Barcelona, Spain – The Hermès U.S. Show Jumping Team finished strong on Saturday evening at the FEI Nations Cup Jumping Final at CSIO5* Barcelona, claiming second over Belgium. After technical issues with one of the stadium lights that caused nearly a two-hour delay in competition start time, the U.S. team of Lauren Hough, Laura Kraut, Beezie Madden, and McLain Ward proved their experience and fortitude, finishing on a mere four faults. The U.S. team took home third in 2016, only to climb up the podium to second in 2017.
“Last year third, this year second. It was tremendous,” said U.S. team Chef d’Equipe Robert Ridland. “Beezie [Madden] is on a young horse, a new combination, and it is fabulous. Same thing with Laura [Kraut] – that is a relatively new combination and the other two [Hough and Ward], perfection. We knew we were coming with a good team. There is no question about that. We had four veteran riders out there, but the combinations themselves were relatively new, and we really couldn’t be happier.”
Hough (Wellington, Fla.) and Ohlala once again served as pathfinders for the U.S. team, riding their second clear round of the competition. The Ohlala Group’s 13-year-old Swedish Warmblood mare put in a flawless performance after a long wait to get started. Watch their ride here.
“I’ve actually never had that happen before,” said Hough of the competition delay. “I had to get the horse ready twice, and it was a lot of sitting around. I had to stay focused without letting that nervous energy bunch up too much. But [Ohlala] was absolutely perfect. I’m thrilled, I’m absolutely thrilled.”
Laura Kraut (Royal Palm Beach, Fla.) and St. Bride’s Farm’s 10-year-old Holsteiner gelding Confu had a spectacular round but dropped one rail near the beginning of the course, serving as the U.S. team’s drop score. Beezie Madden (Cazenovia, N.Y.), with Abigail Wexner’s nine-year-old Dutch Warmblood stallion, Darry Lou, also dropped one rail. The U.S. team sat on four faults, tied with Belgium, Germany, and Switzerland headed into the fourth and final round.
With just one time fault, the Netherlands rode prior to the U.S. team. A clear round from Harrie Smolders and Don VHP Z meant a win for the Netherlands. U.S. anchors Ward (Brewster, N.Y.) and HH Azur would compete against the clock for second. Ward and Double H Farm and Francois Mathy’s 11-year-old Belgium Warmblood mare did just that, delivering their second clear round of the competition and sealing second for the U.S. team.
“It felt like Rio all over again,” said Ward. “In that situation, you fight to be the best you can be on the day – that is my job, particularly as anchor, to be able to handle that. I knew that the time was going to be the factor, so I tried to think about that on my round, and Azur performed beautifully. She felt really good. She felt brilliant the other day, brilliant today, maybe even better.”
With a second position finish, Ridland says the Hermès U.S. Show Jumping Team will now set their sights on the FEI World Equestrian Games™ Tryon 2018 (WEG).
“It was an unbelievably consistent week,” said Ridland. “Our first round on Thursday night, and tonight we had four veteran riders, a couple of them on relatively new combinations, so in reality, we couldn’t be happier. This was one of our big priorities of the year. We feel we are on the right path, and at this point in time, we start looking forward to the WEG.”
See the full results of the 2017 Longines FEI Nations Cup Jumping Final CSIO5* Barcelona.