When your country has never competed at the Final of the toughest team showjumping series in the world, then being drawn first to go on the opening day is definitely not ideal. But Chef d’Equipe Helena Stormanns was gung-ho this evening after New Zealand was allocated the number one starting spot in the field of 15 countries at the much-anticipated Longines FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping Final 2017 in Barcelona (ESP) which kicks off tomorrow afternoon.
“Well at least when our first horse leaves the arena we’ll be in the lead!” Helena joked, but of course each country’s position on the starting grid is critical. A later draw gives riders and team managers the option of altering their strategy if the earlier runners have issues around the course.
As Marco Fuste, whose Spanish side will be twelfth into the ring, said “we can see a few go so it gives us a bit of an advantage - although in the end the jumps are the same for everyone!” Team Germany are defending champions, and their Chef d’Equipe Henrich Hermann Engemann was happy with their 14th starting slot. “We’ll have time to see the other teams and we’ll know what we have to do” he said. It’s not just about clearing the jumps either, because penalties are also awarded for exceeding the specified time-allowed.
Riders know exactly what to expect when they go into the arena because they’ve seen the course plan, walked the track, examined the fences in detail and decided on their approach line and how many strides their horses should take between each obstacle and also how fast they need to go. But the horses don’t know any of that, so they have to trust the human in the saddle to guide them every step of the way. Some of the horses are so experienced that when their riders make a mistake they take control instead. They know their job and they just want to get it done. That’s the challenge, and also the charm, of this sport that requires a deep understanding between two very different creatures, and it’s always a gripping experience, especially in the context of top-class team competition with four riders per team and the best three scores to count.
CSIO Barcelona Director Daniel Garcia Giro, FEI Jumping Director John Roche and rider, model and social media influencer Mattia Harnacke drew the names and numbers this evening, and the start-list is as follows:
1, New Zealand
5, Great Britain
Course designer is Spain’s Santiago Varela, and his job tomorrow is to pull forward the best eight teams for Saturday night’s finale. The remaining seven nations will battle it out in Friday night’s Longines Challenge Cup and there’s a lot riding on performances over the coming days. Apart from a total of €1,826,700 million in prizemoney, including bonuses of €150,000 for double-clear rounds, there’s the immense pride and prestige of winning the most coveted team trophy in the sport. And it all gets underway at 14.30 local time at the Real Club de Polo in Barcelona tomorrow afternoon.