GB's Cross Country woes help Germany to another win at Houghton Hall
There can't be many occasions when event riders find themselves galloping across country to a backdrop of Damien Hirst sculptures, but this year's Saracen Horse Feeds Houghton International, incorporating the FEI Eventing Nations Cup™, was one.
Houghton Hall, originally built in the 1720s for Great Britain's first Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole and now home to the 7th Marquess of Cholmondeley, is hosting a Damien Hirst exhibition which includes the installation of seven sculptures in the park, providing a unique and striking background at what is already a stunning venue.
Six nations contested the British leg of the FEI Eventing Nations Cup™; Britain, Ireland, Sweden, United States, New Zealand and Germany. It was the home side who took the early advantage, leading after both the Dressage and Jumping phases, but Cross Country day proved its downfall. Germany's dominance at Houghton continues and they took the FEI Eventing Nations Cup leg for the fourth successive year.
German team member and Chef d'Equipe, Peter Thomsen, was delighted.
Thomsen said: “It looked like we were only going to have a team of three, so I decided to bring a two star horse of mine to make up numbers. Sir Boggles was a bit surprised at the start of the course but he got better from jump to jump.
“Our younger team members were really good here (photo: Hanna Knüppel/GER). It works well with the balance of two younger and two more experienced riders. We work as a team in all phases to give the younger ones confidence.”
The American team were flawless across country, the three team members all clear, two inside the time - a performance which moved them up from fifth to second. Ireland held on to third place with New Zealand fourth, Sweden fifth and Great Britain sixth after only two team members completed.
Leslie Law, Britain's most recent Olympic gold medallist (Athens 2004) was on site, supporting the American team.
Now based in Ocala, Florida, Leslie is coach for the US emerging athletes programmes, and a keen supporter of the FEI Eventing Nations Cup™ series: “For us, getting our young riders international team experience is vital.
Importance of the Nations Cup...
“When funding became available we started to bring a couple of riders over to the UK for the under 25 class at Bramham and a couple of years ago decided to target the Nations Cup at Houghton too.
“Looking forwards we want to use the Nations Cup series more and more – I'm hoping to bring a young team to an autumn fixture next year in addition to Houghton, and am sure that the seniors will be targeting Aachen.”
Text by Hilary Manners
Images by Libby Law Photography