By US Equestrian Communications
The NetJets U.S. Jumping Team finished fourth in the Mercedes-Benz Jumping Nations Cup CSIO5* under the lights in the Main Stadium at CHIO Aachen in front of an electric crowd packing the stands. The team jumped to a final total of 12 faults over two rounds, with Switzerland earning the win on four faults, Great Britain taking second place on eight, and Belgium taking third on eight faults. The team was led by Chef d’Equipe Robert Ridland.
“We always aim for the podium, and we just missed it here, but these are eight of the top teams in the world and I think overall we were quite encouraged. McLain’s double clear was a masterpiece, and for Natalie, it was a great performance for her as well. This is the big stage and on a Thursday night in Aachen, there’s never an empty seat in the house,” said Ridland. “It’s something you live for in this sport, and it’s great to see Devin and Eddie Blue back here for the team too. They jumped very well and good to see them jumping these big classes again. Laura’s horse was very on edge with the atmosphere, and she really tried to manage it the best she could, but overall it’s a good experience that will make him an even better horse in the future. Overall, we’re feeling good about where we are as a group looking ahead to the fall.”
Devin Ryan (Long Valley, N.J.) and Eddie Blue were the trailblazers for the team, going first in the team rotation after the U.S. drew third in the overall order. Ryan and Eddie Blue, rode a nearly foot-perfect first round, making efficient work of the big track built by Frank Rothenberger (GER), but just nudged the last vertical from the cups to add four faults to their round. Following Ryan was Natalie Dean (Palo Alto, Calif.) and Acota M, riding in their first Nations Cup at Aachen representing the U.S. Team. The pair navigated the track well and just tapped the Rolex vertical to add four to their overall score.
Kraut (Royal Palm Beach, Fla.) and Baloutinue rode third in the order, dropping two rails for a total of eight faults, with Ward following last as the anchor combination aboard Callas before the end of the first round. With the pressure mounting, Ward (Brewster, N.Y.) and Callas delivered for the team, producing a clear effort, and adding nothing to their score, moving them onto the second round on a team total of eight faults.
To start the second round, Ryan and Eddie Blue, a 2009 KWPN gelding owned by LL Show Jumpers, returned confidently in the second round, correcting their earlier approach to the last fence to produce a clear round for the team and giving positive momentum early in the second team rotation with three combinations yet to come.
Dean and Acota M, a 2013 Oldenburg mare owned by Marigold Sporthorses LLC, rode another fantastic round, finishing their evening with just a rail in each round. This is Dean’s first CSIO5* Nations Cup with Acota M, with hopes on continuing to represent the U.S. in the future at the top levels. Kraut and Baloutinue, a 2010 Hanoverian gelding owned by St. Bride’s Farm, added four faults early in their second round, but worked through the remainder of the track with ease, as Baloutinue showcased his scope around the 1.60m track.
In a tremendous effort, Ward and Callas, a 2008 Holsteiner mare owned by Beechwood Stables, LLC, returned for an efficient, quick, and careful second round. With the team sitting tied with Germany on twelve faults, a clear round was necessary to make a move up the leaderboard. The duo made the most of their second trip around the track, securing the only double-clear effort of the evening for the U.S. and solidifying the team’s top-four finish in the historic Nations Cup competition at the venue.
“First and foremost, as the anchor rider for the team, and knowing we were having a bit of bad luck with four fault rounds, I wanted to deliver the best performances I could with Callas for the team. For me personally, it was also the only opportunity for me to qualify for the Grand Prix on Sunday and sometimes when you really have your back against the wall, you have to push those things out of your mind and only focus on executing the job,” said Ward. “She’s just a spectacular mare and has a wonderful character. The Revers, who also own Contagious, their daughter, Annie, rode Callas at the Grand Prix level successfully for many years. They’ve put their trust in me to ride the horses at this level and I’d like to thank my friend Max Amaya for helping to make this partnership happen.”