The Belgium team took Nation Cup glory in style at Hickstead’s Royal International Horse Show, following a polished jump-off by Pieter Devos and Dylano.
Both the Belgium side and eventual runners-up Switzerland led a strong charge in the eight-team competition – the only two teams to produce triple clears in the first round. However, chosen jump-off combination Pieter and his 14-year-old ride’s first two rounds did not quite go to plan and he picked up four and twelve faults respectively. The team’s chef d’Equipe Dirk Demeersman had faith in the pair and put them forward to the final round.
“It was very unusual for Pieter and Dylano to have those faults, he is usually a careful horse, but I believe in the combination and Pieter was extremely motivated,” he said.
Pieter put the disappointing rounds down to a recent change for the gelding to a hackamore, however he certainly made amends in the final round, producing a foot-perfect jump-off.
“I have to thank my team members, without them we wouldn’t have been in the jump-off at all so it is thanks to them. The first rounds were disappointing so I just went for it in the final round,” said Pieter.
Both Switzerland and eventual third United States went into the jump-off as well – all three teams, including Belgium, on four faults.
The Brits – comprising Michael Whitaker (Calcourt Falklund), Holly Gillott (Dougie Douglas), Guy Williams (Titus) and Ben Maher (Diva II) – would’ve hoped for a better Nations Cup, they settled for sixth finishing on a total of 11pens. Ben redeemed home-side pride by producing two faultless rounds riding the 10-year-old mare but it was unable to push the team any higher up the scoreboard.
Janika Sprunger jumped-off for the Swiss side, but was beaten by 1.57seconds courtesy of Pieter’s swift round. Team mate Puis Schwizer opted not to jump in first round due to his team already posting three clears on the scoreboard, but when Martin Fuchs picked up four faults he came out for the second round hoping to produce a clear. Proceedings did not go to plan and his nine-year-old stallion Giovanni van Het Scheefkasteel took a dislike to the first part of the Longines double at fence four.
Drama also unfolded in the final round when Beezie Madden – jumping-off for eventual third-placed USA – experienced problems at this combination. Her 13-year-old gelding Cortes C took a dislike to the second element, but completing the round left the Americans still near the top-end of the scoreboard.