The NetJets U.S. Jumping Team won the Mercedes-Benz Nations Cup CSIO5* at the World Equestrian Festival CHIO Aachen (Germany), de-throning 2019 champion Sweden on Thursday and narrowly avoiding a repeat of the two countries Olympic jump-off.
It was the first time since 2005 that the United States has won the Nations Cup in Aachen’s iconic main stadium, finishing on a team total of four faults in front of a crowd of 18,000—maximum stadium capacity under Germany’s COVID-19 regulations. Sweden, which took gold over the U.S. silver in team competition at the Tokyo Olympics and won this event in 2019—the last year it was held due to its COVID-19-related cancellation in 2020—had to settle for second place after notching eight faults in the two-round event. France finished in third on 12 faults.
Brian Moggre, Flower Mound, Texas, and Balou Du Reventon, a 15-year-old Oldenburg stallion owned by Ann Thompson—a pair who had been short listed for the Tokyo Olympics—turned in the only double clear for Team USA. Fellow Olympic short list member Lucy Deslauriers, New York City, finished on four faults with Hester, a 16-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding owned by Lisa Deslauriers. Tokyo team silvers medalists Laura Kraut (Royal Palm Beach, Florida) and Baloutinue, an 11-year-old Hanoverian gelding owned by St. Bride’s Farm, and Jessica Springsteen (Colts Neck, New Jersey) and Don Juan Van De Donkhoeve, a 12-year-old Belgian Warmblood stallion owned by Stone Hill Farm, each turned in one round—with four and eight faults, respectively—that became the team’s drop scores and one clear round. Kraut’s clear came under high pressure, as the final ride of the night, and clinched the victory for the U.S. team.
“Winning in Aachen is the pinnacle. It’s as simple as that,” U.S. Chef d’Equipe Robert Ridland said after the team’s historic performance. “These were four of our final six riders for Tokyo, so this was pretty simple; we just went straight down the list. We had our Olympic quarantine here, so it gave a good idea as to what to expect a few weeks later.”
Springsteen and Don Juan Van De Donkhoeve led the team as the first combination to jump the 1.60-meter track set by Frank Rothenberger of Germany. The pair jumped clean and finished with a time fault that later was removed when the time allowed was adjusted by the ground jury.
Deslauriers and her longtime partner, Hester, went second and turned in a fast, tidy clean round to keep the team tally on zero. Next up for the U.S., Balou Du Reventon, piloted by Moggre, showed off his carefulness and athleticism, notching the third consecutive clear effort in the first round.
Kraut and Baloutinue anchored the team in the first round and finished with a total of four faults, which served as the drop score for the team, putting the U.S. into first place with a score of zero going into Round 2.
In the second round, Rothenberger raised some fences and widened others. The U.S., as the top team, moved to the final position in the rotation.
As the first to go for the U.S., Springsteen picked up eight faults, which ultimately became the team’s second-round drop score. Deslauriers and Hester had just a single rail down during their second trip around the track, rolling the top rail on the middle oxer of the triple combination.
Moggre then turned in a second faultless round aboard Balou Du Reventon, pushing the team closer to the top of the podium and marking the only double clear performance of the four team combinations.
The pressure to keep her team on top for the finish was on the anchor combination Kraut—who also was a member of the last U.S. team to win the Aachen Nations Cup in 2005 with Miss Independent—and Baloutinue. They would be the final combination in the ring, and they needed to cross through the timers fault-free to ensure the U.S. beat Sweden.
The Swedish team of Petronella Andersson on Castres Van De Begijnakker Z, Jens Fredricson on Markan Cosmopolit, Annika Axelsson riding Cleo Z and Angelie von Essen with Alcapone des Carmille had four faults in both rounds, so they finished on a total score of eight faults.
For Kraut, that meant if she jumped clear, the U.S. would win; if she had a rail down, there would be a jump-off; and if she had two or more, Sweden would claim the victory.
“When Brian told me if I didn’t ride clear there would be a jump-off against Sweden, I couldn’t stomach that, so I made sure I didn’t knock a pole,” said Kraut, who was part of the team in Tokyo who jumped off against Sweden.
Using her years of experience navigating difficult tracks at Aachen, and with Baloutinue still feeling fresh after the first round—“I don’t think he has ever been in such a situation with so many spectators before,” she told the press later—the pair finished fault-free to clinch the team victory. After she had jumped the last fence clear, her teammates hugged each other and cried for joy on the rider’s stand.
Watch Kraut’s final round and the U.S. team’s reactions to their win:
“Aachen is something I have dreamed of since I was a little kid, so to be here with a great horse and great teammates could just not be any better,” Moggre said. “I never have had a horse before that has gone and jumped great things. I only had young horses and my junior jumpers moving up, so it was a lot of pressure to put on myself to step up to the plate, but he’s so reliable and so kind; I couldn’t ask for anything more. I just love him so much.”
Some of the evening’s biggest drama, which affected the chances of the German host team, happened outside the main stadium. Marcus Ehning, who was due to ride second for Germany, fell in the warm-up ring with his horse À La Carte NRW.
“It was a serious fall, but the paramedics were at hand immediately,” according to a press release from CHIO Aachen. “Ehning went to hospital for a check-up, but returned to the stadium shortly afterwards. He and his stallion are both fine, just slightly shaken.”
Riding for Germany, Daniel Deusser and Killer Queen VDM turned in two clear rounds while Christian Ahlmann with Clintrexo Z and David Will with C-Vier 2 collected several faults in the second round. The German team ultimately finished sixth.
“It certainly was a roller coaster evening,” German team coach Otto Becker said. ” It was a special situation this evening, and I don’t blame the team at all. We will simply try to do better next time.”
See full results here.
On Friday, attention at Aachen shifts to dressage and eventing. The first day of competition in the CHIO Aachen CDIO5* Nations Cup and the Aachen CCIO4*-S both began at 8:30 a.m. local time (2:30 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time).
In the eventing competition, Tamie Smith and Mai Baum, owned by Alex Ahern, Ellen Ahern and Eric Markell, took an early lead for the Land Rover U.S. Eventing Team. The show jumping portion of the competition will begin at 5:45 p.m. local time (11:45 p.m. EDT). See live scores here. Cross-country will take place Saturday.
The dressage Nations Cup concludes at 2:40 p.m. local time (8:40 a.m. EDT) today (see live scores here) and will continue through Sunday.
For more on the competitions and a complete schedule of events, visit the World Equestrian Festival CHIO Aachen.