Aachen, Germany –The United States sent 18 equestrian athletes and fielded two FEI Nations™ Cup teams to compete at the World Equestrian Festival CHIO Aachen, in Aachen, Germany July 14-23.
“It’s the Wimbledon of our sport, there is no question,” said Robert Ridland, Chef d’Equipe of the Hermès U.S. Show Jumping team. “It is one of the most prestigious places to compete. The top riders are all saying: we are bringing our ‘A’ game here, we are bringing our best horses.”
The U.S. athletes certainly came prepared to compete, with plans and goals laid out. The following are some highlights of the U.S. athletes’ week in Aachen:
On Tuesday, July 18, 2004 and 2008 Olympic team gold medalist Elizabeth “Beezie” Madden (Cazenovia, N.Y.) and HHS Hercules, Abigail Wexner’s 2009 Irish Sport Horse gelding, took third place in the Sparkassen Youngsters Cup, a class for seven and eight year olds, with zero faults and a time of 67.51.
The following afternoon, Lauren Hough (Wellington, Fla.), 2000 Sydney Olympian, and Ohlala, The Ohlala Group’s 2004 Swedish Warmblood mare, competed with 58 other riders and took fifth place with zero faults and a time of 43.20 in the Turkish Airlines Prize of Europe. Later that afternoon, Hough went on to take fifth with Waterford, Laura and Meredith Mateo’s 2003 KWPN gelding, with zero faults and a time of 38.43 in the Prize of StadteRegion Aachen. In addition, 2008 Olympic team gold medalist Laura Kraut (Royal Palm Beach, Fla.) and Whitney, Artisan Farms, LLC and Torrey Pines Stable’s 2003 KWPN gelding, took third in the same class, with zero faults and a time of 37.45.
Thursday proved to be an exciting day for U.S. Show Jumping. Madden and Breitling LS, Wexner’s 2006 Dutch Warmblood stallion, won the STAWAG-Prize,, with zero faults and a time of 66.01. Kraut and Whitney placed third with zero faults and a time of 69.86. Later that evening, Kraut and 2004 and 2008 Olympic team gold medalist McLain Ward (Brewster, N.Y.) led the Hermès U.S. Show Jumping Team to a silver medal tie with Switzerland in the Mercedes Benz FEI Nations Cup CSIO5* Aachen with double clear performances aboard Zeremonie, Old Willow Farms’ 2007 Holsteiner mare, and HH Azur, Double H Farm and Francois Mathy’s 2006 Belgian Warmblood mare, respectively.
“Today was exciting as always – Aachen is the pinnacle of sport. To go double clear tonight with Zeremonie was thrilling,” said Kraut. Read more about the Hermès U.S. Show Jumping Team podium finish.
World number one ranked and 2016 Olympic team silver medalist Kent Farrington (Wellington, Fla.) and his mount Uceko, R.C.G. Farm’s 2001 Dutch Warmblood gelding, pulled out a beautiful win on Friday in the North Rhine-Westphalia with zero faults and a time of 46.65. When asked about Uceko and winning in Aachen, Farrington responded:
“He [Uceko] is really special. He loves grass arenas. I’ve had him since he was six years old, and I’m so proud that he is 16 and still winning here at Aachen. It was an amazing day.”
On Sunday, Ward and HH Carlos Z, Double H Farm’s 2002 Zangersheide gelding, won the SAP-Prize, with zero faults and a time of 60.21. That evening Kraut and Zeremonie, Ward and HH Azur, Farrington and Voyeur, Amalaya Investments’ Voyeur 2002 Dutch Warmblood gelding, Hough and Ohlala, and Madden and Darry Lou, Wexner’s 2008 Dutch Warmblood gelding, all competed in the prestigious Rolex Grand Prix of Aachen. In the end, Kraut went head-to-head with Gregory Wathelet from Belgium, Luciana Diniz from Portugal, and Marc Houtzager from the Netherlands in the final jump-off. Kraut placed fourth with four faults and a time of 48.01.
Additionally, Zeremonie and Old Willow Farms were presented with the prestigious Halla Challenge Trophy by Hans Gunter Winker for the most successful horse at CHIO Aachen. Kraut was also awarded with the “Prize of the Federal Minister of the Interior,” an award of a special trophy given to the best jumping athlete of the entire show, presented by the Federal Minister of the Interior, Hans-Peter Friedrich.
The Dutta Corp. U.S. Dressage Team came to Aachen ready to compete. The first phase of the FEI Nations Cup CDIO5* began on Thursday, July 20, with the Preis der Familie Tesch Grand Prix. 2016 Olympic team bronze medalist Laura Graves (Geneva, Fla.) and Verdades, Graves and Curt Maes’s 2002 Dutch Warmblood gelding, took second place behind Germany’s Isabell Werth with a score of 79.514%. The U.S. team sat in second place after the first phase.
On Saturday, the second and final phase of the FEI Nations Cup continued in the MEGGLE-Preis Grand Prix Special. With the German audience hanging on to every passage, piaffe, and pirouette, Graves and Verdades took on Werth and her mount, Weihegold OLD, performing a truly masterful test, and scoring a 81.824% that catapulted them to the top of the class standings – on Graves’ 30th birthday no less. Combined with the rides of the remaining team members, The Dutta Corp. U.S. Dressage Team went on to claim the silver medal behind Germany and ahead of Sweden. Read more about their silver medal finish.
“Today was my day,” Graves said. “My horse gave me a great birthday present. I could not be more pleased with him. And, there is nothing like a stadium of Germans singing happy birthday to you. That is really memorable.”
Graves and Verdades went on to take third place in the Deutsche Bank Prize Grand Prix Freestyle on Sunday, with a score of 82.550%.
U.S. eventer Hannah Sue Burnett (The Plains, Va.) placed seventh overall in Aachen, with RF Demeter, Jacqueline Mars’ 2002 Oldenburg mare. After Thursday’s dressage test, with 39.90 penalties and the jumping phase, with a time of 87.22 and zero faults, the combination went into Saturday’s cross-country phase sitting in fifth place. Finishing the course clear and with just eight time penalties, Burnett and RF Demeter finished seventh in the overall line-up with a final score of 42.50 penalties.
“The time is difficult to make here in Aachen,” said Burnett. “This was really my first time that I’ve tried to be fast on her [RF Demeter]. I was only eight seconds over, which is really good. It is a really fun feeling here. Everybody cheers so much and there is so much involvement from the crowd. I love that feeling and I love this event.”
Chester Weber (Ocala, Fla.) represented the United States in combined driving in Aachen. On Wednesday, July 19, Weber masterfully guided Bastiaan, Fritz Grupe’s 2006 KWPN gelding; Boris W, Weber’s 2006 KWPN gelding; First Edition, Weber’s 2009 KWPN gelding; and Splash, Jane Clark’s 2003 Dutch Warmblood gelding, to a second place finish in the Prize of Fa. Horsch, Der Entorger Dressage Four-In Hand with 41.28 penalties.
On Friday, Weber went on to take second again in the Top Score Driving Competition with 1800.00 points, with Boris W, First Edition, Maestoso Jupiter, Weber’s 2007 Hungarian Warmblood gelding, and Splash in the traces.
U.S. Vaulters performed well at Aachen with numerous top-ten finishes. To view the full results of U.S. Vaulting, click here.
The USEF International High Performance Programs are generously supported by the USET Foundation, USOC, and USEF Sponsors and Members.
Photos by Shannon Brinkman: Top: Laura Kraut and Zeremonie; Middle: Laura Graves and Verdades; Bottom: Chester Weber and Bastiaan, Boris W, First Edition, and Splash