“I’m going to be feeling very posh now, wearing this,” Jessica Kürten joked after picking up a Rolex watch for her win in the International Jumping Riders Club Top-10 Final at the Geneva CSI on Dec. 7-9 in Geneva, Switzerland.
Kürten and Castle Forbes Libertina put together the only double-clear performance in the competition, in which the top 10 riders in the FEI world rankings face off over two rounds. The 2006 FEI World Cup winners Beat Mandli and Ideo du Thot placed second as the fastest four-faulters, while Germany’s Ludger Beerbaum took third aboard Couleur Rubin.
U.S. rider Beezie Madden earned her way to the Top-10 Final by occupying eighth in the Rolex FEI World Standings at the end of November. She traveled to Geneva planning to compete with her Olympic and World Equestrian Games mount, Authentic, but things didn’t go her way.
Authentic jumped well at the Paris CSI (France) on Nov. 30-Dec. 2, winning a class and then placing 12th in the grand prix with a rail in the first round. But upon arrival in Geneva, Authentic had developed an abscess.
“It was OK by Saturday, but he was really sore before that,” Madden said. “He’s good now. We decided not to go to Olympia [the London International Horse Show (England) on Dec. 17-22] too. Of course, once we
decided not to go, he was fine.”
Luckily, Madden had also brought the 2005 CN International (Alta.) winner, Judgement, and she chose to use him in the Top-10 Final.
“In the first round he was really good. There wasn’t anybody clear when I went, and I ended up having the last fence down, which was a liverpool off a really difficult, short distance, which was hard for him indoors. There were only two clear in the first round, and I was sitting in fourth place going into the second round,” Madden said.
Just two riders of the 10 jumped clean over Round 1—Kürten and Beerbaum, on Couleur Rubin. Mandli stood third, with the fastest 4 faults in Round 1, with Madden just behind him.
Round 1 had provided some drama when Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, the Top-10 Final winner in 2004 and 2006, was eliminated. Checkmate stopped twice at a wall, ending her chances at a repeat title.
Since the total faults and second-round times decided the placings, Madden knew she’d have to pick up the pace in Round 2.
“I took a shot at going fast, and he had the liverpool down again and another jump,” Madden said.
She had the fourth-fastest time of the round, but the 12 total faults left her eighth.
Mandli put the pressure on Beerbaum and Kürten by jumping clear on Ideo du Thot in the fastest time of the day. Beerbaum chose to aim for the steady, safe clear round, but his plan was foiled when his mount caught the top rail of a vertical.
“Couleur Rubin is quite shy, and I had to press him too much in the first round, and then he went too forward in the second round,” Beerbaum said.
Their slow time, with the 4 faults, put them behind Mandli.
All Kürten had to do was go clear, but she wasn’t going to repeat Beerbaum’s mistake. The 38-year-old Irish rider has described Castle Forbes Libertina as “wild and a real trier,” and they set off at a confident, speedy clip.
“Libby” jumped a handy clean round, bringing the crowd to their feet and the top check to Kürten.
“There’s a lot of pressure in these types of competitions because you are competing against the best in the world, but when you go into the final round, you can’t think about making a mistake,” Kürten said. “I know my horse is good enough, although I sometimes wonder if I’m good enough, but she tries every time, and I’ll certainly sleep well tonight!”
“She’s just having one of those hot streaks,” Madden commented of Kürten. “She had a great show on all of her horses there. That horse was fantastic.”
Despite her disappointing result, Madden enjoyed her Top-10 Final experience.
“It’s a lot of fun. It’s kind of neat, in the schooling area, to have all those people out there at once. Everybody wants to win, and it’s a great show for the crowd,” she said. “There’s actually quite a bit of strategy that goes into it, figuring out how fast you need to go. It was difficult, and the crowd could see that it was difficult for even the best riders.”