The Netherlands held firm to take the win while those around them crumbled in the closing stages of the opening leg of the Europe Division 1 section of the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping 2013 series at La Baule, France . Switzerland finished second while Ireland, Great Britain and France shared third place ahead of Germany in sixth, Belgium in seventh and Spain in eighth.
The Swiss seemed to have it in the bag after a superb opening round during which they collected just a single time fault. But despite a brilliant double-clear from Janika Sprunger, who took the Furusiyya Rider of the Day award for her performances with Palloubet D’Halong, they were obliged to add 10 more to their tally second time out which left them trailing the winning Dutch by three faults.
The Longines timing system was busy all day as so many of the riders fell foul of the 84 seconds time-allowed. Frederic Cottier’s track was not over-demanding, but not one of the team that eventually won the competition managed to escape time-faults first time out when 17 of the 32 starters exceeded the target. Dutch pathfinder, Albert Voorn, collected just a single time penalty in an otherwise foot-perfect run in both rounds with Tobalio, while the impressive young Schuttert brothers, 23-year-old Hendrik and 19-year-old Frank, improved from nine and five faults respectively to seriously bolster their country’s chances in round two with clears that eventually decided the result.
Set the Scene
Bright sunshine and perfect ground conditions set the scene for a great day of sport, and with three of the four members of the London 2012 Olympic gold medal winning side in action it seemed likely the British might, at last, record their first team success at this legendary French fixture. But although Nick Skelton and Big Star never put a foot wrong to register the only other double-clear of the day, mistakes for Ben Maher and Celia at the oxer at fence two, for Brash Scott and Hello Sanctos at the first element of the triple combination at six and for Robert Smith and Voila at the following vertical at seven saw them sharing last place with Ireland at the halfway stage.
The triple combination and the following vertical off a left-handed sweeping turn were the two bogeys of the first round, with the water-tray under the latter seemingly influential. The open water at nine provided little or no drama, but the vertical at three, now raised to 1.60m, and the last line that included a double of oxers and the final vertical played their part as round two unfolded.
As it began, the Dutch were sharing fifth place with the Spanish who were also carrying seven faults, Germany and Belgium were in joint-third carrying six, the French were in second with five faults on the board and the Swiss were in the driving seat carrying just the single time penalty collected by Olympic champion Steve Guerdat and Nasa.
And Guerdat looked set to add just one further time penalty as he came to the last at his second attempt, only for that to fall for a total of five faults. Since pathfinders, Paul Estermann and Castlefield Eclipse, had already added five to their four from the opening round, that would now ensure a finishing total of at least six faults if the two remaining Swiss team members could go clear. As it turned out however, that was a big ask.
The French meanwhile were also stumbling, with an additional eight faults after single errors from pathfinder Penelope Leprevost (Topinambour) at the final element of the triple combination, and anchorman Kevin Staut (Estoy Aqui de Muze) at the previous triple bar which only fell twice throughout the day. Although Olivier Guillon’s eight faults with Lord de Theize could be dropped when Marc Dilasser (Obiwan de Piliere) went clear, French chances were slipping away.
Germany and Belgium lost their grip on the sharp end when collecting an additional nine and 13 faults respectively, while Spain disappeared from the reckoning with 14 more in their account despite an opening clear from Pilar Cordon whose chestnut mare, Coriana van Klapscheut, put in an attention-seeking protest before the start of each of her two lovely jumping exhibitions. The British and Irish both rallied well second time out when picking up just five faults apiece but it was all too late. And as it came down to the wire, it was up to the Swiss to win rather than the Dutch to lose, because when last-line Dutch duo of Leon Thijssen and Tyson put the discount score of five on the board, the team total of eight faults was as good as they could make it.
Another fabulous clear from Sprunger and her 10-year-old gelding son of the great Baloubet du Rouet anchored the Swiss tally at six faults provided fourth-line rider, Pius Schwizer, could produce another clear. But, last into the ring and under incredible pressure, his relatively inexperienced nine-year-old, Powerplay, hit the first element of the triple combination, the white oxer two fences later and added a time penalty for nine faults which meant both Estermann and Guerdat’s five had to be taken into account. Their 11-fault final tally would be good enough for runner-up spot, but it was Rob Ehren’s Dutch team who would stand on the top step of the podium after a truly determined effort.
Big Days and Experience
At 57 years of age, and with an Olympic individual silver medal in his trophy cabinet since 2000, Albert Voorn knows all there is to know about big days and the experience of winning, and of losing. Reflecting on today’s success he said, “we had a great spirit on our team. When one person is not doing well then, at this moment, we are not thinking about failing, we are thinking about what we can do to help.” He described the talented young Schuttert brothers as “two cool guys”, and talked about the challenges of today’s competition.
“I’m in favour of time faults because then the best horse wins. My own horse spooks and also jumps from left to right so I have to take care of him. Janika’s horse is a top horse, she can ride forward from fence to fence much better than my horse and so can make the time allowed” he explained. But he is concerned about his future with the 13-year-old gelding, Tobalio, which has helped him make a welcome return to the top end of the sport in recent years.
“I called Mr Visser of Eurocommerce in 2011 and said I would like to be one of the riders to fulfill his ambitions. He didn’t think I was still riding, because I was then doing smaller competitions, but he said ‘absolutely, we are going to do it!’, and two weeks later he called me back. He had two horses that no-one else wanted to ride and he said you can have them and if you can’t fix them then I won’t keep them. Try them and if it doesn’t work out I will get other horses for you. So we did some shows at 1* and at 3* and then I joined the team for La Baule last year and we came second, and then I also competed at Hickstead and Dublin. But because of Mr Visser’s financial situation I maybe will lose my horses. I put a lot of time into them and emotionally I’m very attached to them. If they go to the Bank, they they will be put up for sale. So I don’t know about my future with them”, he explained.
Awaits their Fate
While he waits to learn their fate however, he is going to enjoy them as much as he can, and he has high hopes for Dutch chances throughout this inaugural Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ season. “We will try to get our Olympic team to St Gallen, Rotterdam and Aachen” he pointed out, “and I’m hoping to go to Falsterbo, Hickstead and Dublin.”
Meanwhile Hendrik Schuttert was just enjoying the moment and the super result achieved for his country with the help of himself and his brother. “This is our first Nations Cup together so it’s a super feeling that we can compete together in the Nations Cup at the highest level – to win the first time for us, its amazing!” he said.
Under the new rules of the Furusiyya series, just four of the teams staring in today’s competition – France, Ireland, Great Britain and Switzerland – were seeking points towards the Final in September and it is the Swiss who gained the highest number of points.
The action in the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Europe Division 1 series now moves on to the beautiful Piazza di Siena in Rome (ITA) next Friday, while Copenhagen, Denmark hosts a leg for Europe Division 2 on the same afternoon.
For information on the Italian fixture go to website www.piazzadisiena.com or contact Press Officer Caterina Vagnozzi at email email@example.com or Tel +39 335 610 7070. For information on the Danish fixture check out website www.firsthorsegrandprix.dk or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. Netherlands 8 faults: Tobalio (Albert Voorn) 1/1, Cerona HS (Hendrik Jan Schuttert) 9/0, Winchester HS (Frank Schuttert) 5/0, Tyson (Leon Thijssen) 1/5.
2. Switzerland 11 faults: Castlefield Eclipse (Paul Estermann) 4/5, Nasa (Steve Guerdat) 1/5, Palloubet D’Halong (Janika Sprunger) 0/0, Powerplay (Pius Schwizer) 0/9.
3. France 13 faults: Topinambour (Penelope Leprevost) 1/4, Obiwan de Piliere (Marc Dilasser) 8/0, Lord de Theize (Olivier Guillon) 0/8, Estoy Aqui de Muze (Kevin Staut) 4/4.
3. Great Britain 13 faults: Big Star (Nick Skelton) 0/0, Celia (Ben Maher) 4/0, Hello Sanctos (Scott Brash) 4/8, Voila IV (Robert Smith) 5/5.
3. Ireland 13 faults: Amaretto Darco (Shane Sweetnam) 0/8, Balloon (Shane Breen) 0/4, Ballymore Eustace (Shane Carey) 8/1, Tinka’s Serenade (Billy Twomey) 9/0.
6. Germany 15 faults: Cavity G (Holger Wulschner) 9/4, Carlson (Katrin Eckermann) 1/4, Lacan (Patrick Stuhlmeyer) 0/8, Leonie W (Lars Nieberg) 5/1.
7. Belgium 19 faults: Bufero Vh Panishof (Dirk Demeersman) 1/4, Cor van de Wateringhoeve (Donimique Hendrickx) 1/9, Cabrio van de Heffinck (Olivier Philippaerts) 12/0, Denver van T Goemanshof (Ludo Philippaerts) 4/9.
8. Spain 21 faults: Coriana van Klapscheut (Pilar Lucrecia Cordon Muro) 1/0, Bonaire 5 (Manuel Fernandez Saro) 5/9, Prunella D’Ariel (Paola Amilibia Puig) 1/9, Qlamp D’Ivraie (Manuel Anon Suarez) 17/5