Drammen, Norway – The U.S. Jumping Team ended their time at CSIO3* European competitions under the guidance of Chef d’Equipe Anne Kursinski at CSIO3* Drammen. The highlight of the week came with Alise Oken and Gelvera’s win in Sunday’s CSIO3* Grand Prix with Alessandra Volpi and Haya Loma N finishing third. After winning last week’s European Equestrian Federation Nations Cup at CSIO3* Uggerhalne, the U.S. Jumping Team of Oken, Volpi, Jacob Pope, and Nikko Ritter had a tough first round in Friday’s EEF Nations Cup Drammen but an improved second round served as a valuable learning experience.
Seven combinations returned for the jump-off in the CSIO3* Grand Prix, including the U.S.’s Oken and Gelvera and Volpi and Haya Loma N. Volpi (Woodside, Calif.) and Haya Loma N, her 2012 KWPN mare groomed by Emmanuelle Malboeuf, had the fastest four-fault jump-off round with a time of 41.42 seconds to finish in third place. Oken (Charlotte, N.C.) and Gelvera, a 2011 Dutch Warmblood mare owned by Hi Hopes Farm, LLC and groomed by Barbara Macinska and Gail Shepard, delivered a clear round in a time of 44.08 seconds to clinch the win. It was the first time a U.S. combination had won Drammen’s Grand Prix since 2001.
“I have had [Gelvera] for about four years now. I know her really, really well, and I trust her a lot,” said Oken. “On Friday, I didn’t have the result I wanted in the Nations Cup, so I really felt like I had something to prove today. I feel like she exceeded my expectations and she jumped incredibly. I’m so proud of her and happy with her.”
Kursinki was pleased with the U.S. athletes’ results in the Grand Prix as well as the camaraderie of the team.
“Everybody here cheering each other on, helping in the warm-up ring. It was very, very exciting,” said Kursinski. “Alise’s mare had been a little difficult in the first round of the Nations Cup, so they redeemed themselves and proved that they deserve to be here. Alise rode beautifully and the mare went great. Alex was faster in the jump-off but had a jump down. She really went for it and had the time, but that’s show jumping and that can happen. To end up first and third with just two entries in the class today, it was a wonderful, wonderful ending to this tour.”
Though the U.S. Jumping Team did not have a repeat win in the second Nations Cup of their European tour, they overcame adversity from the first round to deliver improved performances in the EEF Nations Cup Drammen.
Lead-off combination Oken and Gelvera worked through a disobedience in between fences one and two during the first round to finish the course on 43 faults, then came back in the second round to have a four-fault round. Jacob Pope (Columbia, Md.) and Highway FBH, a 2012 KWPN gelding owned by The Highway Group and groomed by Jacob Catloth, had four faults in the first round and came back to go clear in the second round. Nikko Ritter (Wellington, Fla.) and Aquiles del Caribe Z, his 2014 Zangersheide gelding groomed by Sophie Lecocq, had an eight-fault round before coming back to have only four faults in the second round. Volpi and Berlinda, her 2008 Warmblood mare groomed by Emmanuelle Malboeuf, had impressive results as the anchor combination, jumping double-clear.
“I think being on a Nations Cup team abroad in Europe is just an experience they can’t get at home,” said Kursinski. “For our riders to get this whole experience of what it is like traveling, being out of your comfort zone and your own country, and then becoming a real team player and working with a team. It was really a wonderful spirit and cohesiveness with all the riders working together. Even when some of the trainers left, the [athletes helped set] the jumps with the grooms—a total team feeling. I think that kind of energy is extremely important to succeed and for their futures.”
Other nations competing in the EEF series expressed their gratitude for having the U.S. Jumping Team present at the competition.
“It was interesting because a couple of the [European] chefs were so thankful that we would bring a team this far for their riders to see our riders and also good for our riders,” said Kursinski. “We compete so much amongst ourselves, so, for [the U.S. riders] to have this kind of experience, there is no substitute for it. It is an amazing experience for all of them. It is just a steppingstone for all of their futures.”