Wellington, Fla.—Feb. 16
For the U.S. team, the Longines Nations Cup of the United States of America played out a little bit like it was scripted for TV in order to produce the most drama possible.
In the first round, only Laura Kraut and Confu jumped clean for the home team, and Margie Engle and Royce treated the crowd to a little extra excitement when the 16-year-old Oldenburg stallion spooked after the finish line and sent Engle into the turf before taking a few passes around the ring on his own.
“Royce hadn’t shown all week, so he was nice and fresh, and with the heat I maybe left him a little too fresh,” said Engle. “And as I was finishing I kind of relaxed, and as it started to rain they put one of the plastic bags over the speakers right as I was going by, and I didn’t have my reins. So he darted right and I exited left.
“I just thought I’d check out how nice the footing was,” she joked. “It was really nice! So I got up nice and personal.”
Engle was uninjured in the fall and was in good spirits at the press conference following the class.
Going into the second round, the United States was down by 4 faults behind Ireland and Great Britain who were both on 4. But Jessica Springsteen (RMF Zecilie), Engle and Kraut all put in clear rounds, so anchor rider Beezie Madden (Darry Lou) didn’t have to jump.
It worked exactly as Chef d’Equipe Robert Ridland wanted when Great Britain’s Amanda Derbyshire and Cornwall BH dropped a rail, forcing it to go to a jump-off.
“I told Laura when she went in, ‘We don’t want Beezie going in the second round,’ ” said Ridland. “That’s exactly what the script was.
“And for once [course designer Alan Wade] actually set a good course,” he joked. “You messed up. Last year we had a great team here and you messed up.”
The U.S. had to go first over the short course, and Madden turned in a blazing round in 33.11 seconds to put the pressure on Alexandra Thornton and Cornetto K. The Brit made a valiant effort, but in the end was three seconds off Madden’s pace, giving U.S. the gold and relegating Great Britain to silver. Mexico took bronze.
“I for sure didn’t want to leave the door too open for her to be faster than me, and I think my horse actually kind of rises to the occasion when I put a little pressure on him,” Madden said. “So I have to say, right from the first jumps in the schooling area, he was jumping better than in the first round. I think probably in hindsight I left him a little too fresh, but he kind of wanted to play a little after fence 1, and I had to kind of kick him in the belly. He came through.”