The Canadian Show Jumping Team comprised of Tiffany Foster of North Vancouver, BC, Ian Millar of Perth, ON, Chris Surbey of Calgary, AB, and Keean White of Rockwood, ON, finished second in the $100,000 FEI Nations’ Cup held Friday, June 2, at Thunderbird Show Park in Langley, BC, and qualified for the FEI Nations’ Cup Final in Barcelona, ESP.
The FEI Nations’ Cup acted as the third and final qualifier for the North American, Central American and Caribbean League, with the top two teams in the standings advancing to the FEI Nations’ Cup Final in Barcelona, ESP, from September 29 to October 1, 2017. It was a tight race to the end, but when the points were calculated, the United States and Canada earned their starting spots with scores of 280 and 250 respectively. Mexico, also in the hunt, finished third with 240 points.
In addition to the three countries chasing points for the Final, Ireland also fielded a team in the $100,000 FEI Nations’ Cup in Langley, as did a second non-points team for Mexico. At the end of the first round, the United States was at the top of the leaderboard with four faults while Canada was in second position with 14 faults, ahead of the Mexico I team with 18 faults, Ireland with 22 faults, and Mexico II trailing on 39 faults. Mexico II opted not to return for the second round, leaving four teams to battle it out for victory.
Team Canada returned with its sights set firmly on improving its first round performance and earning a ticket to the Final. Foster, 32, had jumped clear in the first round but exceeded the tight time allowed of 77 seconds to pick up a single time fault over the course designed by Canada’s Peter Holmes. She would make no such mistake the second time out with Brighton, leaving all the rails in place and racing through the timers for a clear performance.
“I was a little worried because it was his first Nations’ Cup and I didn’t know how he would handle a track like that; it was a proper 1.60m course and he really rose to the occasion,” said Foster of Brighton, an 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Contender II x Quick Star) owned by Artisan Farms LLC and Torrey Pines Stable.
In next for Canada, Surbey, 30, improved on his five-fault performance in the opening round to jump clear, putting another score of zero on the Canadian team score sheet riding Chalacorada, a 15-year-old Holsteiner mare (Chalan x Corrado I) owned by Linda Southern Heathcott and Spruce Meadows Ltd.
White, 34, incurred eight faults plus one time fault in the opening round riding For Freedom Z, a 12-year-old Zangersheide gelding (For Pleasure x Baloubet du Rouet) owned by Angelstone Partners. The pair kept it to one rail in the second round but were still caught by the clock, picking up a total of five faults which would again prove to be the drop score, as only the best three scores for each team are counted.
With the United States beginning to falter, anchor rider Millar, 70, turned up the heat by producing a faultless second round performance riding Dixson. The pair had incurred eight faults the first time out, but the ten-time Canadian Olympian was cool under pressure, producing an age-defying performance riding Dixson, a 14-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding (Vigo d’Arsouilles x Olisco) owned by Susan Grange and her daughter, Ariel Grange.
With Canada’s final score confirmed at 14 faults, it was all up to U.S anchor rider Margie Goldstein-Engle. Like Millar, the veteran rider kept her cool despite having one rail down with Royce, keeping America’s all-female team total to 13 faults for the win. Ireland finished in third position with a team total of 25 faults aided by the only double-clear performance of the day from 22-year-old Daniel Coyle riding Cita. Mexico I finished fourth with 32 faults, leaving them out of the running for a ticket to the Barcelona Final.
“We rallied in the second round; we have a great team vibe and that really pulled us through!” said Foster, whose family was in attendance to cheer her on. “Everyone rode great, and ‘Captain’, Ian Millar, always pulls through for us when we need him to. The Nations’ Cup Final in Barcelona is something that we aimed for this year with it being a non-games year, and it’s great that we were able to get the job done and qualify.”
Competing at Thunderbird Show Park is somewhat of a homecoming for Foster, as she spent her teenage years training with and eventually working for Laura and Brent Balisky’s Thunderbird Show Stables.
“They do a great job here at Thunderbird and give a lot of importance to the Nations’ Cup,” said Foster of the organizing committee headed by Jane Tidball. “They really pull out all the stops and run a fantastic event, and the crowd is unbelievable and gets behind everyone. Peter Holmes did a great job with the course. It really couldn’t have been any better, unless we had won!”
Foster had the added challenge of riding Brighton in the horse’s Nations’ Cup debut. Having made her first appearance on the Canadian Show Jumping Team in 2011, Foster has since ridden in Nations’ Cup competition a total of 34 times riding six different horses owned by Artisan Farms LLC, including at the 2012 London and 2016 Rio Olympic Games as well as the 2015 Pan American Games where she was a member of the gold medal team.
“I am very proud to be able to put Brighton’s name on the list of Artisan-owned horses that have competed for Canada,” said Foster, acknowledging Andy and Carlene Ziegler of Artisan Farms LLC who support both her as well as Olympic gold, silver and bronze medalist, Eric Lamaze. “They have been so supportive of Eric and myself, and I think that’s something that is really important to recognize.”
Canadian Show Jumping Team chef d’equipe Mark Laskin of Langley, BC, summed up his team’s performance by saying, “With this year being a non-championship year, our primary goal as a team was to qualify for the FEI Nations’ Cup Final, so it was an awesome day for us as we were able to accomplish that objective. The first round didn’t go quite as well as we had hoped, however, everyone rallied in the second round and we made a real run at the Americans, almost catching them and making it a close and very exciting class. Barcelona, here we come!”