Barcelona, Spain—Sept. 24
Team Germany claimed the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping trophy at the Real Club de Polo in Barcelona, but not without a fierce fight with the runners-up from Great Britain.
The German team of (from left) Ludger Beerbaum, Christian Ahlmann, Janne Friederike Meyer, Chef d’Equipe Otto Becker, Marcus Ehning and Daniel Deusser celebrated their Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup Final win. Photo by Libby Law Photography
On a night to remember, it came down to a breathtaking jump-off between newly-crowned individual Olympic champion Nick Skelton and Germany’s Marcus Ehning to decide the result.
And emotions ran high as winning team member, Ludger Beerbaum, said goodbye to this great sport with a trademark foot-perfect performance. You could hardly hear a pin drop during his last-to-go round with Casello, which ensured the two-way showdown that would seal victory for his country.
Marcus Ehning’s jump-off on Pret a Tout clinched the win for Germany. Photo by Libby Law Photography
Team USA claimed the third step of the podium when finishing with just 4 faults on the board, but they were hotly pursued by Italy, Ireland and Switzerland who each finished with 5 as the time allowed played its part.
Audrey Coulter, Lauren Hough, Lillie Keenan, and Laura Kraut stood strong against tough competition for the U.S. team in the Final’s second round. Riding as pathfinders for the United States over Santiago Varela’s big and technically demanding course was Hough and The Ohlala Group’s Ohlala, a 12-year-old Swedish Warmblood mare.
Lauren Hough on Ohlala. Photo by Libby Law Photography
The pair had a brilliant round until the last fence, an oxer set a long six strides off the triple combination at 12. Hough rode forward, but ended up long, taking the top rails down for a 4-fault total.
Next in the order was Coulter and Copernicus Stables, LLC’s Capital Colnardo, an 11-year-old Holsteiner stallion. With rails down at fences 3 and 12C, the pair added 8 faults to the board.
Prior to the final round, the U.S. team replaced Lucy Davis and Barron—who had jumped clean in Round 1 on Friday—in the team’s starting order due to minor swelling in Barron’s forelimb. The gelding is expected to make a full recovery.
As the alternate members of the team, Keenan and Super Sox stepped into the order. Keenan and Chansonette Farm LLC and Ronnoco Jump Ltd.’s 10-year-old Hanoverian gelding delivered a clutch clear round in their Nations Cup Final debut.
Lillie Keenan on Super Sox turned in a crucial clear round for the U.S. team. Photo by Libby Law Photography
Preceding the U.S. team in the final rotation were Ireland, Switzerland, and Italy, with each nation adding 4 faults to put all on a 5-fault total. With Great Britain and Germany securing zero-fault Round 1 totals, the door was open for the U.S. team to secure a bronze medal with a clear round from anchor rider, Kraut.
Aboard Old Willow Farms, LLC’s Zeremonie, a 9-year-old Holsteiner mare, Kraut rode with steel nerve to deliver the necessary clear round to secure a podium finish for the United States.
Laura Kraut on Zeremonie for the United States. Photo by Libby Law Photography
“The course was very tricky. There were options for striding in almost every line,” said Kraut. “It was fortunate for me that I went late in the class and had a lot of time to make up my mind on what would be best for my horse. Initially after walking the course, I thought adding strides would be best, but as I watched, leaving strides out seemed to be working better, especially with the tight time allowed. I was very pleased with my round. Zeremonie is young and that was a lot of pressure on her.”
Speaking to the team’s overall performance, Kraut noted, “Obviously we like to win, and we were one fence away from being in the jump-off, but this was a strong finish for us. Lillie pulling through in the 11th hour and going clear was an amazing feat. Audrey was great, it just wasn’t her week, but she rode really well.”
The defending champions from Belgium had to settle for sixth place ahead of the Dutch whose form seems to have deserted them in recent months.
Once again course designer Santiago Varela presented a superb track that took a lot of jumping and brought the cream to the top. The majority of mistakes came at the end of the course, with the penultimate triple combination taking a heavy toll, but there were accuracy questions all the way around.
The eight teams that qualified from Thursday’s first round all started on level pegging again today so it was a wide-open contest from the start. It quickly became apparent however that the British would be major contenders when Skelton’s opening clear with his Olympic gold-medal-winning ride Big Star was followed by another from Michael Whitaker and Viking.
Michael Whitaker turned in a clear round for Great Britain aboard Viking. Photo by Libby Law Photography
Under the unique set of rules for the Furusiyya Final each country nominates a total of five riders and it was notable that the top three teams all called up new recruits today for their four-member sides.
British Chef d’Equipe Di Lampard, brought in Jessica Mendoza and Spirit T in place of John Whitaker and Ornellaia, but with 12 faults for the youngest team member it fell to Scott Brash to rescue the situation with a clear from Ursula which saw his side post the first 0 score of the competition.
And the only ones to match them would be the Germans, although they also had to wait for their last man to go. World No. 1 Christian Ahlmann set them up with a lovely tour of the track from the ever-reliable Taloubet Z, but they stuttered when Marcus Ehning’s Pret a Tout hit the last element of the triple combination.
Janne Friederike Meyer was called up to replace Daniel Deusser and First Class van Eeckelghem and she steadied the German ship with a typically flamboyant clear from the fabulous Goya which meant that if Ludger Beerbaum could follow suit then they could continue to stalk their British rivals.
But the round by Beerbaum was spine-chilling, with so many people around the ring willing the 53-year-old rider around the arena because they really wanted to see this man who has been such a hero of the sport for so many years go out on a good note.
He will continue to ride as an individual, but tonight was his curtain call as a team member and everyone wanted it to go right. The entire stadium was gripped with tension waiting for him to cross the line, and when he did there was a huge burst of applause and it would take a jump-off now to decide the new Furusiyya champions.
Skelton was first into the jump-off and scorched around the new track in 41.82 seconds to set the target. This would ensure a generous share of the €200,000 bonus on offer to riders jumping double-clear over the first round and again today.
Nick Skelton on Big Star. Photo by Libby Law Photography
But Ehning said afterwards that he already knew he could beat the Olympic champion. “I watched him go and I knew I could be faster than him. I was really under pressure—I wanted this win for Ludger as it was his last Nations Cup,” he explained.
Ehning once said that he will never be the fastest rider on the planet so that is why he uses his turning skills to full effect, and he did just that, cutting corners everywhere and galloping down to the last more than two seconds up on the clock to clinch it.
Marcus Ehning on Pret a Tout. Photo by Libby Law Photography
For all of the German team, tonight’s win was particularly poignant. Janne Friederike Meyer put some perspective on it. “I can still remember my first Nations Cup with Ludger in Rotterdam; he has always been a great idol for my generation and I was so proud to be with him again in his last Nations Cup. I was called in for Daniel and I knew Daniel could have done a clear round so I wanted to do this clear round for Daniel and for Ludger and the whole team.
“There are some special days and today was one of them—everyone could feel it when Ludger went in and everybody knew this man had to go clear to keep the chance of winning. Every single fence, everybody jumped with him and then he was clear and everyone went crazy!” she said.
For the Germans, this Furusiyya Final has always been about giving Beerbaum a good send-off from the team. “In the last couple of weeks we were really looking forward to Ludger’s last Nations Cups,” said Deusser. “We really wanted to win a medal in the Olympic Games and to do one big thing again. We have had a lot of very strong teams over the last couple of years and the last couple of months but in the end we were always missing a little bit of luck, one fault too many.
“At the Olympic Games we were really happy, we had a great fight and finished with the bronze medal which made us extremely happy but somehow the last last big win was still missing. This weekend didn’t start really good with my horse getting sick, but everything turned out perfect at the end. All five of us worked together and the dream really came true, that we won Ludger’s last Nations Cup—it couldn’t be better!”
Beerbaum admitted that tonight’s prizegiving brought back memories of his individual gold medal victory with Classic Touch at the Real Club de Polo during the Barcelona Olympic Games back in 1992. And he was very touched by his teammate’s tributes. “The way they expressed their thoughts, their feelings, their emotions about our performances in the past months, the good luck, the bad luck, the good moments but also the disappointing moments that says it all. They were really fighting for me today and it’s unbelievable to have this support. For me it couldn’t be a nicer end,” he said.
FEI President, Ingmar de Vos, talked about the input from Furusiyya that has transformed the sport of Nations Cup Jumping in recent years. “Four years ago my predecessor HRH Princess Haya was here at the first press conference for the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup. Today I got a message from the Saudi Equestrian Fund, from His Highness Prince Faisal—the brain behind the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup—to really congratulate the German team on this victory. We are very happy with the Furusiyya series. What it has done for the FEI and the sport in general is incredible.
“In 2012 we had discussions about remodeling the Nations Cup, making it a series with qualifiers and a final, and at that time it was a very controversial decision. But I think we have proven together with Furusiyya and the Saudi Equestrian Fund that it’s the way to go. They invested in this product to create a legacy and we are very grateful for that. This partnership is coming to an end as you know, and it is up to us to find a new partner. Thanks to the Saudi Equestrian Fund and HRH Princess Haya we have a sustainable series for the future.”
The Longines Challenge Cup, the consolation final for teams that placed ninth through 18th in Round 1, was scheduled for Sept. 23, but torrential rainstorms caused it to be rescheduled for the morning of Sept. 25.
Mother Nature at work. Photo by Libby Law Photography
1. Germany 0 in first round, 0/39.80 in jump-off: Taloubet Z (Christian Ahlmann) 0, Pret a Tout (Marcus Ehning) 4/0 39.80, Goja (Janne Freiderike Meyer) 0, Casello (Ludger Beerbaum) 0.
2, Great Britain 0 in first round, 0/41.57 in jump-off: Big Star (Nick Skelton) 0/0 41.57, Viking (Michael Whitaker) 0, Spirit T (Jessica Mendoza) 12, Ursula Xll (Scott Brash) 0.
3. USA 4 faults: Ohlala (Lauren Hough) 4, Capital Colorado (Audrey Coulter) 8, Super Sox (Lillie Keenan) 0, Zeremonie (Laura Kraut) 0.
4. Italy 5 faults/ 223.03 seconds: Casallo Z (Piergiorgio Bucci) 8, Ensor de Litrange Lxll (Lorenzo de Luca) 0, Antonio (Gianni Govoni) 1, Tower Mouche (Bruno Chimirri) 4.
5. Ireland 5 faults/225.81 seconds: Golden Hawk (Shane Breen) 8, Go Easy de Muze (Darragh Kenny) 0, All Star 5 (Denis Lynch) 1, MHS Going Global (Greg Broderick) 4.
6. Switzerland 5 faults/226.34 seconds: Quorida de Trejo (Romain Duguet) 0, Corbinian (Steve Guerdat) 8, Lord Pepsi (Paul Estermann) 1, Clooney 51 (Martin Fuchs) 4.
7. Belgium 16 faults: Bisquet Balou C (Nicola Philippaerts) 4, Cas de Liberte (Niels Bruynseels) 8, Grand Cru van de Rozenberg (Jerome Guery) 8, Coree (Gregory Wathelet) 4.
8. Netherlands 20 faults: Emerald NOP (Harrie Smolders) 9, VDL Groep Arera C (Maikel van der Vleuten) 8, Caruso S La Silla (Jeroen Dubbeldam) 4, Glock’s London NOP (Gerco Schroder) 8.
Dennis Lynch turned in a 1-fault performance on All Star to help Ireland take fifth place. Photo by Libby Law Photography
Crowds packed the Real Club de Polo to watch the Final. Photo by Libby Law Photography
The opening festivities. Photo by Libby Law Photography
Laura Kraut gave Zeremonie a big pat after their Round 2 clear round. Photo by Libby Law Photography