11 July - It’s not often that a win for Germany comes as a surprise, but today at the sixth leg of the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping Europe Division 1 League in Falsterbo, Sweden, even Otto Becker’s team could hardly believe it when they emerged victorious.  Lying fifth at the halfway stage of a competition that had the packed stadium of enthusiastic spectators sitting on the very edges of their seats from start to finish, the Germans produced a solid seven-fault final scoreline and then sat back and watched all those ahead of them lose their grip.

In the closing stages it seemed to come down to a two-way tussle between the host nation and the Dutch who were amongst the five countries battling for qualifying points today.  But it fell apart for both of them, and it was all the more painful for the Swedish side when they had to settle for runner-up spot by just a single-fault margin.  The Dutch dropped all the way fifth in the final analysis, behind the USA and Spain in joint-third place, while the British slotted into sixth, Switzerland finished seventh and Ukraine lined up eighth and last.

Satisfactory afternoon

For Spain’s Marco Fuste it was a very satisfactory afternoon. Yesterday the popular Chef d’Equipe said he hoped his side would finish in the top three or, at worst, in fourth place in order to keep them in with a chance of taking one of the seven qualifying spots available to the 10 countries competing in Europe Division 1.  Once again the Final will take place on his home turf in Barcelona in October and the hosts don’t want to rely on a wild-card to get there.

This was the Spanish side’s last points-chasing outing of the season, so for them it was down to the wire, but their result today saw them pick up 80 valuable qualifying points to move into runner-up spot on the league table behind the leaders from France with just two further legs remaining.

 The course was intriguing, Germany’s Christian Wiegand setting a test that was ridden mostly off holding strides while requiring plenty of pace.  In the first round it seemed it may have been all too easy, with 14 clear rounds and seven horse-and-rider combinations posting just single time-penalties, but when the top pole was raised by just five centimetres on eight of the obstacles on the 12-fence track in round two, the picture changed dramatically.  Just seven returned with a clean sheet this time out, although America’s Brianne Goutal and Nice de Prissey, Spain’s Sergio Moya and Zipper and The Netherlands’ Wout-Jan van der Schans with Capetown all posted double-clear performances at the end of the day.

Wide open

The result was wide open at the halfway stage with a single fence separating the top six teams.  The Dutch and the Swedes were both on a zero score while Spain and the USA carried just one time-fault apiece, Germany carried two and Ukraine brought forward just four faults.  The British were right behind them with five, but for Switzerland it was already all over with a surprising 17 faults already on the board.

As the second round progressed the attention remained focused on the two leading sides because none of the others seemed to be able to hold their ground - except for the Germans.  Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum followed her opening five-fault result with the handsome grey nine-year-old, Fibonacci, with a single error at the troublesome vertical before the triple combination, but Andre Thieme and his 10-year-old gelding Conthendrix produced another foot-perfect run during which they again collected only a single time penalty.  Patrick Stuehlmeyer’s 11-year-old stallion, Lacan 2, fell victim to the vertical after the water but one of the two four-faulters could be discounted when Katrin Eckermann followed her opening single-fault effort with a fabulous clear from her 10-year-old stallion Firth of Lorne.

Right in the race

Now, very suddenly, the Germans were right in the race because, despite Goutal’s fantastic double-clear, the Americans added eight to their tally which brought them to a total of nine and again despite a double-clear from Moya, the Spanish had to do likewise to finish on level pegging.

The Swedes, meanwhile, needed to drop the eight faults collected by their opener, Douglas Lindelow with Casello, and when Alexander Zettermann’s single second-round error with Cafino at the first element of the triple combination was followed by a typically brilliant clear from Swedish superstar Rolf-Goran Bengtsson with the relatively inexperienced Unita ASK then it seemed quite possible they could finish on a four-fault total.  That might see them into a jump-off with the Dutch who needed to drop the nine picked up Harrie Smolders and Emerald and who were also carrying just the four faults collected by Bart Bles and Lord Sandro after van der Schans’ second clear.

It all came down to the last man on both sides, but when Peder Fredricson’s lovely grey, H&M Sibon, hit the first element of the triple combination that brought the Swedish total to eight and when Dutchman Jur Vrieling’s lovely grey, Zirocco Blue VDL, hit both the penultimate oxer and the first element of the final double it was all over.  The Netherlands now had to count one of their nine-fault results, so they plummeted all the way down to fifth place.

Big smile

The Germans weren’t points-chasing today, but that didn’t stop Otto Becker from having a big smile on his face. “I am totally happy!” he said afterwards, grateful to the Organising Committee for inviting his country to compete at the Swedish fixture.  “We didn’t select Falsterbo as a show for points but are happy to know that we can come again next year, despite beating the Swedish team! We had a young team today with young horses and I never expected to win here. The atmosphere and crowd was amazing, a full house! The class was exciting until the end. I am really happy with the result and proud of the team” he added.

Meredith Michaels Beerbaum said her team colleagues “showed extra class. We had a hard fight in the second round to make it to first place, so thank you to them for puling through. The course today was very good, in the second round there were a couple of fences that were higher and you could see that, with more faults as a result. It was a great competition overall, very exciting” she said.

She talked about her new horse Fibonacci.  “I am delighted to have this horse in my stable, we’ve been together for three months and have come along together incredibly well. This was his first Nations Cup and we saw how beautifully he jumped. He is a really sensitive horse but a delight to ride. He has an incredible ability to jump and a very positive attitude, very cool-headed as well. It was a different ambience for him today with a lot of pressure, but he coped brilliantly. We have high hopes for the future with him and it was a fantastic beginning” she pointed out.

What to expect

Andre Thieme wasn’t sure what to expect today. “This is a very young talented horse but I was not 100 percent sure how it would go. I was in trouble first and had time faults in both rounds but in the end they weren’t as bad so I am very happy now” he said.

Katrin Eckermann said “it was amazing to win in the end.  We had a strong team and a team with some great young horses.  As I was riding last for my team I knew I had to be quick and to be clear so there was a lot of pressure, but my horse jumped really well. I felt sorry for the other teams in front - but that’s the sport!” she added.

 With just two legs of the Europe Division 1 League remaining, the stage is set for another fine battle at Hickstead, Great Britain in three weeks’ time.  The host nation will have to pull out all the stops because, along with the Irish, they are lying last on the leaderboard, and the Germans also still have plenty more work to do as they are only one place further ahead.  All however still have two more chances to make the cut as the thrilling second season of the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ draws ever-closer to the much-anticipated 2014 Final.


 1.    Germany 7 faults: Fibonacci (Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum) 5/4, Conthendrix (Andre Thieme) 1/1, Lacan 2 (Patrick Stuhlmeyer) 0/4, Firth of Lone (Katrin Eckermann) 1/0.

 2.    Sweden 8 faults: Casello (Douglas Lindelow) 0/8, Cafino (Alexander Zettermann) 0/4, Unita ASK (Rolf-Gorgan Bengtsson) 8/0, H&M Sibon (Peder Fredricson)    0/4.

 3.    USA 9 faults: Chela LS (Ashlee Bond) 4/4, Bonanza van Paemel (Catherine Pasmore) 1/9, Juvina (Georgina Bloomberg) 0/4, Nice de Prissey (Brianne Goutal) 0/0.

 3.    Spain 9 faults: Darius 2 (Manuel Fernandez Saro) 24/8, Prunella D'Ariel (Paola Amilbia Puig) 1/4, Rokfeller de Pleville Bois Margot (Eduardo Alvarez Aznar) 0/4, Zipper (Sergio Alvarez Moya) 0/0.

 5.    Netherlands 13 faults: Capetown (Wout-Jan Van der Schans) 0/0, Emerald (Harrie Smolders) 1/9, Lord Sandro DDH (Bart Bles) 0/4, Zirocco Blue VDL (Jur Vrieling) 0/9.

 6.    Great Britain 18 faults:  Utamaro D'Ecaussines (Joe Clee) 0/4, Wonder Why (Spencer Roe) 4/0, Catwalk IV (Robert Whitaker) 1/9, Murka's Odie de Frevent (Peter Charles)9/DNS.

 7.    Switzerland 25 faults: Concetto Son (Steve Guerdat) 12/DNS, Rubina Vlll (Fabio Crotta) 1/4, Windsor XV (Niklaus Rutschi) 8/4, Quidam du Vivier (Pius Schwizer) 8/0.

 8.    Ukraine 28 faults:  Vivant (Cassio Rivetti) 0/4 , Carlina (Oleksandr Onyshchenko) 12/12, Quinlan (Oleg Krasyuk) 4/13, Charlie (Katharina Offel) 0/8.

 Facts and Figures:

Falsterbo in Sweden presented Round 6 of the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping 2014 Europe Division 1 series today.

A total of eight teams lined out - Germany, Great Britain, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine and USA.

5 teams were chasing points towards the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping 2014 Final - Great Britain, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Ukraine.

Course designer was Germany's Christian Wiegand.

Time-allowed was 84 seconds.

Only one fence separated the top six teams at the halfway stage of today's competition when Sweden and The Netherlands jointly held the lead.

14 clears in the first round.

3 double-clear performances, from USA's Brianne Goutal and Nice de Prissey, Spain's Sergio Moya and Zipper and The Netherlands' Wout-Jan van der Schans with Capetown.

Germany won ahead of Sweden in second while USA and Spain shared third place.

Just two further legs of the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping Europe Division 1 series have yet to take place - at Hickstead, Great Britain on Friday 1 August and in Dublin, Ireland on Friday 8 August.

Only 7 of the 10 nations competing in Europe Division 1 can qualify for the Final which will take place in Barcelona, Spain in October.


 Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum GER talking about her horse, Fibonacci:  “I feel like I have him on my side but I could see that he found some parts (of today’s course) difficult – his ability to jump and his will power was the difference which undoubtedly helped contribute to his performance. Once we iron these things out, I am sure we will have a great future together”.

 Katrin Eckermann GER: “Before today, the biggest competition I competed in with my horse was in Hamburg a few weeks ago.  But I was expecting him to go like this here, he has been going so well.  I ride him now for three years and I know him well.  I did many Youngster classes with him and have taken a lot of time to build him up”.

 Katrin Eckermann GER: The course was good, but it was definitely more difficult in the second round when the jumps were higher and wider!”

Standings after Round 6 of Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping Europe Division 1 League 2014 at Falsterbo (SWE):

 1.    France            -        345

2.    Spain            -        282.5

3.    Switzerland        -        280

4.    Netherlands        -        250

5.    Belgium        -        220

5.    Sweden        -        220

7.    Ukraine        -        170

8.    Germany        -        160

9.    Ireland        -        130

9.    Great Britain        -        130

by Louise Parkes

Photo: FEI/Roland Thunholm.