Canada’s young riders team debut at a European Nations’ Cup during the FEI Jumping Nations Cup Youth Finals was a success for the group of athlete combinations that up until last week weren’t even sure they were going to make it to the Netherlands.

The four NextGen riders of Eric Krawitt, Sara Tindale, Lauren Esdale and Sam Walker with their partners came out of Thursday’s Young Riders first competition in ninth place and in the format of the event, were able to compete again on Friday in the Challenge Cup to finish the event in seventh overall and secure a big win for the team.

Chef d’équipe Dayton Gorsline was complimentary of the group of youth who came together to overcome some of the hiccups they experienced getting to the Peelbergen Equestrian Centre, one of the biggest equestrian sport facilities in Europe.

“It’s a big undertaking to get to Europe. We’ve qualified before but haven’t been able to logistically pull it together. We did this time, but then we almost didn’t make it,” said Gorsline. “We were supposed to leave on Wednesday and got out on Sunday. There were cargo and shipping delays with the airline. They had no time to settle in and had to move right into competition.”

Eric Krawitt and Cactus de Cosniere placed 5th in the Young Riders Grand Prix. (Sportfot)

Canada’s young riders haven’t competed in the Nations Cup events in Europe in recent memory. Gorsline believes it’s an important step in the development of our up-and-coming athletes to experience the differences overseas. “It’s a different world over here. Much busier and everything just moves faster at these events – the warm-up, the in-gate, everything – it’s all done on a tight schedule with no extra time.”

Individually, two of the riders placed in the top ten during Thursday’s CSIO Young Riders Grand Prix. Krawitt, riding his own 2012 Selle Francais gelding Cactus de Cosniere, came in 5th overall, jumping clean in the first round and although having the fastest second round took a rail for 4 jumping penalties. Also jumping clean in the first round of the Bemer Young Riders Tour Prix was Esdale riding Viamdios d’Avril, the 2009 Selle Francais gelding owned by Pauline Esdale. Like Krawitt, took just 4 jumping penalties in the second round but with a longer time placed her in 6th overall out of 48 young riders who took to the ring.

The Challenge Cup gave the team an opportunity to compete again together on Friday. In addition to Krawitt and Esdale and their same partners for the cup, Tindale jumped clean with Elco Van Hof Ter Naillen, the 2010 Belgian Sport Horse owned by Tindale Farms in the first round and Walker also took zero penalties with Evita, the 2009 Dutch Warmblood mare owned by Marbill Hill Farm.

With only four jumping penalties moving into the second round and strong time scores, the Canadians were able to secure first place with only adding one dropped rail to the final score of 8 and total time of 109.54. With a narrow time margin, Italy took second place and Denmark third.

With this great experience, Gorsline feels they have plenty to be proud of and to take away. “The experience of this event really is number one,” he said. “With 13 countries competing, everyone has their own style and process, whereas competing in North America, it tends to be more similar. This is a whole different experience. Show jumping is show jumping, but they performed well with tight time limits, technical jumps, and overall very high standards.”

With 650 young riders competing on the grounds, the Canadians now have a taste of European Nations’ Cup competition and don’t think it will be the last. “We’d like to do it again. With the parents and owners, and other supports; if we can organize to do this again, we will try to come early and catch a competition beforehand – a show before or after. They got a lot out of this, and we’re building the NextGen, we hope this can continue to be a part of that.”