In the make or break third qualifying Nations Cup class in Langley, Canada, the U.S. team of Heather Caristo-Williams on Qui VivE deS Songes Z, Catherine Tyree on Bokai, Adrienne Sternlicht on Cristalline and Margie Engle on Royce edged out Canada by one fault to qualify the U.S. for the Nations Cup Finals in Barcelona, Spain this fall.
Langley was the last leg of the FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping 2017 North America, Central America and Caribbean League.
"We knew coming here that this was going to be a free-for-all,” said chef d’equipe Robert Ridland. “Often it’s pre-determined who is going to Barcelona when you come to the last qualifier, but not the case this time. The two teams who were going to make it, it was up to them to win it today."
“There was a decent amount of pressure,” said Ridland. “But we’ve maintained our streak of making it to Barcelona.”
With Canada finishing second and Ireland edging out Mexico, which finished fourth, Canada gained enough points to be the second team to qualify for Barcelona, supplanting Mexico which had qualified the previous two years.
It was Ridland’s plan when he started as chef d’equipe to pair one or two younger, less experienced riders with two veterans, thus expanding the depth of America’s show jumping pool of riders, and it’s worked remarkably well.
There have been four Nations Cup so far this year, the three qualifiers for Barcelona at HITS Ocala, in Mexico and in Canada and the class in the Winter Equestrian Festival, and there have been 14 different riders out of a possibility of 16.
“It’s been a plan,” said Ridland. “We have a lot of depth in our country, but the depth needs experience, especially the younger ones, and this is exactly the type of team we plan to always have. A combination of veteran experience and young riders"
“Half of the team in Canada, Cat (Tyree) and Adrienne, had only been in one previous Nations Cup,” said Ridland. “They dealt amazingly well with the pressure.”
“HEATHER had a very unfortunate first round,” said Ridland of Caristo-Williams, who was first in the ring for the team and had 22 faults. “Her young horse was not himself. It put pressure on the others.”
“Canada sent the best team they could muster,” said Ridland of the team consisting of Tiffany Foster, Christopher Surbey, Keean White and Captain Canada Ian Millar. “Mexico had the same team that won in Mexico.”
“Cat put us back in the game with a four fault round, and Adrienne and Margie each went clean,” said Ridland. “It was a hard course. There were only three clean in the first round, and we had two of them.”
There were four clean in the second round, and 70-year-old Millar was one of them.
“After the first round, we were ahead by 10 faults,” said Ridland. “We had four faults and Canada had 14, so we had two rails and a time fault to play with.”
But three Canadians jumped clean in the second round to really put the pressure on the U.S.
“Heather had 12 faults in the second round, and Cat had four again, although she rode a beautiful round,” said Ridland. “Adrienne was clean, but she had a time fault, so we knew Margie had a rail in hand. We’d win with four faults and tie with five faults. Margie jumped a beautiful round. She had a rail down halfway through the course, but she carried the four to the end. We ended by winning by one fault.”
"It means a lot for us to be able to go to Barcelona, its a Championship and a lovely horse show" said Engle.
The U.S. finished on 13 faults, Canada had 14, and Ireland had 25 to beat Mexico with 32 faults.
“Ireland edged out Mexico, and that got Canada into the Finals,” said Ridland.
The U.S. finished the three qualifiers with 280 points, Canada had 250 and Mexico 240.
“It couldn’t have gone much better,” said Ridland. “There was tension for sure, but we stuck to our guns. That’s the importance of bringing along the young riders.”
The U.S. now goes to Europe for a tour of shows beginning in Poland and including Aachen and Dublin.
Ridland said he would name the team for Barcelona after seeing how the European tour went.