Check out #USARidesToRio2016 for more Olympic coverage and check out Practical Horseman's Facebook pagefor more photos
The Plains, VA--Leading from start to finish, the U.S. Eventing Team clinched Team Gold in the FEI Nations Cup™ at the Land Rover Great Meadow International CICO***. The team of Phillip Dutton and Fernhill Fugitive, Lauren Kieffer and Meadowbrook's Scarlett, Boyd Martin and Welcome Shadow and Clark Montgomery and Loughan Glen won by a solid margin on a final score of 138.3. Montgomery and Loughan Glen also finished first individually, adding just 1.2 cross-country time penalties to their dressage score for a final score of 37.5.
Great Meadow International was a homecoming for Clark Montgomery and the 13-year-old Irish Sport horse gelding owned by Jessica Montgomery, Kathryn Kraft and Holly and William Becker. The pair has been based in England for the past four years.
"It was a bit of a wake-up call, I had to argue with him a little bit," said Montgomery of Glen. "But he is such an honest horse and wants to jump the fences. It means a ton to win at Great Meadow this weekend. I have been based in England for a while so to get to come home in the U.S. and compete in front of the home crowd, means a huge amount to me."
Marilyn Little and RF Demeter, a 14-year-old Oldenburg mare owned by Jacqueline Mars, Raylyn Farms and Patrick Witte, moved from fourth to second place with only one of four double clear cross-country rounds to finish on their dressage score of 43.8. Jodi Amos and Wise Crack of Great Britain moved up from 13th place to finish in the top three.
Three of the four U.S. team members had double-clear show-jumping rounds, and combined with four clear and fast cross-country rides, they were able to hold on to the lead and finish as the top-placed team. Canada finished in second place on a score of 177.6 and Great Britain was third in the standings on a final score of 254.3.
"I'd love for that to happen in the Olympics," joked U.S. eventing chef d'equipe David O'Connor about the team's top placing. "It's been great for the public to see that this Nations Cup team is our Olympic team as well."
Great Meadow International was the final preparation event for the U.S. Eventing Team before they head to the Olympic Games in Rio at the end of the month, and while the U.S. Nations Cup Eventing Team had a successful weekend, the rider and horse combinations named to the U.S. Olympic team had a few bobbles. Lauren Kieffer and Veronica broke a frangible pin at fence 12, Boyd Martin and Blackfoot Mystery had two run outs at the brush corners in the main arena and reserve team member Maya Black and Doesn’t Play Fair also had a runout at the brush corner.
"I had a bit of a surprise with Blackfoot Mystery at the corners," said Martin, who'd planned to give the Thoroughbred gelding a nice, easy run. "For me, it was disappointing. But at the same time I'm glad it happened this weekend rather than at our next outing. You'll be sure I'm building a nice brush corner at my farm in Pennsylvania tomorrow."
"You don't change the plan, you adjust the plan," said O'Connor of the team's performance. "All of these guys are very confident and they know exactly what they'll need to work on."
In reference to Blackfoot Mystery's surprise run-outs, O'Connor said: "In the end, Boyd was probably just a bit casual, since he'd already ridden it earlier [on his other horse Welcome Shadow]. But he won't be casual going to the Games. I'm not that worried about it. He'll be fired up after [his run-outs], I guarantee it."
The weekend at Great Meadow International was a historic event, as it is the first-ever FEI Eventing Nations Cup™ to be held in North America.
O'Connor commended the organizers for their impressive job in preparing the event and felt that the community support and large crowds gave the feeling of a big international event. "Having that type of atmosphere is really important to practice in," he said. O'Connor also serves as Co-Chairman of the Land Rover Great Meadow International
“We all can see what an incredible venue it is with a great location,” said Olympic team member Phillip Dutton. “Hats off to everyone who’s put this together in such a short time. It’s exciting for us to have some visitors come this way—usually we have to go to Europe to compete and ride, so thanks for to the British team for coming over and supporting us. I think it can only get bigger and better. It’s great for the sport, and I think we should all get behind this event and encourage them to keep going bigger and stronger."