Unresolved Questions and Post-Boekelo Reflections

The Land Rover U.S. Eventing Team from left to right: Matt Flynn, Tamie Smith, Jennie Brannigan, Liz Halliday-Sharp and Chef d’Equipe Erik Duvander. Photo by Libby Law Photography.

We’re already less than a year out from the 2020 Olympics, and for the Land Rover U.S. Eventing Team all efforts are squarely centered on producing a podium result in Tokyo and beyond. In that sense, our representation at last week’s Military Boekelo CCIO4*-L and FEI Eventing Nations Cup Final felt more significant than usual. Additionally, Boekelo served as the final event to test the new Olympic format of teams of three plus one reserve before the Games.

If you followed EN’s coverage you already know how things shook out for Team USA, comprised of Tamie Smith, Liz Halliday-Sharp, Jennie Brannigan and reserve Matt Flynn — we finished eighth out of 12 total teams. (View complete team results here, and individual results here.) A few questions you might still be scratching your head about, though, despite Tilly’s valiant effort to guide us through the format changes:

“Wait, why did Jennie show jump after being eliminated cross country?”

True, Jennie was unfortunately eliminated on cross country after a rider fall from Stella Artois at fence 15 halfway around the course. Under the new Olympic format, the fall added 200 penalties to her score but allowed her to continue on to show jumping. The pair went on to deliver the only clear show jumping round for the team on Sunday.

“Did team reserve Matt’s scores end up counting toward the team total?”

Nope. Our total team score of 305.3 was the combination of Tamie, Liz and Jennie’s combined dressage penalty scores (89.7) + cross country penalties (203.2) + show jumping penalties (12.4). Matt could have only been subbed in (with 20 penalties added) if another horse had to be withdrawn for a medical reason, i.e. couldn’t trot up on Sunday or was spun on Sunday, but Jennie’s 200 cross country penalties would still be non-refundable.

“What the heck was up with that show jumping order of go?”

If it looked a bit jumbled, it’s because individual competitors jumped before teams. Via Olympic format, at Tokyo there’ll be a team jumping round and an individual one for those who qualify for it, which will be much easier to follow.

Clear as mud? If you have any other questions, please post them in the comments section and we’ll try to give you the straightest line to an answer as possible.

Let’s hear what the team had to say about the competition, the new format and the team experience.

Erik Duvander, Chef d’Equipe: “The purpose for this year’s Boekelo team was to give these riders the opportunity to be tested under pressure in a team environment while traveling abroad. We held a four-day training camp prior to the competition where it was made clear to the riders that they were being tested on their ability to work together as a team. The riders had to put forward their performance expectations and identify what they wanted to get out of the trip. This will all be reviewed through a questionnaire and post-competition interview with each rider.

“The four days spent at training camp were useful in that the riders had time to get comfortable with me, and I had time to get to know the combinations better, as the majority of these horses were not on the High Performance training lists. The idea was to get away from their busy day-to-day environments and then narrow down their focus for this event. All of the riders stepped up and put a focus and emphasis on being good team members while maintaining a competitive edge.

“This team was about investing into combinations that could be competitive in three years’ time at the 2022 World Games. I am very positive about the possibilities around this group of riders and the quality of the horses. I was also delighted to see more than 50 owners and supporters who made the effort to come out to the Netherlands and support our team. I hope it was a joyful experience for them and an opportunity to connect more with what we are aiming to achieve in the High Performance program. I wish in the future to regularly replicate this experience for our supporters at Boekelo.”

Jenni Autry, Managing Director of Eventing: “The positive environment and strong camaraderie within the team and amongst our supporters as a whole set the tone for the trip. We are incredibly grateful for the enormous effort made by all who traveled to Boekelo.”

Tamie Smith: “Having the opportunity to compete at Boekelo this year was invaluable. At this level, it is about how to shave every tenth of a point off your score. Observing and competing with the best in the world is something the U.S. riders must continue to do in order to rise to be the best. Having that experience has been instrumental in developing me. I’m grateful to have had this practice to ride on a team and strategize how to produce our best result. My lessons learned with each trip abroad have catapulted my results at future competitions. I would not have been able to gain this exposure without the continued support of USEF’s sponsors and USET Foundation donors who are helping the team become the best.”

Liz Halliday-Sharp: “It’s always an honor to be part of a team and to get the experience that comes with it. This week in Boekelo was particularly useful, as it was not only a chance for me to be in a team scenario with a young, up-and-coming horse, but it also gave us the chance to test out the Olympic format. The whole team worked well together, and we all did our very best to deliver good performances in each phase. I think both horses and people have learned a lot this week, and we will all come away knowing what we need to work on to continue improving our competitive performances.”

Jennie Brannigan: “Being able to work as a good team member, even when it didn’t go my way – and then jumping around clear on Sunday after feeling very disappointed about letting the team down – was a huge learning takeaway from the experience. I believe in the U.S. and Erik as a coach and was honored to be selected to [the team].”

Matt Flynn: “Our team effort was epic. Jennie stood by in my warmup after her fall. Liz was right there overseeing Wizzerd in cool out. Tamie met me in the stables before my round and at the finish. Frankie (Theriot-Stutes, who was originally named to the team but withdrew prior to the competition) came halfway across the world to have our backs every inch of the journey. I learned more than I can express.”

Before we move on from the Netherlands to our next stop in beautiful Fair Hill, Maryland, let’s take one last look at the Boekelo that was via another beautiful photo gallery by Sherry Stewart. We love this one especially, because from grooms and owners to supporters and friends, it really shows the sort of broader effort that goes into a successful team.

Go Team USA. Go Eventing!

[Land Rover U.S. Eventing Team Tests New Olympic Format at FEI Eventing Nations Cup™ The Netherlands]