Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates – The NetJets U.S. Jumping Team started their quest to earn qualification to the Longines League of Nations Final in Barcelona later this year with a promising finish in the first leg of the season, taking sixth place overall. Testing the new FEI League of Nations format for the first time ever, the team held their own against serious competition from Europe, finishing on a final team total of 28, with all eyes now turning to the home-leg of the series to be hosted at World Equestrian Center in Ocala, Fla., in a few weeks’ time.
“The general feeling for us was that our four riders, who exceeded expectations, were coming in under the radar due to some of the inexperience, but what happened today wasn’t a big surprise for us because we knew what they were capable of and truthfully we felt like we got a little bit unlucky,” said Chef d’Equipe Robert Ridland. “It was really gratifying for this group to beat some of the teams we did to finish in sixth, and obviously this was our first experience with this new format – there are things that are different, especially with the no discard in the second round. I feel like as we continue with this series, more and more people are going to come to love the format of the second round. In my opinion, it’s good for the sport and for spectators, and for us as Chef d’Equipes truthfully because the scores are the scores. To be able to do what our group did today with as minimal team experience that they have was a huge accomplishment for our program. We’re very proud of what they did, and they should be too - it’s well deserved.”
With the new format, all four team combinations contest the first round, which includes a single drop score, before the team members with the three best scores return for the second round and all scores count towards the team’s overall final total. Alise Oken (Charlotte, N.C.) and Gelvera, a 2011 Dutch Warmblood mare owned by Hi Hopes Farm, LLC and cared for by Gail Shepard and Rosie Scobie, were the trailblazers for the team after a fantastic finish in the President of the UAE Jumping Cup Grand Prix presented by Longines on Friday for the pair. The duo finished with three late rails around the challenging Santiago Varela (ESP)-designed track to sit on a score of 12 early in the team rotation.
Hannah Selleck (West Lake Village, Calif.) and Cloud 39, who competed for the program on the European Tour last fall, marked their first senior team start for the NetJets U.S. Jumping Team in Abu Dhabi. Looking very strong in the first portion of their round, the pair made a quick turn back to the skinny vertical at fence 10, just nudging out the top rail, before adding another four at the final oxer to finish on eight faults total.
Also making her career debut for the team, Callie Schott (Wellington, Fla.) and Garant made excellent work of the track after an unfortunate rail at fence one put pressure on them for the remainder of their round. The pair fought for a remaining clear after their early mistake, producing a solid score for the team, finishing on only their early four faults.
As anchor, Aaron Vale (Williston, Fla.) and the talented Carissimo 25, were pressed to produce a clear round for the team to keep them in the hunt for qualification for the second round, as only the top eight teams were guaranteed to advance. The pair delivered with an exceptional clear, showcasing the scope and style of Carissimo 25, and the valued experience of Vale in the irons. With the three top team combinations in Selleck, Schott, and Vale set to contest the second round, the team pushed their way into the top eight placings ahead of France, Belgium, and the Netherlands, who were unable to qualify to move forward to the final phase of competition.
Selleck and Cloud 39, a 2011 Holsteiner gelding owned by Descanso Farm and cared for by Kerstin Mutter, were the first combination back for the second round. The pair added four faults early at the first fence, which caused problems throughout the class, before navigating the rest of the track with confidence, just nudging out the front rail of the final oxer to finish on a total of eight faults.
Returning second in the order for the team, Schott and Garant, a 2011 KWPN gelding owned by Southern Arches LLC and cared for by Valdo Lara, had an early rail again at the first fence, before a strong performance throughout the rest of the track. They held their score to only four faults as they finished the course with the team sitting on a total of 12 faults and Vale still to come.
Vale and Carissimo 25, a 2013 Holsteiner gelding owned by Debbie Smith and cared for by Nicola Cook, were beautiful in their execution of the course again, with only the “C” element of the triple falling from the cups adding four to their score, to solidify the team’s final total of 28. With the team being the first to return in the second round, the results weren’t confirmed until the end of the class, which saw the U.S. move up to finish in sixth ahead of Great Britain and the United Arab Emirates. Ultimately, Germany took the win on a team total of eight, followed by Ireland in second on 12 faults, and Sweden in third on 20.
The next leg of the Longines League of Nations Series will be hosted in the United States at the World Equestrian Center in Ocala, Fla., from March 19-23.
Follow US Equestrian
Stay up to date on the NetJets U.S. Jumping Team by following USA Jumping on Facebook and Instagram and US Equestrian on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok. Use #USAJumping.
The USEF International High Performance Programs and the USEF High Performance Pathway Programs are generously supported by the USET Foundation, the philanthropic partner to USEF. High Performance Program support is also provided by the USOPC and USEF sponsors and members.