Lyon, France—April 18
Pius Schwizer is not prone to jubilation. He has a poker face worthy of the highest-priced card games. Even when he was center ring, accepting his first place in the first leg of the Longines FEI World Cup Final, he barely cracked a smile.
But it’s that simple, focused manner that allowed him to ride a horse he’s only had in the barn for four months to the top of the first day of the World Cup Final. Schwizer went into the ring on Quidam du Vivier and simply laid down an unbeatable trip in 63.37 seconds.
Schwizer—of Switzerland—doesn’t speak much English, and he doesn’t really speak much at all. His answers in the press conference are short and simple. “I watched Ludger [Beerbaum’s] round and Patrice [Delaveau’s], and I knew I’d have to be very fast,” he said. “Quidam is a very quick horse and also very careful. He has jumped better and better, and today was our day.”
And that matter-of-fact attitude was just how he rode his winning round. He just walked into the ring and rode a ruthlessly economical track with just enough foot-speed to stop the timers faster than anyone else.
“Quidam” doesn’t have much mileage at the top level of the sport. The 10-year-old Selle Francais gelding (Socrate de Chivre—Uraine de Vivier, Iris Landai) competed at the 1.45-meter level last year with French rider Adelaide Lautie and Swiss junior rider Chantal Müller. Schwizer started riding him in January, and showed him at the Gothenburg (Sweden), Paris and ‘s-Hertogenbosch (the Netherlands) CSIOs, placing eighth in the CSI-W at Gothenburg.
“He was quite spooky and not so easy, and was not supposed to go up so quickly in the classes. I knew he had a lot of quality, though,” Schwizer said.
From 2010 to 2012, Schwizer used the one-two combination of Ulysse and Carlina to place second, sixth and third in World Cup Finals. This year, he plans to leave Quidam in the barn for the second two phases of the World Cup Final, choosing his more experienced international grand prix mount, Toulago, for the second two legs.
The hometown crowd went wild as Frenchman Patrice Delaveau slotted into second aboard Lacrimoso HDC, just 3/10 of a second behind Schwizer. German Ludger Beerbaum picked up third with a time almost 2 seconds slower aboard Chaman.
Today, however, wasn’t the day for U.S. riders. Defending World Cup champion Beezie Madden looked to be having a great go and was well up on the clock when Simon came down on the back rail of an oxer in the middle of the course.
“I was pleased with my round,” she said. “I just made quite a tight turn to that fence, and I needed to support him over the back rail more; I took his scope for granted a bit there.”
Their time of 64.55 seconds with the 4 seconds added puts them into 12th after the first leg. Madden’s time without a rail would have put her into third.
“My plan was to be fast enough to be in the top five, and I think I would have if I hadn’t had the rail,” she said. “I tried to stay in the hunt.”
Just behind Madden is 1986 World Cup Final winner Leslie Burr-Howard, who competed in her last World Cup Final in 2003. She rode Tic Tac to a clean round in a neat, but somewhat slower, time of 69.14 seconds to hold 14th place.
“I was riding around the warm-up ring tonight, and one of the things that went through my head was, ‘Boy, this is fun!’ It’s fun to have a horse at this level again—especially such an exciting horse—and I really have to thank [Tic Tac’s owner] Jane Clark for that,” Burr-Howard said.
“He just felt so on it. He’s not that experienced at this level indoors, so I was a little conservative to the triple and to a few other places,” she added. “Were he an older horse with more experience, I would have taken a little bit more of a shot, but I did exactly what I wanted to, and he was there every inch of the way for me.”
Tic Tac is an 11-year-old Belgian Warmblood. “He’s always been an ultra-raw talent, but he’s a stallion and has a mind of his own,” Burr-Howard said. “That’s a good thing once you’re in sync with him, and it feels like that’s getting more and more solid between us all the time. I think we’ll be able to peak through this week, and who knows from here what the rest of the summer will bring? For sure, this was exactly what I wanted from today.”
McLain Ward had a disappointing rail aboard HH Carlos to place 15th; without the rail, their time would have landed them in fourth. Kent Farrington also had a rail in an otherwise quick round with Blue Angel. He’s in 18th after the speed leg.
Charlie Jacobs, in his first World Cup Final experience, had to go fourth in the order aboard Flaming Star. “It was a little bit unsettling to go so early; I haven’t shown that horse indoors in maybe 36 months,” he said. “But I’m thrilled with the way he jumped; we had a solid showing today. I could have been faster. I didn’t go flat-out, but I went tight. And I went clean, which makes a difference.”
Jacobs’ clear round in 71.35 seconds put him into 21st place.
Katie Dinan had one rail on her way to a tidy round on Nougat du Vallet; she’s in 24th place. Charlie Jayne also had a rail on Chill R Z and ended up in 27th. Right behind him in 28th is Ashlee Bond Clarke on Chela LS; they had two rails down.
“The rails were my fault,” said Clarke. “She wanted to jump clear; it was my fault. It wasn’t the way I wanted to start, but I’m trying to think positively and learn to trust my instincts, which I didn’t do today, unfortunately. Definitely my horse feels amazing, and she’s jumping it easy. I just have to fix me, and that’s a lot easier to fix.”
Lucy Davis had a rough round on Barron with some steering and braking miscommunications, and they had two rails and placed 31st. Also with two rails were Saer Coulter on Springtime (32nd) and Jenni Martin-McAllister on Casseur de Prix (35th).
Course designer Frank Rothenberger noted that new Fédération Equestre Internationale rules require all jumps on the speed leg course to be 1.50 meters or under.
“Normally we would have built two or three of the verticals to 1.55-meters, but because of this new rule, we had to stretch the oxers [in width] a little bit more to make it difficult. That’s why we had 31 faults at oxers and just 12 faults at verticals,” Rothenberger said.
See full results here.