Britain Wins Hickstead Nations Cup, USA 2nd, Germany 3rd
Britain Wins Hickstead Nations Cup, USA 2nd, Germany 3rd
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By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
HICKSTEAD, England, Aug. 4–The Olympic gold medal pair of Carl Hester and Uthopia led Great Britain to victory in the Nations Cup at Hickstead Sunday with the United States second and Germany third in the finale of the inaugural series of four events and the only one that was decided by the Freestyle.
This was the second victory for Great Britain in the Nations Cup, having won at Rotterdam in June while the United States, which competed in two of the events, finished third at Aachen, Germany a month ago.
The United States combinations of Kathleen Raine and Breanna, Günter Seidel and Coral Reef Wylea and Shelly Francis and Doktor finished, third, fourth and fifth individually, all on personal best scores, but could not overcome the margin Carl and Uthopia set with their result of 81.625 per cent.
The 26-year-old Jenny Lang on Loverboy also posted a personal best of 77.750 per cent for second highest individual placing and insured Germany’s third place team finish.
The United States’ Kathleen Raine, a rider able to deliver in the clutch, and her Breanna, the third horse she has brought from untrained youngster to international Grand Prix, led for most of the competition with a score of 75.650 per cent. That was until Carl and Uthopia’s ride, the only result above 80 per cent.
Günter Seidel and Coral Reef Wylea, who have been a partnership only since early this year, would have needed 78.375 per cent to match the British team total but in only their third CDI Freestyle the pair scored 75.625 per cent.
Final point standings of the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) pilot series at Vidauban, France; Rotterdam, Aachen and Hickstead were: 1. Netherlands 36; 2. Sweden 33; 3. Germany 29; 4. Great Britain 25; 5. Denmark 22; 6. United States 19; 7. France 17: 8. Belgium 11; 9. Spain 7; 10. Switzerland 6; 11. Finland 4; 12. Ireland 3.
Carl Hester and the 12-year-old KWPN stallion (Metall x Inspekteur) that he rode on the Olympic gold medal team in London exactly a year ago was the fourth and last rider for the British team at a point when the United States had a clear lead.
He delivered with a performance that had no mistakes and brought a standing ovation from spectators as the pair left the arena, the only combination to score above 80 per cent.
U.S. hopes of victory were on the shoulders of Günter Seidel and Coral Reef Wylea, a 13-year-old Westfalen mare that he has been competing for less than six months at international Grand Prix.
The three-time Olympic medalist performing only the third Freestyle on Wylea that was named Winci when ridden by Anabel Balkenhol, daughter of German Oympic gold medalist Klaus Balkenhol with whom Günter trains, made a dramatic start with a series of passage and piaffe tours and looked as if a score was possible that would challenge Britain. However, Wylea broke into canter near the end of a diagonal of extended trot.
Even so, Günter’s reputation as a masterful rider who pulled off a spectacular third place finish in the Grand Prix two days earlier kept spectators on the edge of their seats until the final movement of the music from Neil Diamond’s “Coming to America,”appropriate for a German who moved to California, adopted the lifestyle along with American citizenship.
Although Britain and the United States were in control of the top two places, Jenny Lang on Loverboy, competing for the first time on a German team, gave it their all as one of the last rides to post the second highest score, 77.750 per cent. The enthusiasm and apparent joy of the predominantly young riders on a team that did not include any of the big name German championship riders brought one of the loudest bursts of applause of the competiton.
After the event at Britain’s premier high performance show grounds–perhaps the only top facility as the London Olympia event is at a leased venue and is more of a boutique indoor competition–Carl Hester lauded the team competition as “fantastic” and a way to get new horses and riders on Nations Cup squads that would lead to higher quality at major championships.
Richard Waygood, the British chef d’equipe, described it as a “wonderful series” that has its challenges but that all of the participating teams believe in.
With a few “tweaks” to the Hickstead format, he said, “in essence we believe it is a very good competition that grabs the public’s imagination and can be a great competition.”
Robert Dover, leader of the U.S. team that makes the biggest financial commitment because of the cost of transatlantic travel for horses and riders, gave the series a resounding endorsement.
“It is absolutely my hope that not a Nations Cup will be held anywhere in the world that the United States does not compete in,” said Robert who only recently became technical advisor/chef d’equipe of the U.S. team and has led a major revamp of the country’s high performance program.
“We are commited to having as many riders competing as we can, we are going to have a big push.”
The format of the Freestyle deciding the Nations Cup got mixed reviews with most riders and some officials saying they preferred the traditional Grand Prix that was used at Vidauban, Rotterdam and Aachen.
Dane Rawlins, organizer of Dressage at Hickstead, reported that a meeting of representatves of participating nations strongly favored using both the Grand Prix and the Freestyle to determine results, borne out by the full spectator stands although there were 29 musical rides in the Freestyle Sunday.
He was also critical of the leadership of Britain’s World Class program that spends millions of pounds in support of riders and horses but, he said, does not discuss competitons with organizers such as himself who host the country’s most important international dressage event and are urged by the FEI to stage a Nations Cup but barely cover costs.
Although the riders and officials of participating nations were enthusiastic about the future of the series that the FEI created in hopes of generating the same success as jumping Nations Cups, this initial year has garnered little media attention.
At the same post-competition news conference that riders and team leaders were expressing support for the Nations Cup series, Stephen Clarke, a judge at Hickstead who was also president of the ground jury at last summer’s Olympics in London, asked how many reporters were present.
The number was two, one from Britain’s Horse & Hound magazine and the other this correspondent from U.S.-based dressage-news.com that also covered the Rotterdam and Aachen competitions..