Canada’s up-and-coming jumping athletes went head-to-head against 16 teams, with the Canada Team A ultimately finishing sixth in the $25,000 Hermès Under 25 (U25) Team Event, held Feb. 2, 2018 at the CSI 4* Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) 4 in Wellington, FL.
This year marked the first time Canada has fielded multiple teams for the annual Team Event, with a total of seven Canadian riders contributing to the large field of 62 of the best NextGen athletes from around the world, including the United States, Ireland, Norway and Sweden.
“I thought it was really encouraging that we were able to field two teams here because it is a very hotly contested competition, and it’s difficult for people to be able to participate at this time of the year, since it’s so early,” said Jumping Talent ID Program Advisor and Chef d’Équipe, Beth Underhill of Schomberg, ON. “The fact that we were able to field two such great teams was really gratifying to me.”
The U25 Team Event followed FEI Nations’ Cup rules, inviting teams comprised of a minimum of three riders and a maximum of four, with four-member teams having the advantage of dropping the lowest score from the team total. All 16 teams participated in the first round, with the top six (including ties) moving forward to challenge the same course a second time to determine final placings. Set at a height of 1.45m, the course featured 12 jumps and 15 efforts, including triple and double combinations, broken lines, and a snug time allowed of 76 seconds.
Canada Team A, comprised of Kara Chad, 22, of Millarville, AB, Jennifer Mattell, 19, of Milton, ON, Alexanne Thibault, 20, of Boucherville, QC and Nicole Walker, 25, of Aurora, ON, finished each of the two rounds on nine faults, for a total of 18 faults.
The pathfinder for Canada Team A in both rounds was Chad, who despite her young age, is an experienced team rider, having made her senior nations’ cup debut in 2014, and traveling to Brazil in 2016 as the alternate for the Canadian Show Jumping Team at the Rio Olympics. Riding Carona (Untouchable x Silverstone), an 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare owned by Torrey Pines Stable, Chad’s performance was highlighted by a first round that saw just one rail lowered at the ‘a’ component of the triple combination for four faults.
Mattell was the next rider up, aboard Cherokee (Cardento x Creool), an 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding owned by Joe Mattell that helped her bring home a team silver medal from the 2017 FEI North American Junior and Young Rider Championships (NAJYRC). Together they laid down consistent performances, lowering just one rail for four faults in each round.
Individual and team silver medalists from NAJYRC 2017, Thibault and her seasoned partner, Chacco Prime (Chacco Blue x Le Primeur), a 10-year-old Hanoverian gelding, followed as the third team member. In round one, the duo was working on a clear until the very last fence, where they lowered the Hermès oxer for four faults. However, they finished on a high note, achieving Canada’s only clear of the night during round two. No strangers to clear rounds, Thibault and Chacco Prime finished their 2017 season by picking up the National Reserve Champion title in both the U25 series and the 1.40m Junior/Amateur jumper division at the Royal Horse Show in Toronto, ON in November.
The team’s anchor rider was 2017 U25 Series National Champion, Walker and Excellent B (Berlin x Heartbreaker), her nine-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding. The pinnacle of their performance in the Team Event came in the first round, when they left up all the rails and added just one time fault, helping to ensure the team’s invitation forward into round two.
“To be sixth this early in the season is a great start,” said Underhill. “With a little luck, it could have easily tipped to us being on the podium. As Chef d’Èquipe, you look for consistency; you look for riders who are serious and have a lot of integrity for the sport, which all of our riders have proven.”
Team B Finishes 13th
The Canada Team B, featuring Ben Asselin, 23, of Foothills, AB, Bretton Chad, 23, of Millarville, AB, and Carlie Fairty, 24, of Markham, ON, finished in 13th place overall. Asselin led the team with a four-fault performance aboard Clockwise (Contendro I x Cantus), a nine-year-old Oldenburg gelding owned by Attaché Stables.
“The second team we fielded had a couple of more experienced riders with less experienced horses,” explained Underhill. “Everyone agreed it was a much needed opportunity for these young horses to get out and jump under the lights and gain some fantastic exposure. We were very pleased that we were able to do that.”
Speaking to Canada’s overall performance in the Team Event, Underhill said, “I think this really bodes well for our team and for our young riders moving forward into the international divisions. We have some great horse and rider combinations coming up, and we are all really excited for our future.”
Top honours in the 2018 Hermès Under 25 Team Event went to the Ireland/Norway team on nine faults. Team Sweet Oak/Vlock followed in second place with 11 faults, and the US/Ireland team rounded out the top three on 13 faults.
The Hermès Under 25 Team Event is part of a series of classes targeting up-and-coming athletes from around the world during the WEF circuit. For more information and complete results from WEF Week 4 and the Hermès Under 25 Team Event, visit here.