sport

USA win Nations Cup

The USA team rode out winners of the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup of Great Britain in the Longines Royal International Horse Show at Hickstead on Friday.

The quartet of McLain Ward (Rothchild), Reed Kessler (Cylana), Margie Goldstein-Engle (Royce) and Beezie Madden (Cortes C) led from the start in the feature class event.

After the first round, they were the only nation to finish on a zero score, having discarded 20-year-old Reed Kessler's eight faults. But Ireland and Belgium were very much still in the frame at this stage, carrying four faults apiece after round one, with Germany and the Netherlands on eight faults each. The other three nations were starting to lag behind the leaders at this point with France on 12 faults, Great Britain on 16 and Sweden on 18 - and these were the teams that eventually took the bottom three places, with Great Britain and France in equal sixth (28 faults) and Sweden in eighth (38 faults). The Netherlands and Germany took second and third places respectively by posting clean team sheets in round two, while Ireland and Belgium added eight faults to their tally in round two. But the USA kept nailing the clear rounds, with McLain Ward posting a double clear and Beezie doing the same to prevent a jump-off with Netherlands and Germany and put them in the lead with just four faults in total.

"I felt like we've been having a great time the past few weeks. I never got to ride in a winning team so this is a first for me and it's very special to be a part of," said Rob Ridland, Chef D'Equipe of the American team.

It was a fantastic return for Beezie Madden, who had a competition fall in May that left her with a plate in her left collarbone. "I don't notice it much at all anymore. My main goal is to hopefully make the team for the World Equestrian Games, so I worked out when I needed to come back," she said.

The British riders had mixed fortunes, with Ben Maher jumping two good rounds except for a foot in the water each time with Wings Sublieme.

Jessie Drea and Touchable - making their Hickstead Nations Cup debut - had just the penultimate fence down both times, but the 22-year-old rode polished and mature rounds. Guy Williams improved on his eight faults in round one to have four faults in round two, while Robert Whitaker and Catwalk IV were the discount score in both rounds, with 12 faults each time. The pressure is now on the British team to deliver a win at the final leg of the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup series in Dublin next weekend, where they must score maximum points if they are to stay in the top division next season. "If we win in Dublin we're alright and we won't get relegated," said chef d'equipe Rob Hoekstra. "It was a very mixed day today - I was very pleased with Jessie and also with Ben, he rode fantastically like he always does, but his horse was just a bit green at the water."