By US Equestrian Communications Department
Wellington, Fla. – The NetJets U.S. Jumping Team bested the FEI Jumping Nations Cup Wellington CSIO4* hosted at Palm Beach International Equestrian Center in Wellington, Fla., topping a field of seven other international teams to capture their first win of the 2021 season. Finishing on a final two-round score of just a single fault, the team edged out Ireland, who completed the evening with a total of four faults for second place, and Brazil, who finished on a final score of 14 for third place.
The competition served as the first team outing of 2021 and also the first opportunity for the team to test themselves in a Nations Cup atmosphere since early 2020. All eyes were focused on the young, but talented team led by Chef d’Equipe Robert Ridland, which featured Bliss Heers (Las Vegas, N.V.) and Antidote de Mars, an 11-year-old Selle Francais stallion owned by Bridgeside Farms LLC; Lillie Keenan (New York, N.Y.) and Chansonette Farm’s 11-year-old KWPN gelding Fasther; Brian Moggre (Flower Mound, Texas) aboard Balou du Reventon, a 15-year-old Oldenburg stallion owned by Ann C. Thompson; and anchored by Jessica Springsteen (Colts Neck, N.J.) and Don Juan van de Donkhoeve, a 15-year-old Belgian Warmblood stallion owned by Stone Hill Farm.
“We knew coming in that we had a very young team. When your second and third riders in the order combined have one Nations Cup, it’s not much experience in the heart of the order. It was really nice and exciting,” commented Ridland after the class. “We were up against some real teams. When we saw the Irish starters, on paper that’s a really solid team. I couldn’t be more excited.”
Keenan and Fasther were selected as the team’s lead combination and finished their first trip around the course, designed by Steve Stephens (USA), clear and inside the time to set a strong tone at the beginning of the order. Heers followed in second aboard Antidote de Mars, and in her first appearance for the NetJets U.S. Jumping Team, recorded another clear effort in the first round. Moggre and his new mount Balou du Reventon completed their initial trip with four faults, while Springsteen and Don Juan van de Donkhoeve added a single time fault as the final combination, allowing for Moggre’s four-fault tally to be the drop score, as the team moved into the second round on a total of one fault.
In the second round, Keenan led once again with Fasther and added four faults to the team score, before Heers, Moggre, and Springsteen ultimately clinched the victory producing three consecutive clear efforts to conclude the competition on an unbeatable final team score of just one single fault.
“I feel incredibly blessed. My teammates are incredible and I’m happy for the opportunity. My horse is incredible. I know going in, whatever I ask, he does and he tries his heart out. After the first round, it was exciting to say the least,” said Heers. “Then to go into the second round under the lights and have to repeat the same thing, it doesn’t seem like much, but it is, and I relied on him. He feels the pressure and always rises to the occasion. I can count on him every time.”
With a slight change to the traditional timing format of the competition, the first round began at 4:30 p.m., and included a delayed return for the second round at 7:30 p.m. under the lights in the International Ring at PBIEC. Moggre, selected to represent the NetJets U.S. Jumping Team for the second time in his young career, elaborated on the technicality of the course and the format of the competition, which he felt played to the team’s favor.
“I think the course really asked a lot of the right questions for this type of class, and I think that’s important. It was really interesting how the first round went during the day and the second round went at night because that’s a change of atmosphere,” he said. “Some horses struggle with that and some horses thrive with it. On course, I wouldn’t necessarily say there was one line that particularly stood out more than the others, it was the course as a whole, and the horses and their riders, knowing each other. The line across the middle, Lugano oxer to the triple, some did seven [strides], some did six. Even between day and night, some changed their plan. I think that it was a really interesting way to do the Nations Cup this year, but as the first one we had, I think it was a great experience.”
Springsteen and Keenan echoed their teammates’ excitement with the victory, and added that the pressure of competing on home soil in the team’s first outing of the year intensified the atmosphere. Both have represented the NetJets U.S. Jumping Team on numerous occasions, but with the first team competition of 2021 now behind them, they noted that winning at home is incomparable.
“I think you always feel more pressure when you’re representing your country. It was the first Nations Cup in a long time, and we all were so excited this whole week. It was a really fun team,” said Springsteen.
“Every time that I get to jump for Team USA, it’s my favorite competition. It’s something we all look forward to every year. It’s the aim, right? We plan out the year, and the high point is the chance that we get to jump for Team USA. To be able to bring home a win on home soil is thrilling. It’s what we set out to do and we had a plan. I had fantastic teammates, our Chef d’Equipe, Robert Ridland, and our manager, Lizzy Chesson; they do an unparalleled job and we are ridiculously lucky. We’re grateful to rise to the occasion,” concluded Keenan.