Great Britain edged ahead of German on the leaderboard after winning its second Nations Cup eventing competition on the trot, at Waregem in Belgium at the weekend.
The Brits are just one point ahead of the Germans, thus guaranteeing a thrilling finale at Boekelo in The Netherlands from October 9 to 12.
A week after Britain’s triumph at Montelibretti (Italy), a new all-female quartet of riders led from the start, beating the home side, Belgium, by more than 50 penalties. Germany was a close third, ahead of France and the Netherlands.
Izzy Taylor (GBR) took the individual honours on Orlando, with Lucy Wiegersma (GBR), who had three horses in the top six, fourth on Simon Porloe. Laura Collett (GBR), riding at her first major competition since being injured in a fall in July, was ninth on Allora 3 and Sarah Bullimore (GBR) was 16th on Reve de Rouet.
“They worked hard and all four produced solid performances. Izzy’s win was a great bonus, Lucy was in cracking form with her three horses and it will have been a great boost for Laura,” said British team manager Philip Surl. “It was a completely different sort of competition to the rest of the series in that the cross-country is 7km away from the main site. That means you have to be organised about your course-walking, which is a useful challenge, and they all knuckled down,” he said.
The Belgian team, under new trainer Mark Phillips, was making a first appearance in the series. They retained second place throughout, boosted by an excellent leading dressage score of 39.8 from their most experienced rider, Karin Donckers. She eventually finished fourth on Fletcha van’t Verahof, having picked up 11.2 cross-country time penalties on the undulating track.
No-one achieved the optimum time, but Izzy Taylor’s smooth round on new ride Orlando for 3.2 penalties gave her a one-point winning margin over Donckers in the final shake-up.
The Germans had an expensive jumping round. Pia Münker, who was well placed after dressage on Louis M, incurred 16 faults, but Kai-Steffen Meier and his CCI4* ride TSF Karascanda M finished fifth individually to keep his team right on the heels of Belgium. In the end there was only 0.8 of a penalty between second and third place in the team standings.
The most influential fence on event director Tom Ryckewaert’s course was the skinny brush on a related downhill distance of either four or five strides to another skinny at 18ab. This proved the downfall of the Dutch team, with two riders, Remco Bouwens (Wotan) and Vera Grevelink (Udiana), retiring there.
Despite this, the team has still moved up to fourth place on the FEI Nations Cup Eventing leaderboard behind France in third and will have the advantage of home ground at Boekelo.
New Zealand, currently fifth, is expected to field a strong team for Boekelo, and the Germans, who dominated at Fontainebleau (FRA) and Aachen (GER) with leading riders such as Michael Jung, Ingrid Klimke and Dirk Schrade, are sure to release their ‘big guns’ again in a bid to retain their 2012 title.
But Britain, who have now won three out of six legs, including their home CCIO3* at Houghton, will not be giving up without a fight. “We will be sticking to our plan of using our special FEI Nations Cup Eventing squad and have around six riders to choose from,” Surl said.
“I hoped all year that the team title would come down to the last event and it has.”
1 Great Britain 163.8 penalties
Izzy Taylor/Orlando, 50.0; Lucy Wiegersma/Simon Porloe, 53.8; Laura Collett/Allora 3, 60.0; Sarah Bullimore/Reve du Rouet, 64.8.
2 Belgium 218.0
Karin Donckers/Fletcha van’t Verahof, 51.0; Rik Geirmaert/Zaferlina MH, 64.0; Xavier Snackers/Ramses de Hurtebise Ewalco, 103.0; Lara de Liedekerke/Quella Langonnaise, Elim Jumping.
3 Germany 218.8
Kai-Steffen Meier/TSF Karascanda M, 54.2; Pia Münker/Louis M, 77.6; Benjamin Winter/Woolpit Amble, 87.0; Freja Füllgraebe/Oje Oje, 115.2.
4 France 225.4
Donatien Schauly MDL/Cadiz, 68.2; Alexandra Martin/Praline de Ribaud, 69.2; Camille Lejeune/R’ Du Temps Blinierè, 88.0; Orlane Hillereau/Naome de Glain, 91.0.
5 Netherlands 2,098.4
Judith Anssems Janssen/Whitestone, 98.4; Vera Grevelink/Udiana, ret’d Cross Country; Remco Bouwens/Wotan, ret’d Cross Country; Iris Pemen/Weering’s Junior, W/D before Cross Country.
Leaderboard (after 6 of 7 events) :
1 Great Britain 48 points
2 Germany 47
3 France 22
=4 Netherlands 18
=4 New Zealand 18
6 Italy 17
7 Australia 15
8 Belgium 9
9 Sweden 8
10 Ireland 5
=11 Spain 4
=11 USA 4