An all-female team from Great Britain led throughout the three phases of the FEI Eventing Nations Cup™, which was held in Boekelo (NED) this weekend. The team consisted of seasoned campaigners Laura Collett, who won team gold at the Tokyo Olympics, former World Champion Rosalind Canter, together with Sarah Bullimore and Kirsty Chabert. Their three-phase team total of 95.7 was enough to put them ahead of New Zealand on 101.1 and France on 110.1. Germany wound up fourth in Boekelo but finished as overall Champions of the FEI Eventing Nations Cup™ Series on a final point score of 450, with Italy in overall second on 415 points, and Sweden in third place on 375.
Phillip Surl is Chef d’Equipe of the British Nations Cup team and was delighted with his team’s performance in Boekelo. “There have been some challenges this week. With a change of personnel after the trot-up on Wednesday. Yasmin (Ingham) was meant to be in the team but her horse had a little accident on the walk back from the trot-up and as she was due to run first for the British team on Thursday, we thought it best to let her run individually and do her dressage on Friday instead. So that meant Kirsty (Chabert) came into the team last minute.”
“The dressage was very solid and they performed well in the cross-country. The course has had a facelift and is always tricky because it runs over so many different landowners. I believe there are over 20 landowners involved in making Boekelo run so that is not without its challenges. Everyone felt it was beefed up and it certainly got the riders’ attention. It was a proper four-star and the difference is the crowds at this event. It is unique- there are a lot of spectators and they are very close to the course and that’s all part of the experience. The main arena is a proper championship experience and the young horses definitely have to grow up.”
Boekelo proved as popular as ever with around 60,000 spectators arriving to watch some of the best riders in the world. This included the recently crowned FEI Eventing World Champion, Yasmin Ingham and the current World Number One and Two in the FEI standings, Tim and Jonelle Price who were part of the second placed New Zealand team. Tim Price also wound up in first place individually in this long format competition, finishing on his dressage score. Laura Collett led throughout but after dislodging a pole in the final jumping phase, she slipped to third place behind Tim and her fellow Tokyo teammate Tom McEwen, who was riding as an individual.
“Laura was unlucky to have a pole,” says Surl. “She had a very solid week otherwise and Sarah (Bullimore) had a very challenging time in the jumping which is not normal for that horse but that’s how it rolls sometimes. We used a few lives up to stay in pole position but that’s the name of the game.”
Surl believes the The Nations Cup is valuable in giving riders and horses match-practice in being part of a team and the extra pressure that comes with that. “If you take it back to its early years, there are a lot of riders who have cut their teeth in the Series. Next year will be a golden ticket year as it was in 2019, so there will be a lot of teams chasing qualification for the Paris Olympics in 2024.
“A lot of nations use the Series in different ways. We are lucky with the strength and depth that we are able to be fairly competitive at every one we go to, but over the years there are riders and also horses now at top level who have started out competing internationally through this system. We have certainly used it for the young horses coming through, and if they cope with this and grow from the experience, it's always going to be useful later on in their careers”
This year’s Nations Cup Series has proved popular, attracting nations from around the world to compete at a total of eight events staged in Europe and Canada. It will begin again next season, where several nations still not qualified for the 2024 Paris Olympics will be looking for good results and riders will be looking to impress selectors.