With a fourth-placed finish by U.S. Team Stars at the $100,000 Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup at Spruce Meadows on June 13 in Calgary, Alberta, the United States is now qualified to send a team to the inaugural Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup Jumping Final in Spain this September.
The points team consisted of Kent Farrington (Blue Angel), Reed Kessler (Mika), Charlie Jayne (Chill R Z) and Christine McCrea (Zerly), and they earned a score of 24 faults over the two rounds.
Although the U.S. Team Stripes placed second in the Nations Cup with a two-round total of 9 faults, the Stars Team had already been chosen as the point-earners for the competition. Ireland won overall with 4 faults.
“This really fit into our plan. It would have been nice to win, but we had two good finishes,” said U.S. Show Jumping Chef d’Equipe Robert Ridland. “We’ve now qualified for the Finals and won the league to boot.”
The United States was already leading the North America, Central America and Caribbean League after a victory in Wellington, Fla., earlier in the season. They finished with a total of 175 points ahead of Canada and Mexico. Canada also secured a place in the Finals, and each of the top three countries fielded two teams at the Spruce Meadows Nations Cup.
"We did it a little differently than most by having two equal teams, but I think it really worked out today. Each team had a mix of veterans and young riders or young horses with more experienced riders. I believe the future looks really good,” said Ridland.
The Stripes Team consisted of Briane Goutal (Nice de Prissey), Katie Dinan (Nougat Du Vallet), Candice King (Campbell VDL) and McLain Ward (Rothchild).
Ward and Dinan each jumped double clear over Leopoldo Palacios' challenging tracks. The only other two riders to do so were Connor Swail and Cameron Hanley of Ireland.
"There's always more pressure when you're on a team, and it was only my second Nations Cup, and I just wanted to rise to the occasion, stay calm and poised," said Dinan. "I knew after the first round I was only halfway done and needed to make some adjustments for the second round, which I was happy I was able to do. I'm just so happy, and my horse jumped great."
In the first round, Ireland’s team of Swail (Lansdowne), Darragh Kerins (E Muze Yek), Richie Moloney (Carrabis Z) and Hanley (Antello Z) all posted fault-free rounds, moving them into an early lead, which they maintained in the second round by adding only 4 faults.
Irish team anchor Hanley returned to international competitions after a freak knee injury in the spring of 2011, which kept him out of competition for about 1½ years. He got injured while playing with his children and underwent 17 different operations on his long road to recovery.
Watch this video interview with Hanley:
“[Cameron] was always a stalwart of the team and one of our strongest team riders, so it was a huge loss when we didn’t have him for the last couple of years,” said Irish Chef d’Equipe Robert Splaine. “This was a competition of the highest quality. I had an abundance of hope coming here. I knew the riders but only a little about some of the horses, but I reckoned we were in with a good chance.”
Winning the competition did not earn Ireland any points toward qualifying for the Final because they competed outside of their league. However, Splaine said many Irish riders are based around the world, and it was a learning experience for the less experienced horses on the team. Only Lansdowne had ever competed in a Nations Cup before Spruce.
Watch an interview with Farrington from before the Nations Cup: