The Nations Cup at the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival is the only Nations Cup held in the United States. It’s very exciting to have the opportunity to get to watch it in Florida year after year. The stands were packed and each country had their own cheering section. This year was the most eventful it has been for a few years, mainly because the U.S. team won!
The course was not easy—Steve Stephens was the course designer and he pulled out all of the stops. I walked the course with Laura Kraut and one of her other students earlier in the evening. I would have to say that the two trouble spots on course were the triple combination line and the water to the double line.
After jumping the Swedish oxer by the ingate, which was jump 8, the riders picked up the pace to head to the open water. When you walked the distance from the landing of the open water to 10A, which was the G&C planks, you were left with a question. The distance was basically a four-and-a-half stride line and the double was a tight one stride. So your options were either landing and getting the five strides right away or going on landing so your horse could get there slowing down in the four strides.
Watching the class, I saw people do both the four and the five. One example of someone doing the four and clearing the plank/oxer double was McLain Ward and Sapphire. He sailed over the water, landed and continued, but got to 10A slowing down and the mare jumped the double flawlessly. An example of the five strides and clearing that nasty double was Nick Skelton and Carlo 273. He was able to clear the open water and get his horse back to fit the tight five strides in and then proceeded on to jump the double rub-free.
It was a lot of fun watching the U.S. team win. The team was McLain Ward riding Sapphire, who posted two clear rounds; Margie Engle riding Indigo, who was clear in the first round and had 4 faults in the second; Beezie Madden riding Coral Reef Via Volo, who had 4 faults in the first and was clear in the second; and Mario Deslauriers riding Urico who had 4 faults in the first round.