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Mexican Young Guns take Nations Cup glory

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In any sport when the underdog wins, it makes for great entertainment. So when the Mexican team took a decisive victory in the very first leg of the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup in Wellington, Florida the press conference was a joyous affair.

 

The youthful foursome fought off some of the world’s most successful nations including the USA, Canada, and Ireland. In fact, it was the youngest two Mexican riders with the least team experience who sealed the deal with their double clear performances. These came from 23-year-old Eugenio Garza Perez riding Victer Fin DHZ and 24-year-old Manuel Gonzalez Dufrane on the athletic grey mare Hortensia van de Leeuwerk. The other two riders played their part with low-faulted rounds from Fernando Martinez Sommer (29) on Cor Bakkar and Juan Jose Zendejas Salgado (25) riding Tino la Chapelle.

 

Tryon’s FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2018 course designer, Ireland’s Alan Wade, set a track that tested rideability, and the final line of a one-stride triple combination to big oxer proved the undoing of many. However with three first-round clears the Mexicans were already in command at the halfway stage on a zero score, trailed by Ireland and USA on eight, Israel close behind with nine, last year’s Wellington winners from Canada on 12 and the three-member Colombian side already trailing the field with 16 on the board.

 

The Mexican quartet kept a cool head and clung on to their lead in the second round, which caught out a number of the world’s leading riders such as World No 2 Mclain Ward and Beezie Madden who both faulted. Fernando Martinnez Sommer commented on the technicality of the course. “The course was difficult enough, for me my horse has a very big stride so I had to go a bit steady all the time.”

 

All four riders were quick to praise their Chef d’Equipe Constant van Paesschen, not just for their Nations Cup victory but what he has delivered to Mexican showjumping during his short career so far. Stany van Paesschen had similar positive words “From when I came two years ago, I said I am going to try as much as I can to push some young riders forward. We have some great young riders but we also have some great support from professional and older riders. I think we have a great team.”

 

Garza Perez, who trains with legendary Irish rider Eddie Macken and is the only member of the Mexican side to be based in the USA, said: “Today’s result is a testament to the quality of the next generation of young Mexican riders.”

 

He was a member of the historic site that posted that spectacular win in Dublin last August. “That day was an inspiration to us all!” he pointed out. And now the main Mexican goal is a place at the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup Final 2019.

 

“There’s an Olympic place on offer in Barcelona and we intend to take it!” He said.

 

Team Israel had a great show too. Daniel Bluman’s double-clear with Ladriano Z bolstering an impressive all-round performance that saw them add nothing to their first-round nine-fault tally for the second spot. The Americans looked strongest at the outset, with an extremely experienced team of Beezie Madden, McLain Ward and Laura Kraut joined by young star Lucy Deslauriers. But single errors proved costly, so they will be hoping to turn the tables when their regional League moves to Mexico next time around. Only Mexico, USA, and Canada were entitled to qualifying points in today’s competition, so they claimed 100, 80 and 60 points respectively.

 

Photo from hopedeamer1-21

Horse Scout Real: Jessica Springsteen

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Jessica Springsteen is one of America’s most successful showjumpers. She has won a number of International Grand Prix and more than a million pounds in prize money. Secondary to her riding prowess, she is the daughter of Rock legend Bruce Springsteen aka “The Boss”. Whilst reporting at the Longines FEI Nations Cup Final, Ellie Kelly caught up with the 26-year-old in Barcelona about horses, love life and life on the road.

You made it on to the American squad here at this prestigious team event, how did you feel about that?

I was so excited. I always wanted to come to Barcelona for the Nations Cup Final. To be picked for the team was a huge honour for me- to represent my country is always my goal.

 

Which horses do you have here in Barcelona and how would you describe them?

I have two horses From Rushy Marsh Farm- RMF Swinny and RMF Cecille

They are both the sweetest horses in the world; they are so cuddly and kind and have amazing attitudes. They are both so confident and brave that they make you feel so comfortable when you go in the ring, which makes it fun to ride. I love them both.

 

How long have you been riding them?

It’s a newer partnership with both; I started with Swinny last October and Cecille in January. With Swinny, I clicked with her right away, she’s just my ride but Cecille was a slower start but now I feel so comfortable with her at this level and we made a good partnership.

 

We witnessed a great win here in one of the individual classes- The Queens Cup. How would you sum up your performance?

I was so happy. Swinny jumped amazing and there was a lot in the jump off and that is where she shines. She is naturally fast so I could do extra strides in places where people had to leave them out and I was still able to be faster. She’s the kind of horse that gives you a lot of confidence and you really feel you can go in there to win.

 

You compete all over the world but what do you think of this event here in Barcelona?

I love competing in Spain. Everybody is so nice here, the spectators are so enthusiastic and it’s lovely and warm.

 

Describe your life as a professional rider

It’s a lot of travelling and living out of a suitcase but you do get to travel to so many amazing cities and venues all around the world and that is an experience that you would never really get otherwise. It definitely doesn’t feel like a job to me. I love it and I can’t imagine doing anything else.

 

How many horses do you ride each day?

Right now I have nine horses and I’ll try to ride about six a day. Any more than that and I feel like I can’t give them the proper work. I’m normally at the barn all day when I’m at home because I travel so much, so it’s important to spend time with the horses and make sure everything is going well with them before I head to the next competition.

 

Do you ever ride and compete younger horses?

I’ve just bought a six-year-old horse but most of mine are a little bit older because I am on the road so much that I don’t really have time to train the younger ones. But I definitely think that is the way to do it- buy them a bit younger and bring them on because then you really develop a nice partnership.

 

How do you manage competition nerves?

When I am really nervous, I just try to remember as much as possible that I get to do what I love every day and I am so lucky to do that. I try to just enjoy the moment with my horse as much as possible and I try to feel prepared with. My horse when I am going into the ring. I remind myself “you know what you are doing, just stick to your plan and try to enjoy it” and that always helps me.

 

How do you spend your downtime?

There’s not much of that. Whenever I have a week off, I try to go home to see my friends and family in New York and we have a farm in New Jersey.

 

You are dating Italian rider Lorenzo de Luca, what the gossip on that?

I’m very lucky (big grin). It’s really nice to be in the sport with someone who really understands everything it takes. We see each other quite often. At the same show pretty much every week which is really nice.

 

Who are your heroes?

Growing up I used to watch Laura Kraut, who I trained with for many years. She is amazing; she’s such a fighter and can ride any type of horse. Mclain Ward and Beezie Madden are great idols we have in the US and to be at the same shows as them, you learn so much just by watching. Then to be on a team with them now is really cool.

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BEHIND THE SCENES: GRIT, GLAMOUR AND GREAT SPORT AT THE LONGINES FEI NATIONS CUP FINAL BARCELONA 2018

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I was lucky enough to be reporting at the Longines FEI Nations Cup Final In Barcelona last week. Not only was there great sporting action, a masterful display of horsemanship and a tantalising finish. Beyond this, there were some high profile individuals and interesting back-stories that really highlighted what a special sport this is.

 

Having breakfast in the hotel one morning I was sat next to Jessica Springsteen. The drop-dead gorgeous daughter of Bruce was looking very much in love with boyfriend, Italian heartthrob Lorenzo de Luca, as she ate her boiled egg.  Lorenzo was later caught buying his girl a present in the shopping village.

 

Across the room was World No 1, Harrie with the rest of the Dutch team and World No 2 Mclain Ward, fresh from winning team gold at WEG. Mclain was over to train 19-year-old showjumping sensation; Lucy Deslauriers who was making her first big team appearance for the USA. Extraordinarily Lucy’s father Mario was also competing but for his homeland of Canada. Now 53 years of age, Mario was the youngest ever winner of a World Cup Final at the age of 19 and he and his daughter could make headlines if they both achieve their dreams of being selected for the Tokyo Olympics, for their respective Nations.

 

Also competing at the show were the UAE team who are rising stars. After a fascinating interview, I discovered every one of them has a full-time job and compete just a handful of horses alongside this. Jobs included a policeman, an office administrator and a camel trainer.  “Football is the only professional sport but we are trying to change that” I was told.

 

“Never give up” was the take away message from this year’s prestigious competition. Held in the popular Real Club de Polo in Barcelona for the sixth year in a row, it was the Belgians who won the oldest jumping competition in the world and lifted the Nations Cup trophy. But it was by no means decisive and Peter Weinberg, Chef d’Equipe of the team summed up the result and in that, the very nature of equestrian sport. “We call ourselves the “Never Give Up Team” because in the middle we had two with 12 faults already but still we were fighting to the last rider, so this victory means a lot to us!”

 

With one of the most challenging tracks this final has seen, of the eight nations who went through to the final, just three riders jumped clear. It is hardly surprising that Course Designer Santiago Varela has been selected as course designer for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. The track was imposing and technical and questioned control, balance, judgement and skill, all the way around. As Varela pointed out it wasn’t about the number of faults the riders collected. “A score of 8 or 12 didn’t mean they had a bad round, horses jumped unbelievably, but the course was difficult, tough and big…and everything was connected”, he explained.

 

As was the case with most of the teams, the Belgians had mixed fortunes, Niels Bruynseels gave the team confidence with a superb clear from Gancia de Muze but both Pieter Devos (Claire Z) and Jos Verlooy (Caracas) each leaving three fences on the floor. However, it was the dashing Nicola Philippaerts, who saved the day with a sublime clear round on H&M Harley v. Bisschop and that sealed the deal.

 

Nicola said his teammates told him “everything is still possible” when he was last to go. “I just tried to ride my own class and it worked out well – today it was me that could make the clear round that would make a difference, and another time it will be one of the others”. And he had even more reason to be pleased when sharing the €100,000 bonus for double-clear performances with team-mate Bruynseels, Sweden’s Peder Fredricson and Italy’s new star, Riccardo Pisani.

 

This was Belgium’s second win of the Longines FEI Nations Cup in Barcelona; their last came in 2015. As Chef d’Equipe Weinberg said: “it was an interesting day, first ups and then in between downs, but in the end, we won anyway so it was really great sport!”