By US Equestrian Communications Department
The Land Rover U.S. Eventing Team had a successful outing over the weekend at the FEI Eventing Nations Cup™ Poland, holding a wire-to-wire second-place standing in the competition at LOTTO Strzegom Horse Trials. The team finished on a 142.8, with The Netherlands taking first on a 133.8.
“The point [of the tour] was to give a younger group team experience,” said USEF Eventing Emerging and Development Coach Leslie Law, who led the team in Strzegom. “We were looking for a good result as well, and from that point of view, the event went extremely well.”
Team member Caroline Pamukcu (Miami Beach, Fla.) started the competition off with an exceptional dressage test riding HSH Blake, a 2015 Irish Sport Horse gelding she owns with Sherrie Martin and Mollie Hoff. The pair took the lead after the first phase, finishing with a score of 28.1. They went on to complete a clean cross-country phase over course designer Marcin Konarski’s track with no jumping faults, adding just 7.6 time penalties to their score. With a double-clear jumping round to wrap up their weekend, Pamukcu and HSH Blake completed their Strzegom outing on a 35.7 to finish in second place individually, less than two points behind Austria’s Lea Siegl and Van Helsing P.
Jenny Caras (Buckhead, Ga.) and Elyse Eisenberg’s 2011 Irish Sport Horse gelding Trendy Fernhill had an excellent first Nations Cup team outing, adding only time penalties to their 30.0 from the dressage phase, finishing on a 52.4 and in 11th place overall.
Just behind Caras was teammate and fellow first-time Nations Cup team member Cassie Sanger (Lakeville, Conn.) riding her own Fernhill Zoro, a 2008 Irish Sport Horse gelding. The pair also completed their cross-country and jumping phases with no jumping faults, finishing with a 54.7 in 12th place individually.
Andrew McConnon (Vass, N.C.) and his longtime partner Ferrie’s Cello, a 2012 KWPN gelding owned by Jeanne Shigo, led the team as the pathfinders for Saturday’s cross-country. An unfortunate frangible device activation and a late runout on course added 31 penalty points to their score, and they completed their event with a fast four-fault, zero-time jumping round on Sunday.
“I think all the athletes performed extremely well,” said Law. “For Caroline to lead the dressage was pretty awesome. Jenny got a good score. Andrew got the [best dressage] score I think we can get with that horse, and Cassie, at 19 years of age, this was very much a different experience for her, and she put in a solid test.
“On the cross-country, it’s difficult when you’re number one, and Andrew was number one to go out as the pathfinder. He had an unfortunate run out, and then the other three really needed clear rounds and they went out there and did that,” said Law. “Going into the show jumping, I thought they were fantastic. There weren’t very many clear rounds, and for us to get three clear and one four-fault round was over and above what was expected. It was difficult show jumping and they really excelled.”
This Nations Cup outing served as an experience-building opportunity for the young team, and bringing home good team and individual results is an encouraging sign for U.S. eventing with talented up-and-coming athletes and horses bringing home good results on an international stage.
“[HSH Blake] was one of only two eight-year-olds in the CCI4*-S, and it was just his second start at the level,” said Law. “To lead the dressage in that level of competition while his changes are still really yet to get established, and then to go out on the cross-country like he did, he’s very much looking like a horse for the future.”
After their success at Strzegom, the athletes traveled to Aachen where they’ll have the opportunity to see a veteran U.S. team compete in the CHIO Aachen CCIO4*-S, which takes place June 30-July 1.
“We thought it would be a great education to stay and observe,” said Law. “I think you can learn so much by watching. We’re going to get to see the best in the world in all three disciplines—dressage, show jumping, and the eventing—and I think it’s a wonderful education for them.”