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USA’s “Riders of the Future” Earn Podium Finish in Falsterbo

©Rolf Stenberg/Sports Press Ireland

Chef d’equipe Robert Ridland has never made a secret of his team development strategy.

I’ve always advocated the 3-2 system where it’s a combination of veterans and up-and-coming riders,” said the American show jumping captain after the CSIO5* Nations Cup in Falsterbo on Friday.

Ten years into the role, it’s a hardware proven approach.

Since stepping into the role in 2013, Ridland has led team USA to team bronze medals at the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, 2015 and 2019 Pan American Games, as well as to team silver medals at the 2016 and 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games and the 2017 FEI Jumping Nations Cup Final.

Last week in Switzerland, he broke from tradition. Ridland tapped the greenest team since the ill-fated 2022 Nations Cup of Mexico to contest the Nations Cup in Falsterbo with Natalie Dean (24), Alise Oken (32), Alessandra Volpi (23) and Karl Cook (32).

What they lacked in experience, they made up for in results. Team USA jumped to a third place finish against show jumping superpowers Switzerland, Great Britain, Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Sweden and France.

“When we bring these teams over with our riders of the future, the most important part of that is to make sure our chances of success are great. They all came in and rode against these foreign, veteran teams with confidence,” said Ridland.

“We didn’t have a veteran this time and they acted like they were all veterans.” 

Eight nations contested the 1.60m Frank Rothenberger (GER) built test, with USA drawing the coveted last spot in the order.

As lead off rider, Dean set the standard with a clear on the 2013 Oldenburg mare Acota M. Oken and 2011 Dutch Warmblood mare Gelvera followed suit, jumping clear in their CSIO5* Nations Cup debut for the U.S.

Volpi and Berlinda dropped two rails to be the drop score in round one after anchor Cook, aboard his proven 5* Grand Prix winner Kalinka van’t Zorgvliet, nudged a single rail to add four faults to the team total.

Tied with the Netherlands on four faults, the Americans were in second place heading into the second round. Switzerland led on first-round score of zero.

In round two, Dean kept the pressure on Switzerland with a second clear. Only six other combinations managed the feat on the day: Steve Guerdat (SUI) and Dynamix de Belheme, Martin Fuchs (SUI) and Conner Jei, Harry Charles (GBR) and Casquo Blue, Kars Bonhof (NED) and Hernandez TN, Emanuele Camilli (ITL) and Odense Odeveld, and Kevin Staut (FRA) and Dialou Blue PS.

With Oken and Volpi catching a single rail each, Cook did what an anchor rider is meant to do and delivered a clear to keep the Americans on eight and tied with Great Britain. Their slower team time ultimately relegated USA to third.

“We’re proud of their effort,” said Ridland. “To bring a team over here without a veteran and to get experience and a podium finish, that’s what we do it for. We had Switzerland in our sights the whole time.”

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