Team USA 1 wins first leg of FEI Nations Cup™ Dressage 2014 pilot season at Wellington  

21 Feb 2014

By Louise Parkes

Team USA 1 were convincing winners at the first leg of the FEI Nations Cup™ Dressage 2014 pilot series in Wellington, USA where the Canada 1 side finished second ahead of Spain in third place. A total of nine teams from seven countries contested this historic event which marked an important moment in the sport, as the Nations Cup concept moved outside the European region for the very first time.  
The American side of Silva Martin, Tina Konyot, Adrienne Lyle and Shawna Harding established the lead on Wednesday and held on firmly to emerge victorious in yesterday’s closing stages.
The Canada 1 Team of Belinda Trussell, Chris Von Martels, Brittany Fraser and Megan Lane finished nine points behind when slotting into runner-up spot while the Spanish foursome of Paula Matute, Juan Matute Jr, Carlos Munoz and Marta Renilla were less than two points further adrift in third.
The USA 2 side of Catherine Haddad-Staller, Shelly Francis, Ashley Wimmer and Justin Hardin lined up a very close fourth.  Both the USA and Canada fielded two teams for this competition but could declare only one for points purposes.  Teams from Australia, Colombia, Germany and The Netherlands also took part. 
Two rounds
Using a unique format created for this event alone, the team competition was held over two rounds hosting both Big and Small Tour competitors.  The Ground Jury consisted of Anne Gribbons, Gabriel Armando, Cesar Torrente, Lorraine MacDonald and Bo Jena.
Adrienne Lyle’s winning Grand Prix test set Team USA 1 on the road to their first-day lead. Her result with the 15-year-old Oldenburg gelding, Wizard, left the team on a first-day total of 212.802, and she encapsulated the spirit of the competition when she said afterwards, “just to have everyone there at the ringside for your rides and know that they're rooting for you - it's obviously a little bit more pressure, but it's a fun pressure and I enjoy it”. 
And Lyle headed the Grand Prix field again yesterday when scoring 72.559.  Tina Konyot and the 16-year-old Danish stallion Calecto V posted a mark of 70.971 while the 67.211 that earned ninth place in the Intermediaire 1 for Silva Martin and Rosa Cha W, and the 66.816 that saw Shawna Harding and Rigo line up in tenth spot ensured the USA 1 team finishing score would leave the result beyond doubt.
US National Dressage Coach, Robert Dover, was understandably delighted in the aftermath. “This concept is a definite move in the right direction!”, he said.
“When I was on the FEI Dressage Task Force some years ago one of my great hopes, and suggestions, was the creation of a Nations Cup series.  So I’m really thrilled that not only has the Dressage Committee created the series, but that Wellington is the first of the shows to be staged this season.  It’s beautiful here - the grounds, the arena, the facilities are second to none.  Overall I’m very excited to see so many teams from around the world, and as National Coach for the US I am determined that we will have teams at every Nations Cup for the rest of this season, except for Vidauban (FRA) next week” he said.
“Vidauban takes place too close to our own event and in the middle of a huge show season here in Florida.  We need to bring all the organisers together to discuss the calendar so we can have a win-win situation for everybody next season.  And US riders will then compete at all the Nations Cup events” he suggested. 
He is determined that the Nations Cup concept will drive improvement in the general level of Dressage In the USA, and he talked about his vision for the future. “What I want is that, two Pan-Ams (Pan-American Games) from now, all of our riders will compete in Grand Prix.  We have to raise the bar, it’s the only way, and when you do that then the riders know they they have to step up their game”.  
FEI Director of Dressage and Para-Equestrian Dressage, Trond Asmyr, was also very pleased with the successful expansion of FEI Nations Cup™ Dressage which looks set to become an official series over the coming years. “From an FEI perspective this is the direction we want to go, becoming a global series and not just European-based.  And to have this event at a fantastic venue like the Wellington Showgrounds makes it all the more special” he said.
Team spirit
Winning team member, Tina Konyot, talked about the comradeship and team spirit created by the event.  “It’s nice that we’re all supporting each other in our own home country, and for me it’s my home state, in this beautiful venue of global dressage. The generosity of our colleagues, Tuny Page, her beautiful farm Stillpoint, the Dutta Corporation, I mean we’re all old friends so it’s pretty special to be here just all together. And also to have newer, younger people coming up on teams and I’m so proud of all of them. It’s wonderful” she said.
Silva Martin was making her team debut this week in Wellington, but said she didn’t feel too pressured. “I felt like we had such a great support team with the coaches Debbie (McDonald) and Robert (Dover), I just really enjoyed the whole experience of getting their input and help. I’ve learned so much and I felt comfortable because everybody made me feel very comfortable”. 
Asked what it was like to be back in action after time-out due to injury, Shawna Harding said “it means the world. Just to be back in the saddle and back in this atmosphere with such incredible riders and working with Robert and Debbie’s help also”.
Wonderful experience
At the post-competition press conference, Chris van Martels, a member of the second-placed Canada 1 Team, said FEI Nations Cup™ Dressage is “a wonderful experience....I think there’s not anybody in the room that will argue that Canadians always have a great sense of pride amongst each other as teammates. We have a wonderful support staff with Liz Steacie, Volker Moritz as our Technical (Advisor to High Performance) as well as Desi Dillingham (Special Advisor to the Canadian Team]). So we have a lot of people behind us that are there to give us a little push, or a hand whenever we need it, so I think that can contribute to a bit of our success”.
Spain’s Juan Matute Jr said his country’s third-place finish “was a bit of a surprise!” but clearly a nice one.  “I’m very happy and I think I can speak for the four of us that it was a dream come true!” he added.
The next leg of the FEI Nations Cup™ Dressage 2014 series takes place at Vidabaun (FRA) next Friday, 28 February.  For information on the French fixture visit this link  or Email
1. USA Team 1 - 423.543: Rosa Cha W (Silva Martin), Calecto V (Tina Konyot), Wizard (Adrienne Lyle), Rigo (Shawna Harding).
2. Canada 1 - 414.488: Anton (Belinda Trussell), Zilverstar (Chris Von Martels), All In (Brittany Fraser), San D'Or (Megan Lane).
3. Spain - 412.632: Tarpan Ymas (Paula Matute), Don Diego Ymas (Juan Matute Jr), Kouseau (Carlos Munoz), Presumido (Marta Renilla).

Team USA 1 - Silva Martin, Tina Konyot, Adrienne Lyle and Shawna Harding - stood on the top step of the podium after emerging victorious in the opening leg of the FEI Nations Cup™ Dressage 2014 pilot series at Wellington, USA.  Photo: FEI/Sue Stickle.