Aachen, Germany—July 17
The day belonged to Belgium in the Mercedes Benz Nations Cup of Aachen, but the U.S. team fought a remarkable battle to claim second place in a thrilling finish. Clear rounds from Lucy Davis, Reed Kessler and Lauren Hough in Round 2 vaulted the U.S. team from fourth after Round 1 into second, just 2 faults behind the Belgian team and ahead of the Netherlands and Germany.
"What was so amazing about this team was how they came together after the first round and believed they could pull it off and they almost did with three clears," remarked Ridland. "We had a great day yesterday with Kent's big win and another fabulous day today. It was all the more special to be able to do it in Aachen in front of two consecutive sellout audiences of over 50,000."
Davis and Barron were one of only three combinations to turn in two clear rounds over the Nations Cup course. In Round 1, Davis was the only U.S. clear. Hough and Ohlala had two of the last fences on course down, while Kessler and Cylana had one rail mid-course. Kent Farrington and Willow had just 4 faults as well. With 8 faults to their name, the team sat in fourth.
But in Round 2, Davis rallied the team with another clear round and Kessler and Hough quickly followed suit, ensuring that the team would finish on their 8-fault score. Farrington and Willow jumped again, but their 8 faults was the drop score. All four riders are on the Hermès U.S. Show Jumping Short List for the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.
But even the U.S. team’s clean Round 2 slate couldn’t catch the Belgians. Last year, they gave away the victory at the very last obstacle. This year, the team from Belgium took revenge and celebrated the longed-for triumph in the renowned Mercedes-Benz Nations' Cup and thus secured themselves the prestigious Nations' Cup victory. The Belgian team of Pieter Devos with Dream of India Greenfield, Olivier Philippaerts with Cabrio Van De Heffinck, Jos Verlooy with Domino and Gregory Wathelet with Conrad De Hus only picked up 6 faults after the two rounds.
Wathelet laid the foundation for their success with two clear rounds aboard Conrad de Hus; that pair made headlines two weeks before when Conrad de Hus’ bridle slipped off while on course at the Longines GCT of Paris.
"Aachen is always an exciting event, there is nothing better,” said the Belgian chef d’equipe, Kurt Gravemeier. “Especially when one heads the field with such a young team that really fought hard right until the end. I am incredibly proud of the lads and I am delighted. With the World Equestrian Games in mind, we will continue working in a focused manner, but first of all we want to celebrate this victory.”
The German team looked well on their way to a home turf victory when they put four clean rounds on the board in Round 1, but in Round 2, disaster struck. Katrin Eckermann, who was competing in a Nations Cup for the first time in Aachen, made a mistake at the water ditch, which ended in a catastrophe. Just after landing, the 24-year-old took a fall with Firth Of Lorne.
The accident eliminated the pair, but fortunately the horse and rider were not seriously injured. Then, in the second round Marcus Ehning with Plot Blue, Daniel Deusser with Cornet D’Amour and Ludger Beerbaum with Chiara each picked up 4 faults, which meant a final score of 12 faults and fourth place.