Germany showcased their enviable strength in depth by powering to victory in Hickstead’s leg of the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup.
But there was a feeling of abject misery for Great Britain just a week before the Rio Olympics’ opening ceremony, as a sixth-placed finish condemned them to bottom spot in Europe Division 1 and relegation for next season.
Despite fielding London 2012 team gold medallists Ben Maher and Scott Brash, Britain could not get the result they required and now face a year out of top-flight European team showjumping.
Maher collected four faults in each round on Diva II, while Brash and Hello Guv’Nor could only muster four and eight. Tim Stockdale (Fleur de L’Aube) and Jessica Mendoza (Spirit T) each jumped clear in round one, but then collected four and eight faults, respectively, in round two.
It was a poor finale to the Nations Cup league season for Britain, who must now regroup quickly ahead of Rio, when the team will comprise Maher (Tic Tac), Nick Skelton (Big Star), Michael Whitaker (Cassionato) and John Whitaker (Ornellaia).
Holland, despite finishing seventh at Hickstead, leads the European qualifiers at September’s Nations Cup final in Barcelona, when the Dutch team will be joined by the likes of Germany, Ireland and Switzerland.
Such was Germany’s Hickstead dominance that star rider Ludger Beerbaum did not have to jump in either round on Chiara 22 because the job had already been done by his team-mates — Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, Janne Friederike Meyer and Patrick Stuhlmeyer.
Beerbaum said: “I’m not sure I really deserved it (the win) as I couldn’t prove it, but thanks to my team I’m sat here. They were on fire today.
“We had quite a bit of pressure today, as we didn’t have a great Nations Cup season. We had average fourth places, and it would’ve been easy for us to be left out (of Barcelona). It’s a big relief that we took the chance and the opportunity to qualify.
“The first round was a nice straightforward course with a good time allowed, and I can understand why they did that because it wouldn’t have been the first, first, first teams due to Rio.
“The second round was tougher and separated the teams. Not just because we won, but it was a really well set Nations Cup.”
And Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum added: “My horse Fibonacci jumped beautifully today, and we had a great team. It’s not often the last rider doesn’t have to jump in both rounds.”
And there was a strong display by Ireland, as their quartet of Billy Twomey, Bertram Allen, Anthony Condon and Shane Breen finished second behind Germany.
The Royal International Horse Show’s Friday action began with the Bunn Leisure Stakes, and top honours went to in-form Nicole Pavitt, whose time of 59.33 seconds on Victor Blue was almost two seconds clear of the field. Britain’s Holly Smith, riing Carolus K, was second and Ireland’s Trevor Breen on Oldtown KC, third.
Image: Team Germany won the eighth and last leg of the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup’s European division 1 at Hickstead (GBR) today, by FEI/Sebastian Oakley, courtesy of the FEI