The Netherlands have been crowned world champions at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. France took silver and the USA finished with bronze.

The Dutch quartet of Jeroen Dubbeldam (Zenith SFN), Maikel Van Der Vleuten (VDL Groep Verdi TN NOP), Jur Vrieling (VD Bubalu) and Gerco Schroder (Glock’s London NOP) showed fighting spirit in a tense competition in which barely a fence separated the top five teams.

“As a coach, your heart goes up and down but when you have good spirit in the team, you can achieve a lot of things,” said the winning chef d’equipe Rob Ehrens.

France came in to the final round in fourth place but battled back, much to the delight of the packed D’Ornano Stadium in Normandy, with clear rounds from Penelope Leprevost (Flora De Mariposa) and Kevin Staut (Reveur De Hurtebise HDC) to complete less than 2pen behind the leaders.

USA just pipped Germany to the final medal – by 0.1pen.

“An unlucky touch is the difference between winning gold and finishing fourth or fifth,” said US rider Kent Farrington.

The team’s anchorwoman Beezie Madden (Cortes C) has yet to touch a fence in the championship and now heads the individual standings ahead of Sweden’s Rolf-Goran Bengtsson (Casall Ask).

Brazil took fifth but, as Olympic hosts, they automatically qualify, meaning the fifth and final Olympic qualification spot goes to sixth-placed Sweden. Just missing out was the seventh-placed Irish squad of Darragh Kenny (Imothep), Bertram Allen (Molly Malone V), Denis Lynch (All Star 5) and Cameron Hanley (Antello Z).

Great Britain dropped out of contention yesterday when finishing 18th of the 31 teams.

The final 30 individual riders return on Saturday, after which the final four will be decided for the horse-swapping final on Sunday.

Don’t miss the full report, reactions and behind-the-scenes news in next week’s Horse & Hound, out Thursday 11 September.