The Netherlands won the FEI Nations Cup showjumping at Aachen CHIO last night under lights in a competition that came down to a tense final fence decider.
Belgium had the cleanest sheet from round one, carrying forward just one penalty from their three counting scores. The Dutch completed the first round with 14pen.
But over a track arguably more difficult than any Nations Cup in the series so far, there were problems scattered everywhere.
Britain logged just one clear in the first round (Guy Williams on Titus II) and sat sixth behind Ireland at the halfway stage.
Guy’s team-mates Robert Smith (Voila), Ben Maher and Tina Fletcher all had problems around the up-to-height track. Ben’s ride Tripple X III made a number of uncharacteristic errors, including hitting the middle part of the treble, as did Tina.
In the second round Tripple X jumped much more fluently, but had an unlucky foot on the plasticine of the water jump. Guy and Robert also accrued faults and Tina, last to go, pitched over Unique IX’s head when he badly misjudged the water — one of a number of horses who did — and fell.
The win looked a dead cert for Belgium but the team, reduced to three after their first-round 20-faulter did not start the second round, produced eight-fault rounds from their first two riders.
It was down to Belgian Ludo Philippaerts on Challenge v. Begijnakker, last of all 31 combinations to go in front of the vocal 45,000-strong crowd. He had five faults in-hand but used four of those early in the course with a fence down. He was clear and inside the time coming to the last, but badly misjudged the fence and the horse sprawled through it, scattering poles. This handed victory to the Dutch – the only team to post three clears in the second round.
Dutch chef d’equipe, Rob Ehrens said: “We got together in between the rounds and discussed the faults and developed our strategy for the second round. The riders then put this into practice perfectly.”
German rider Gerco Schroder’s horse London (pictured top) was the only horse to jump a double clear inside the time over this exceptionally testing course. This Nations Cup track accrued more faults over all teams than any other in the history of the competition.
“I really thank my horse. London did a fantastic job today,“ said Gerco.
Thankfully for the Brits, this was not one of their elected legs, so their result does not count towards their final team standing. Improved performances at Hickstead and Dublin will be required to drag them up from sixth out of eight nations on the rankings.