3 May - The Swiss team of Pius Schwizer, Romain Duguet, Paul Estermann and Steve Guerdat swept to victory at the opening leg of the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping Europe Division 1 league in Lummen, Belgium yesterday.  The defending champions from France very nearly pushed them to a third-round jump-off against the clock, but a last-to-go error from Penelope Leprevost saw her side having to settle for runner-up spot, while Ireland and Belgium rallied brilliantly in the second round to share third place in the final analysis.

The Dutch team were contesting the lead with a zero score at the halfway stage, but their effort collapsed in round two so they finished fifth ahead of the Spanish who enjoyed very mixed fortunes on the day.  And Sweden lined up seventh ahead of the British side who finished last of the eight competing nations.

The Belgian venue, which is home to brothers Pete and Luke Postelmans, is new to the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping Europe Division 1 circuit this year and has a few surprises of its own.  The big grass arena provides a very natural environment with its permanent derby fences, trees and wide open spaces, but for some horses coming out of the long winter indoor season it can prove a little overwhelming.  Concentration can prove difficult, especially for younger horses, and part of today’s challenge was to keep all that in check.

For the Swiss however, it was all a breeze, their victory achieved without ever having to call out their fourth-line rider, Olympic champion Steve Guerdat, who watched from the sidelines as his team-mates were foot-perfect from start to finish.

High praise

The 12-fence course designed by Italy’s Uliano Vezzani came in for high praise from the winning side. “Horses are inclined to be a little different in the second round and are getting tired at the end and that makes it difficult, but we had enough clear rounds and no dramas today” said winning team member Schwizer.

“The last line was difficult - from 9 to 10 and from 11 to 12 - but we had good horses and good riders who know how to ride a difficult line, so they jumped it well.  I’m happy.  Speed wasn’t an issue today, the time is 400 metres a minute and you shouldn’t have to change the time.  The course builder has to build the fences to test the riders, not just to play with the time allowed.  We are all quite happy with the way today’s course was built” Schwizer added.

Only four riders exceeded the time-allowed of 81 seconds and there were seven double-clear performances, three of which were produced by the Swiss.  The only other team to come close to that was Spain with two, but Marco Fuste’s side got off to a bad start when Manuel Anon was eliminated at the Longines double at fence five when Baldo DS threw in a strong objection in the opening round, while Manuel Fernandez Saro’s Darius ducked out at the second element here to return a first-round score of 15.

This fence was followed by the open water which, faced with a groundline of narrow white poles, produced some spooky jumps.  Then it was on to an oxer before turning to the triple combination - vertical, oxer, vertical - which took its toll before horses and riders came down the penultimate line of a big oxer at nine followed by four forward or five holding strides to a skinny vertical at fence ten and then the final test. Some riders paid the price for a less than generous left-handed turn to the 1.60m vertical with water-tray at fence 11, just two from home, which led to the final oxer that was ridden on either a five or six-stride distance.


1.    Switzerland 0 faults:  Toulago (Pius Schwizer) 0/0, Quorida de Treho (Romain Duguet) 0/0, Castlefield Eclipse (Paul Estermann) 0/0, Nasa (Steve Guerdat) DNS/DNS.

2.    France 4 faults: Reveur de hurtebise HDC (Kevin Staut) 0/4, Armitages Boy (Aymeric de Ponnat) 0/0, Quartz Rouge (Jerome Hurel) 4/0, Dame Blanche van Arenberg (Penelope Leprevost) 0/4.

3.    Belgium 12 faults: Candy (Pieter Devos) 8/0, Cortez (Nicola Philippaerts) 8/4, Domino (Jos Verlooy) 0/4, Sea Coast Forlap DC (Gregory Wathelet) 0/0.

3.    Ireland 12 faults: Caribo (Thomas Ryan) 4/4, Molly Malone (Bertram Allen) 4/0, Isco de Amoranda (Mark McAuley) 18/0, Diaghilev (Billy Twomey) 4/0.

5.    The Netherlands 16 faults: Lord Sandro DDH (Bart Bles) 0/4, Interline H (Robert Vos) 4/12, Vignet (Johnny Pals) 0/8, VDL Bubalu (Jur Vrieling) 0/4.

6.    Spain 19 faults: Baldo DS (manuel Anon) Elim/18, Darius 2 (Manuel Fernandez Saro) 15/4, Rockfeller de Pleville Bois mar (Eduardo Alvarez Aznar) 0/0, Zipper (Sergio Moya) 0/0.

7.    Sweden 21 faults: H&M Cash In (Peder Fredricson) 4/8, Titan (Emma Emanuelson) 4/8, Gotha FRH (Henrik von Eckermann) 4/4, Casall Ask (Rolf-Goran Bengtsson) 0/1.

8.    Great Britain 33 faults: Zaire (Guy Williams) 8/0, Catwalk (Robert Whitaker) 4/9, Fandango (William Whitaker) 4/8, Billy Congo (William Funnell) 8/11.

Full result here

Standings in the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping 2014 Europe Division 1 League after the first leg at Lummen (BEL):

1.    Switzerland            -        100

2.    France                -          90

3.    Belgium            -          75

4.    Spain                -          55

5.    Sweden            -          50

Detailed standings here
by Louise Parkes

Photo Caption: The Swiss team of Pius Schwizer, Romain Duguet

Photo: FEI/Dirk Caremans.