A team from The Netherlands has taken out the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup Jumping competition at La Baule in France.
It was the opening leg of the Europe Division 1 section of the series on Friday, and the Swiss team, which seems to have it in the bag, 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 collected just a single time fault in the opening round, 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.
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.
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. Nick Skelton and Big Star never put a foot wrong to register the only other double-clear of the day, but there were mistakes for Ben Maher and Celia at the oxer at fence two, for Scott Brash 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.
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.
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 the 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”.
He is concerned about his future with the 13-year-old gelding, Tobalio, who 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 said.
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 said, “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 the 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.
As The Netherlands had not designated La Baule as one of their venues to collect series points, this means that Ireland now shares equal second place on the Furusiyya table.
Switzerland’s Janika Sprunger was presented with the Furusiyya Rider of the Day award which was judged by international rider and coach, Alice Debany Clero.
The next leg of the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup Europe Division 1 series takes place at the Piazza di Siena in Rome (ITA) next Friday, 24 May.
There will also be a leg of Europe Division 2 taking place in Copenhagen (DEN) on the same afternoon.
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