachen over 53 other competitors. In the “winning round” format, the clear rides returned for a second round. Through inclement weather, Hough and the talented 14-year-old stallion by Pilox were the fastest double clear in 44 seconds flat.
“He actually likes the mud and rain, so I wasn’t disappointed to have to go in the changing conditions,” Hough revealed. “I felt quite confident that the ground is really good and I could take a chance.”
Hough had help from Madden, who went before her and placed seventh on Abigail Wexner’s Mademoiselle. “Beezie and George were really helpful; Beezie had gone before me and told me where I could do less strides than her. It was a really open, galloping jump-off, which suits him. He has a really big step. He’s so handy (too).”
Hough said she is “grateful to have a horse like this in my string.” She added, “In 99% of the shows he goes to, he comes home with a top three placing in a 1.50m class. Those horses are almost impossible to find. He can jump every day to win. I can’t say enough great things about him. He always wants to please and win.”
The Girls in Another Nations Cup
The USA started out strong in the Mercedes-Benz Preis, part of the Meydan FEI Nations Cup with a clear round from Lauren Hough on Quick Study, an 11-year-old Belgian gelding by Quick Star x What A Joy. That same feat was repeated with the next rider, Aachen newcomer Candice King of Wellington, FL (who also began her riding career in California) and Skara Glen’s Davos, a 10-year-old Zangersheide gelding by Carthago Z x Pericles XX.
King said afterward, “I was thrilled. I had a great Rotterdam, so that helped me feel a lot more confident coming into Aachen. It’s been a lifetime dream to come here to Aachen, and I’m finally here at 40 years old! With a young horse, I was just really pleased. It felt like he jumped great. I was just a little unlucky; I didn’t quite get to that one vertical in the second round. I was close to having a double clear. I’m very happy.”
Nicole Simpson of Thousand Oaks, CA (originally from the East coast!), was also competing for the first time in the Nations Cup in Aachen. She and Tristan, a 10-year-old Dutch gelding by Lancelot x Ferro, had just one rail down in the tricky triple combination coming home. Anchor rider Laura Kraut, also of Wellington, FL, had an unfortunate fault at the open water to finish on four faults with Cedric, a 12-year-old Dutch gelding by Chamberlain x Carolus.
Following the first round, the American team sat in a five-way tie for first place with a total of four faults with Ireland, France, Switzerland, and Germany. Their solid trips in the second round would help them rise above two of those teams.
Hough and Quick Study, owned by Laura and Meredith Mateo, had a rail in the double combination to start out the second round for the American team. King and Skara Glen’s Davos, owned by Skara Glen Stables and Ira Gumberg, also contributed four faults.
Simpson and Ilan Ferder’s Tristan helped the team with an all-important clear round as the third American combination, while Kraut and Cedric, owned by Happy Hill Farm and Peter Wetherill, had just a rail at the triple bar.
The United States ended up with a solid third place. The “all-girls” team and their Chef d’Equipe George H. Morris were pleased with their placing as they finished with a total of 12 penalty points, just three points behind Germany with nine and not far from the winners, Ireland, with just four faults.
“I’m always proud of my girls,” Chef d’Equipe Morris commented with a smile. “We had a little thing here and a little thing there, but to be in this company was stellar. It’s fabulous to be here and I’m lucky to have been participating here for so many years.”
Placings in the Grand Prix of Aachen
In the first round of the ROLEX Grand Prix of Aachen, two American riders were clear to advance to the second round. Candice King came back in the second spot in the order on Skara Glen’s Davos, owned by Skara Glen Stables and Ira Gumberg. They finished with 12 faults for 15th place. Laura Kraut returned two trips later with Cedric, owned by Happy Hill Farm and Peter Wetherill. They accrued eight faults and finished 10th.
On to Hickstead, Dublin & Lexington…
The third and final tour started recently in Hickstead. Bob Kraut and Graf Lando, McLain Ward and Rothchild, Cara Raether and Ublesco and Rich Fellers with Flexible competed in The Meydan FEI Nations Cup of Great Britain and also finished third with 29 penalty points. Germany was second with 22 points and Great Britain won with a fabulous final score of 7 penalty points.
The final event on The Meydan Nations Cup Tour was in Dublin, the United States finished second there as well as in the overall standings, jumping ahead of Great Britain by 1.5 points and 9.5 points behind France. After a great showing in Europe, the Selection Committee recently picked the short list of riders who will represent the US at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games this October.