Saturday, Sep. 23, 2023

Kerins Leads An Irish Attack In Falsterbo

The U.S.-based Irishman scores one of only two double-clears in the Nations Cup tour stop in Sweden.



The U.S.-based Irishman scores one of only two double-clears in the Nations Cup tour stop in Sweden.

It had been awhile since Ireland topped a Nations Cup competition—five years, in fact—but the team from the emerald isle showed off a new, not-so-secret weapon in Falsterbo, Sweden, on July 17.

U.S.-based Irishman Darragh Kerins and Night Train have been chugging steadily up the ranks all year, and at the Falsterbo Horse Show, they blew past the competition in their first Nations Cup appearance.

Kerins’ two double-clear rounds with Hunter Harrison and Double H Farm’s 10-year-old Zangersheide gelding (Calvaro Z—Papillon Rouge) were instrumental in Ireland’s win.

“Night Train’s been pretty consistent over the last two seasons,” Kerins said. “We won five grand prix clases in the United States and qualified for the World Cup in Las Vegas. I’m looking forward to continuing with that. From the beginning, whenever we’ve asked him to step up to the next level, he does it. He’s just amazing and tries so hard; he always gives 110 percent.”

Kerins, 34, has been riding Night Train for two years, doing the Florida circuit from January to April and showing in the Northeast during the summer.

Kerins and Night Train debuted at Falsterbo with one of only two double-clear rounds all night, along with Frenchman Olivier Guillon on Lord De Theize. Their perfect score propelled Ireland to top its first Nations Cup victory since winning on their home turf in Dublin in August 2004.

“This was a dream come true—to win here was fantastic!” Kerins said. “It was our first time in Falsterbo, and it was unbelievable. The crowds were amazing, especially for the Nations Cup, and to have ridden a double-clear—it was just fabulous.”

When asked about Frank Rothenberger’s killer course, Kerins, County Sligo, Ireland, said he was somewhat familiar with the designer’s work.

“He built in West Palm Beach [Fla.] this past winter, and his courses were complicated and interesting,” he said. “This course was the most difficult, but there were no traps; the jumps were put there to jump and the time allowed was fair. We obviously loved the course!”


A First Time For Everything

Although the new U.S. team finished lower in the standings than they’ve been accustomed to in recent weeks, ending up in seventh place, only .5 points separate them from the new French leaders in the overall Meydan FEI Nations Cup rankings.

“It’s still possible to win it, but we’re not in the European position with new horses—fresh horses,” said U.S. Chef d’Équipe George Morris. “Our big objective is to stay in it, so that we continue to have access to the very big shows that help us train for championships and Olympic Games.

“The European standard is constantly evolving and improving,” he continued. “Many countries have strong horse-and-rider combinations. We can’t take anything for granted—especially coming from the distant U.S. viewpoint—we’re not here in the trenches. This is not new, but it’s current. No country is as high nationally as internationally. International leagues have a much higher level of competition and intensity. They always have and they always will.”

While Morris undoubtedly wants a U.S. win, he’s determined to give as many young U.S. riders as possible the experience of international league competition.

One of those Super League newcomers, Cara Raether, had the best showing amongst the U.S. riders. Raether, North Palm Beach, Fla., faulted only once on the “very difficult track” with her 12-year-old Belgian Warmblood stallion, Ublesco.

“Everybody knew the triple bar was the bogey fence,” Raether said of the rail she lowered. “I was too cautious the first time out. I was worried about [hitting] the vertical [after it], but then I touched the back rail of the triple bar ever so lightly, and it came down.”

The pair got it right the second time out, however, with a steady clear all the way around.

Raether has been with Ublesco for about four years, ever since John and Beezie Madden found him for her with Robert Whitaker in England. She was finishing up a turn in Europe herself with the Developing Riders tour and was ready for a new ride.

“It’s great to be on the team and to see how everybody else does things, and especially to have George,” Raether said. “We have a great team. I’m hoping to make it to the World Championships, but one step at a time. I try not to look too far in advance; it depends on what you’re sitting on. There are a lot of unknowns in riding.”


Raether now has two other horses in her European string as well: the 11-year-old Holsteiner mare, Contess, and the 8-yr-old Lyonell. She’ll be on the team for Hickstead (England) and Dublin (Ireland).

No Easy Thing

Falsterbo’s intricate course by Rothenberger boasted 15 efforts with plenty of eye candy and thrills as pairs looped all over the field and navigated two tough combinations.

The triple at fence 8 required one stride from the vertical to the middle oxer, then two to the last, wider oxer, which caught a dozen riders in the second round alone, including U.S. rider Charlie Jayne, who took down both oxers with the 12-year-old Heartbreaker son, Urbanus. Beezie Madden also clipped the middle element with Danny Boy. Although a relatively green 9-year-old, the horse has been giving his best after recently going up a notch in competition demand.

The second combination was a triple-bar to gate vertical, followed by a liverpool immediately after, which tested concentration and obedience and had several more pairs down for the count.

Although the two combinations were trouble-makers, fences fell all over the field, and Jayne, as first out for the U.S. team, wasn’t immune. He took down the vertical at fence 9 after valiantly clearing the triple combination, then busted the triple bar for a total of 8 faults.

Raether was next to go, scoring her 4 faults, followed by Michelle Spadone, another newcomer to the team in Falsterbo.

Spadone and Melisimo had a difficult time on the track, taking down the vertical at 3, stepping in the water at 4, and then getting caught up in the triple combination. They brought down both oxers for a drop score of 16 faults.

Madden’s Danny Boy had his work cut out for him and managed to get through with only the triple bar down for just 4 faults. That still left the U.S. team tied for last place with Germany heading into the second round, however. Both countries finished with 16 points on the board.

Jayne and Urbanus accrued 12 faults in the second round when they couldn’t slow down enough to keep the vertical up after the water jump, and then finally succumbed to the triple combination, leaving the first and second elements on the ground.

Raether and Ublesco had their clear round, and Spadone cut her first round score in half by clearing the triple, but she and Melisimo took down the vertical at 9, followed by the triple bar in a bizarre, repeat performance of Jayne’s first round. Madden came out for 4 again when she didn’t make it out of the triple combination, taking the first oxer with her.  The U.S.-based Irishman scores one of only two double-clears in the Nations Cup tour stop in Sweden.




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