Falsterbo, Sweden—July 14
It always seemed that things would come right for the Netherlands sooner or later this season, and today was the day when the 2014 series champions claimed maximum points in the sixth leg of the FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping 2017 Europe Division 1 League in sunny Falsterbo, Sweden.
It was no walk in the park, however, the result only decided by a super-charged three-way jump-off against Germany who lined up second and Ireland who finished third.
The U.S. team, anchored by Alison Robitaille, was in a tie for third after Round 1 with just 4 faults on the board. And through the first half of Round 2 it looked good for the U.S. riders, as Chloe Reid added a second clear go to her faultless first round on Codarco and Ali Wolff rallied from a four-fault Round 1 to jump clean in Round 2 on Casall. But after Adrienne Sternlight—who had gone clean in Round 1—had 12 aboard Cristalline and Robitaille had two rails on Ace, the team had to settled for fifth.
In the jump-off for gold, Double Olympian and World and European team gold medalist Jur Vrieling, 47, clinched it when last to go against the clock with his impressive stallion VDL Glasgow V. Merelsnest. He wasn’t short of advice as he headed back into the arena for the third and final time.
“I was hardly five meters outside the ring after the second round when I was already being told I was in the jump-off and how to ride it!” Vrieling said. “Ben Schroder said to go inside the wall to the double [third fence], so I just had to listen and work it out as well as I could.”
Vrieling couldn’t praise VDL Glasgow V. Merelsnest, an 11-year-old Belgian Warmblood (Nabab De Reve—Wendelina Van’t Merelsnest, Darco) enough. The dark bay stallion won the Longines Grand Prix of Rome in May, where he also helped the Dutch team take second in the Nations Cup. “He has an unbelievably top character,” said Vrieling. “He’s the nicest horse in the stable, not just because of the results he gets but because of the way he behaves. I adore him!”
Having dominated the early classes at the Swedish fixture it was the Irish who were hot favorites to head the line-up this time out, and after the first round the boys in green shared the lead on a 0 score with the eventual winners.
Both sides added 4 faults in Round 2, however, and this left them on level pegging with the German foursome that included husband-and-wife Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum (Daisy) and Markus Beerbaum (Comanche 28) who have not competed in a team together for 13 years.
Beerbaum was first to go against the clock, posting his third great clear of the day in 47.80 seconds when taking the longer route around the Derby course stone wall before tackling the remaining two elements of the triple combination. Next out, Ireland’s Denis Lynch on All Star cut inside the wall only to clip the first element for four faults in 46.65 seconds, so when Vrieling got the shortcut exactly right he galloped home clear in the winning time of 46.35 seconds.
Dutch Chef d’Equipe, Rob Ehrens, was delighted with the performances of all of his team-members including 26-year-old Ruben Romp (Audi’s Teavanta ll) and 30-year-olds Aniek Poels (Athene) and Michel Hendrix (Baileys) who each posted just four faults today. “Besides Jur, I had three young and talented riders in the team – it’s looking really good for the future”, he said.
Of the decision to have Vrieling jump off for the Dutch, Ehrens said: “He’s the most experienced rider in the team and his horse was already warmed up and ready to go as they were the last pair out in Round 2. And I know he is very fast!”
Today’s result has moved the Dutch and Irish off the bottom of the Europe Division 1 leaderboard and it is the Spanish who are now lying last going into the penultimate leg at Hickstead (England) in two weeks’ time.