Ben Asselin of Calgary, AB, Jaclyn Duff of Edmonton, AB, François Lamontagne of Saint Eustache, QC, and Chris Pratt of Cardiff, CA, formed the Canadian Show Jumping Team for the €200,000 Longines Nations’ Cup held Sunday, May 20, at CSIO5* La Baule, France.

Canada took on the best show jumping athletes in the world and posted a score of ten faults in the opening round of competition. Canada counted a single time fault posted by Duff, who otherwise had a foot perfect trip riding EH All or None over the track set in the expansive grass arena by French course designer Frederic Cottier. Lamontagne had a rail down at the oxer immediately following the open water and incurred one time fault for exceeding the snug 80-second time allowed, which proved to be influential with a total of nine riders failing to beat the clock the first time out. As the anchor rider, 24-year-old Asselin kept Canada in the hunt by coming home with four faults, having left the first element of the triple combination on the floor with Cool Feeling.

At the end of the first round, Brazil held the lead with two time faults followed by Spain and the Netherlands tied on four faults apiece. Germany, Ireland, and Switzerland all counted five faults, France sat on eight faults, and Canada was on 10.

Canada needed crucial clear rounds to make a comeback but, as the rails fell, so did the hopes of Canadian fans. Pratt, 49, had number six down after the water before dropping two elements of the triple combination riding Concorde, an 11-year-old chestnut Dutch Warmblood gelding (Vaillant x Concorde) owned by the Epic Group, LLC.

Duff, 31, was eliminated at the double combination set at fence three when her mount, EH All or None, a 12-year-old bay Hanoverian gelding (Abke x Grannus) owned by Windermere Stables Limited, took exception to the pair of liverpools.

Lamontagne, 34, was almost home when the penultimate fence, a bright yellow plank, fell for four faults with Chanel du Calvaire, his 10-year-old chestnut Belgian Sport Horse mare (Luccianno x Kashmir van Schuttershof).

Asselin could do little to improve Canada’s standing when he entered the ring aboard the 10-year-old Cool Feeling, a bay Rheinlander gelding (Cornado x Lancer II) owned by his family’s Attaché Stables. When the last two fences on course came down, Canada finished in eighth position with a two-round total of 34 faults.

“Honestly, I was not expecting us to win but to gain experience,” said Lamontagne, 34, who was Canada’s top performer despite only competing in the fourth Nations’ Cup event of his career. “I was trying to take all of the positives from the experience of stepping up with my mare. We still need experience and work to jump clear rounds at this level, as the mare and I haven’t jumped many courses like this in our lives. We are getting there, and she’s still young. She’s got a big heart and she’s always trying, so I can never complain.”

In a nail-biting finish, Brazil took its first victory in the Longines Nations’ Cup of La Baule when anchor rider Pedro Veniss turned in a textbook clear with his 2016 Rio Olympic mount, Quabri de l’Isle. A total of seven faults kept Brazil ahead of the Netherlands with eight faults and Switzerland on nine. Spain mounted valiant effort to place fourth in the final standings with 12 faults while Germany had 14. Ireland placed sixth with 17 faults while the home team of France counted 20 on the scoreboard. The number one rider in the world rankings, Dutchman Harrie Smolders, jumped double clear on Don VHP Z, as did Spain’s Manuel Fernandez Saro riding Cannavaro 9 and young German rider Maurice Tebbel aboard Chacco’s Son. The trio split the €50,000 bonus on offer this season to any horse-rider combination that jumps double clear in Longines Nations’ Cup competition.

“It’s important for us to attend these big European team events and expose our horses and riders to this calibre of international show jumping,” said Canadian Show Jumping Team chef d’equipe Mark Laskin, who was supported at CSIO5* La Baule by Karen Hendry-Ouellette, Equestrian Canada’s Manager of Jumping. “We are good when we compete in our comfort zone of North America, as proven with back-to-back wins in the first two North and Central America and Caribbean League qualifying events this season. We hope to make it three for three when we compete on Canadian soil in two weeks time, and today’s event in France gives us excellent preparation for what we will face in Barcelona at the Longines Nations’ Cup Final, as well as at the FEI World Equestrian Games in September.”

Canada currently leads the North and Central America and Caribbean League for the Longines Nations’ Cup Final to be held in Barcelona, Spain, from October 4 to 7, 2018. Having won the first two qualifying events, the $450,000 USD Longines Nations’ Cup at CSIO5* Ocala, FL, and the $5,690,000 MXN Longines Nations’ Cup in Coapexpan, Mexico, Canada tops the leaderboard heading into the third and final qualifying event at CSIO5* Langley, BC, at Thunderbird Show Park on Sunday, June 3. With a current total of 200 points followed by the United States with 165 points and Mexico with 135 points, Canada’s starting spot in Barcelona is all but guaranteed as the top two teams in the standings at the end of qualifying competition will be invited to contest the Longines Nations’ Cup Final.

Jonathon Millar of Perth, ON, and Keean White of Rockwood, ON, both members of the winning team in Mexico, will fly the Canadian flag in the $400,000 CAD Nations’ Cup at CSIO5* Langley. They will be joined by two-time Canadian Olympian Tiffany Foster of North Vancouver, BC, and 1984 World Cup Final winner, Mario Deslauriers, originally of Bromont ,QC. Langley’s own Laura-Jane Tidball, who was also a member of Canada’s winning team in Mexico in her Nations’ Cup debut, serves as the alternate.