We didn’t have to get very far into cross country day at the Aachen CICO3* here in Germany to see that Rüdiger Schwarz’s course was by no means going to ride any softer than it has in previous years. Once just two of the first 10 riders out of the start box came home clear, it became clear that Aachen was once again going to live up to its very stiff reputation.
The best certainly prevailed in the end, with Ingrid Klimke delivering two of the five double clear rounds to finish in first and second place with FRH Escada JS and Horseware Hale Bob on scores of 32.1 and 37.0, respectively — complete and total domination. Fast rounds guaranteed a large jump of the leaderboard, and the top four finishers all proved to be horses and riders that went clear and inside the optimum time of 6 minutes, 40 seconds.
Last year’s winners Sandra Auffarth and Opgun Louvo made the time to move up from sixth to finish third on 37.2, as did Tim Price and Wesko, who moved up from 11th to finish fourth on 40.2. Michael Jung and fischerTakinou jumped clear with 3.6 time penalties to round out the top five. Dirk Schrade and Hop and Skip, who finished 10th on 47.6, were the only other pair to make the time, which decisively gave Germany the Nations Cup victory.
But the real shake-up in the Nations Cup competition happened well after cross country had ended as the ground jury reviewed video footage from a tough day on course, where just 55 percent of the field jumped clear rounds. Germany won on a score of 120.5, with New Zealand giving the home team a strong run for their money, finishing three of their team riders in the top 10 to take second on a score of 126.8.
While the scores originally had Great Britain finishing third and Team USA finishing fourth, that changed when the U.S. officially moved up to third place in the Nations Cup standings after the ground jury reviewed video footage of British rider Holly Woodhead and determined she had missed a flag at fence 20b, the brush corner in the second water complex. That knocked the British team out of the standings.
It all happened so suddenly that Team USA missed out on appearing in the final press conference as the third-place Nations Cup team (though don’t worry, I have plenty of quotes from everyone!). Here’s how the U.S. ultimately pulled of a third-place finish on a wild day: Phillip Dutton and Fernhill Cubalawn jumped clear with 2.4 time penalties to finish 12th on 48.8, with Lauren Kieffer and Veronica also jumping clear with 10.4 time to finish 15th on 54.0.
Lynn Symansky and Donner picked up 20 jumping penalties at the brush corner at fence 22A — unlucky considering they were team trailblazers and it quickly became clear that horses were not reading the corner well. Colleen Rutledge and Covert Rights finished a whirlwind past few days that undoubtedly took a lot out of the horse with a runout at 16b, the influential angled brush at the coffin, before parting ways at fence 20B in the second water complex.
But even with just two clear rounds, the U.S. still managed to finish a team at what is arguably the toughest CIC3* competition in the world and bring home third place to boot. As Colleen Rutledge put it at the end of the day: Imagine where we could have been had all four team members jumped clear rounds. After a day when a lot of teams struggled to get through the finish flags, the U.S. can return home with their heads held high.
Germany completed their team without using a drop score, but Australia, Ireland and Canada all completed their teams despite having only three members, which says a lot about the way these riders all scrapped and fought today. Rebecca Howard and Riddle Master finished in 18th place on 54.9 as the highest-placed Canadian combination thanks to jumping clear with 2.4 time penalties.
Holly Jacks-Smither punched her fist in the air as she cleared the final fence with More Inspiration, celebrating the completion of her first overseas event and first team competition for Canada, which she finished in 30th place. They were going foot perfectly and guns blazing up until the brush corner at fence 22A, another unlucky victim caught out early on before riders started adjusting more for that line.
Kathryn Robinson and Let It Bee had a tough day but still completed. Eleven horses and riders picked up 20 jumping penalties at the angled brush at fence 16b in the coffin, including Kathryn and Bee. They also picked up another 20 jumping at that pesky brush corner at fence 22A, which saw five refusals in all today to become the second-most influential fence on course behind the angled brush at the coffin.
Eleven riders ultimately completed the course with jumping penalties. Three were technically eliminated after missing flags and then continuing to complete the course: Holly Woodhead and DHI Lupison, Niklas Bschorer and Tom Tom Go 3, and Claas Hermann Romeike and Cato 60.
Flora Harris and Bayano were the only pair to be eliminated on refusals, with their final stop coming at the brush corner at fence 22A. Jock Paget parted ways from Clifton Lush after the horse jumped awkwardly over the angled brush at 16B, launching Jock out the side door next to the coffin. Stefano Breciarroli retired Apollo van de Wendi Kurt Hoeve at the coffin.
The only scary fall of the day came when Wieloch’s Utah Sun got his legs caught up on the big table at fence 9 coming out of the first water, falling on his shoulder and depositing Louise Svensson Jähde on the ground. Both Louise and the horse were up right away, and he was transported to the local vet hospital for examination. A small cut on his chest was stitched, and the horse suffered no other injuries.
You can catch up on a full play-by-play of every detail that went down on cross country day in EN’s live updates thread here. I still have much more to bring you from Aachen, including comments from Coach David O’Connor, Team USA, Team Canada, Team Germany, Team New Zealand and course designer Rudiger Schwarz, so stay tuned! Go Aachen. Go Eventing.