The riders from Great Britain and the Netherlands will have the chance to duke it out again in the individual competition on Aug. 8. Skelton, Maher and Brash will ride for Team GB, while van der Vleuten, Houtzager and Schroder will represent the Netherlands. Only the top three riders from any one nation may contest the individual final, and all riders will start again at zero.
The Saudis were thrilled to be third, the first time that nation has won a team medal at an Olympic Games in show jumping.
“We had one focus in mind: the Olympic Games. We worked hard all year to try to get the horses ready at the time of the Olympics,” said Ramzy al Duhami, who trains in Belgium with team coach Stanny van Paesschen and had 4 faults total over the two rounds with Bayard van de Villa Theresia.
Kamal Bahamdan, who rides with Jan Tops in the Netherlands, said a newly established Saudi Equestrian Fund helped purchase the best horses for the Saudi riders. “That was started in Saudi under the supervision and the support of his majesty, the king. That program helped bring the private sector in Saudi into the sport to help with buying the horses and the management of the training,” he said.
One of those horses was Davos, who HRH Prince Abdullah al Saud rode to a 4-fault total combined score. Candice King brought the 12-year-old Zangersheide gelding (Carthago Z—Aida, Pericles XX) to the top levels and campaigned him with good results at the grand prix level, including being the reserve rider for the U.S. team at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games (Ky.) before he was sold last spring.
The U.S. team couldn’t catch a break over the biggest and most technical course of the competition. Ward had an unlucky rail at fence 2 when Antares chose an inopportune moment to take a bathroom break. They also had the middle oxer down in the triple. However, Ward is still eligible to ride in the individual competition with the 12-year-old Wurttemberger gelding (Araconit—Zuchtbuch Caprice, Cento).
“It wasn’t the leadoff ride I was hoping for,” said Ward, 36. “My horse didn’t jump badly, but not good enough. At this level, it’s just not a good enough performance, and unfortunately the rest of the team went the same way.
“Certainly I am disappointed in the result,” he continued. “My first focus here was on the team. We’ll wake up tomorrow morning and have a fresh outlook and move into the next round. My horse has all the ability to jump the fences, and we will refocus.”
Madden said Via Volo felt great, and she thought the course was quite difficult, particularly the line at 3, 4 and 5. Riders completed a rollback turn off the right to 3, a 1.5-meter oxer with a 1.75-meter spread. Then it was five forward strides to the open water before coming back on a balanced six in a straight line to an airy 1.6-meter vertical.
“The fences are closer together. The line across the middle is very technical with several different options. The last three jumps are plain old big at the end of the course,” said Madden.
The 14-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare (Clinton—Run Away, Heartbreaker) had the Maritime Navigation oxer at 11 down. “I opted to do four after the double to the vertical [the distance from 9B to 10 was either a forward four strides or a holding five], and that probably got her a little flat and aggressive to start with,” said Madden. “I probably needed to reel her in a little more. I was thinking of the time allowed and knowing I didn’t want to get too flat there, so I didn’t get there in a good frame. I was fighting her a little bit, and then she was going at the fence.”
Kessler appeared to be the victim of her own inexperience, racking up faults at the open water at 4, the vertical directly after it and the last fence.
“I really would’ve liked to have turned out a clear round for my team, seeing as that is my last round since I didn’t qualify for the individual,” she said. “ But I’m pretty happy. I am 18 years old, and it’s my first major championship. I am pretty happy to have three solid performances under a great deal of pressure. I am excited to be here with these amazing riders. God willing I will do a lot of these, so it just drives my hunger to get ready for the next one.”
Fellers thought Flexible might’ve gotten a little bit tired. The 16-year-old Irish Sport Horse stallion (Cruising—Flex, Safari) had the vertical at 6 down and then took a rail at 8, Nelson’s Column, which had a spread of 1.8 meters.
“The early rail he had down was just a light touch behind. The second one he had down was a bit of a mistake on my part,” said Fellers. “I was coming a little closer than I wanted to the hedge oxer, and it was quite a wide fence, the widest on the course. I stepped on the gas pedal a little hard off the ground thinking about the back rail and disregarding the front rail, so he ran into it a bit there. He finished up great. It will be nice to give him a day of rest. I think he’ll come back really good on Wednesday for the individual.”
For full results, visit the London 2012 website.