Belgium wins the FEI Nations Cup

The Belgian team won the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ of Great Britain today at Longines Royal International Horse Show, after a three-round battle to claim the title.

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The Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™, presented by Longines, saw eight teams compete for the historic Prince of Wales Trophy. Great Britain, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland and Italy were competing for qualifying points, while the USA, France and the Netherlands also contested this prestigious series leg at Hickstead.

After round one, Belgium and Switzerland tied for first place with three faultless rounds apiece, while 2014 victors the USA were close behind on a total of four faults. France were 1pen behind in fourth place, while Great Britain were fifth on 6pen – with Olympic gold-medallist Ben Maher providing the only clear. Germany finished on 8pen while the Netherlands and Italy filled seventh and eighth places, with 9 and 16 faults respectively.

In round two, France produced three clears to remain in fourth place, but Britain dropped below Germany with five faults to add to their tally from round one, leaving them on a total of 11 faults. Belgium and Switzerland finished the round adding four faults apiece to their score of zero in round one, while the USA moved into contention with a clear sheet in round two, meaning that each of the leading three teams had to nominate a rider to jump-off for the win.

First to go was America’s Beezie Madden, the first lady winner of the Longines King George V Gold Cup and a member of the winning Nations Cup team at Hickstead last summer. A fence down at the double and a subsequent run out left the USA on eight faults, which gave Belgium and Switzerland some breathing space.

Janika Sprunger jumped next for Switzerland and produced her third clear round on the chestnut mare Bonne Chance CW on a time of 44.17sec. The pressure was on Belgium’s Pieter Devos to leave all the fences up, having picked up 12 faults in round two to form the drop score. This he duly did on the eye-catching grey gelding Dylano, netting a quicker time of 42.60sec.

“First of all I have to say a great thanks to my team members, without them I wouldn’t have been in the jump-off,” said Pieter, who stood on the winners podium alongside Judy Ann Melchior (As Cold As Ice Z); Gudrun Patteet (Sea Coast Pebles Z) and Olivier Philippaerts (H&M Armstrong van de Kapel).

“I had a good feeling about the result, but I didn’t want to be sitting up on the podium feeling unhappy about my performance [in round two] so I really, really, wanted to ride in the jump-off,” Pieter added.

Belgian Chef d’equipe Dirk Demeersman said: “Finally we won at Hickstead! Before, when I came here as a rider I had many disasters, so it is great to get this result – and good also that we have qualified for the final in Barcelona, as that was the goal.”

Britain has won two legs of the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ series this season, but the team of Michael Whitaker (5/0), Holly Gillott (13/9), Guy Williams (1/5) and Ben Maher (0/0) only picked up 60 points today at their home leg. They will be competing next week at Dublin Horse Show in the hope of securing their qualifying spot ahead of the series final in September.

For an in-depth report from the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ of Great Britain, click here.

In the showing classes, Hertfordshire-based show producer Brogan Taverner and Lisa Hall’s High Treason were crowned Saracen Horse Feeds Supreme Riding Horse champions. They qualified to contest the overall honours having already won the large riding horse championship earlier in the day.

Katrina Braithwaite and Kilderry Rupert were Nettex Supreme Working Hunter champions, while Fell pony Little Tree Limited Edition took the BSPS Heritage M&M Supreme Ridden championship for Jonathan Stevens.

For full results, click here.

Tomorrow’s feature class is the Templant Events Queen Elizabeth II Cup, a coveted national championship, while the international highlights include the Bunn Leisure Salver and the British Speed Classic. There is also the Ladies' Day competition, open to the show's best-dressed female guests.

Tickets can be bought at the gate or by visiting www.hickstead.co.uk.

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