The second USEF/USET Foundation North American Futures Team Challenge took place at the MARS EQUESTRIAN Bromont CCI Three-Day Event, with Erik Duvander’s team taking the win.
Established with the USET Foundation and administered by USEF, the North American Futures Team Challenge is designed to complement the Eventing High Performance Program, which rolled out the new U.S. Eventing Pathway Program for this year. Two teams of four combinations, one coached by U.S. Eventing Director of High Performance Erik Duvander and one coached by USEF Eventing Emerging Athlete Coach Leslie Law, will participate in training and contest an unofficial simulated team competition at select events during the season.
At Bromont, Erik Duvander and Leslie each served as a chef d’equipe for a four-rider team. Leslie’s team competed in the CCIU25 3*-L and Duvander’s team in the CCI3*-L, with scores weighted equally.
Leslie’s team took the early lead following dressage, led by efforts by Alyssa Phillips and Oskar, her and Julie Phillips’s 10-year-old Holsteiner gelding, and Alexandra Baugh and Ballingowan Pizazz, Altorac Farm’s 17-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding. Alyssa and Alexandra held the top two spots respectively after dressage in the CCIU25 3*-L division.
With just over four points separating the teams heading into Saturday’s cross country phase, Erik’s team overtook the lead thanks to three double-clear cross country rounds from Allie Knowles and Business Class, Katherine O’Brien’s nine-year-old Selle Français gelding; Kimmy Cecere and Landmark’s Monaco, Jacqueline Mars’s 12-year-old Irish Sport Horse/Thoroughbred stallion; and Sydney Elliott and QC Diamantaire, Carol Stephens’s nine-year-old Oldenburg gelding.
Erik’s team held the lead through show jumping, anchored by clear rounds from Allie and Kimmy, who placed second and third as individuals on scores of 28.7 and 32.1, respectively. Kylie Lyman also competed on Erik’s team with Xuanatu, Joan Nichols’s eight-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding, and won the CCI3*-L with Da Vinci Code, Joan’s 12-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding, on a score of 28.3, following double-clear cross country and show jumping rounds.
Erik’s team won the competition with an overall score of 96.9, but Leslie’s team impressed, with Alyssa and Alexandra placing first and second respectively. Each jumped clear on cross country, incurring only time penalties, and produced double-clear show jumping rounds.
Erik reflected on the Futures concept, which was first implemented at the Carolina International CCI and Horse Trials in March.
“Our feedback from some riders [after Carolina] was how can we make it more competitive, so that is something we will be looking at more in the future, as well as how Leslie and I set this up [in terms of] pressure we put [on the teams],” Erik reflected. “We are trying to win, and every team meeting we had has been about pressure. The riders feel it. However, it is important to have a nice balance. The difference [at Bromont] was we all [competed] in the [3*]. We will have more debriefs with these riders to see how [we can improve] next time around. There’s been a lot of learning, and we’ll tweak some things, but we are on the right track.”
“Everyone barely knew each other walking into this. On the first day, everyone thinks of themselves as an individual, but within 24 hours, things start to change a little more,” said Erik. “With our [cross-country] course walks, they wanted to walk it as a team. By doing [things like] this, people start feeling more comfortable with one another, they [learn] the character [of the team], and feel less threatened by one another because they are dependent on each other. There are many dynamics that happen naturally. The key is having respect for one another.”