Sentower Park at Opglabbeek (BEL) was the site for the FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ Youth Final on Sunday, where young athletes competed in four classes following a season of 10 legs across Europe beginning in March. Sweden, under the direction of chef d’equipe Hendrik Lanner, brought home the trophy in the Young Riders category, ending the day on zero penalty points. Denmark and Belgium joined them at the prize giving, earning the second and third positions.

Following the Juniors competition, capped with a thrilling jump off, Team Netherlands were the winners, with Team Ireland taking the second place and the USA — the North American champions — the third. The Dutch had another chance to hear their national anthem in the Ashford Arena when their athletes also won the Children’s class ahead of second-place Belgium and Italy in third. Ireland had their moment in the Ponies class, a triumph for them after leading the standings at the end of the season. It was the Dutch team and Great Britain at the awards ceremony with them to close out the series for the year.

The FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ Youth series has been growing steadily, with more than 20 countries participating in the Children’s and Juniors classes this year. The Opglabbeek event was a solid test for 2024, when they will host the FEI European Championships for Ponies in Jumping and Dressage.

A qualifier on Thursday whittled down the field in each class to just six teams, and the scoring started from zero, except for Ponies, where all seven federations competed and carried forward their faults from earlier in the week.

Team Ireland rode sixth out of the seven entries and finished on a clean sheet. They brought forward 4 faults from Day 1 to Belgium’s zero, but with Belgium’s final competitor Robin Vermeir picking up 12 points aboard Kristal Sparkle Van Begeveld, no jump off ensued, and the Netherlands and Great Britain advanced to the podium.

“There’s no secret,” said Marshall of how they handled the course designed by Rafael Suarez (GBR). “Success breeds success.” He added: “We have a team system at home,” referring to a committed investment to training in Ponies competition.

In the Children’s class, the Dutch team knew after their fourth combo, Faye Louise Vos and Monica LH, went clear that they’d won on no penalty points. Liv Linssen (Cini W Z) and Nina Houtzager (Chaccotana) already had clear rides, with Stella Heijligers (Go GO) sitting on 4 points.

Dutch chef d’equipe Edwin Hoogenraat remarked on how strong the training program has been throughout the year in the Netherlands. When asked which other team might also take gold, the athletes unanimously agreed it would be the Juniors.

That prediction turned out to be true, but not without a battle first. With both Ireland and the Netherlands having 8 points each, a jump off would have to determine the winner. All four team members rode: Thijmen Vos (Ive Got The Key), Emma Bocken (Kadessa Z), Wesley de Boer (Kaphira), and Nick Nanning (Bandia). With only 4 penalties to Ireland’s 8, the top prize went to the Dutch, whose team leader credited their consistent training for their victory.

The course created for the Young Riders by Suarez had to be completed in 72 seconds, and though many duos found themselves saddled with time faults, a handful proved the track could be ridden clear within the time. The pressure was on Mathilda Bohlin with Domino van de Zuuthoeve, who secured the win for Sweden.

“I like being the last rider — I like the pressure,” said Bohlin. “It was fun to deliver the round so we could have this win together.”

“They’re all really good riders and good friends,” said Lanner of his athletes. “They make a good team together,” he commented of Bohlin, Beata Hermelin (Obsession Night), Emma Stadling (Calleth You Cometh I), Philip Svitzer (Alida Nike), and Kajsa Björe (Lincourt Luidam).

In the Ponies class on Sunday’s finale, Belgium and Germany, who were in the top three prior to Opglabbeek, struggled to keep the penalty points down, ending their season in fourth and sixth, respectively, with Team Sweden in fifth.

In the Children’s competition, France finished just one penalty behind third-place Italy, with Ireland and Switzerland taking fifth and sixth. Behind fourth-place Germany in the Juniors, Sweden and Denmark rounded out the top six. The USA worked hard to top the home nation in the Young Riders class, but ended the afternoon 1 point above Belgium to settle for fourth place. France were a point behind the Americans in fifth, with Great Britain finishing sixth.

Whilst the FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ Youth series has wrapped up for another year, there’s more action to come with the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ Final for Seniors at Barcelona (ESP) at the end of this month. It will be a particularly electrifying competition, as not only are Team Belgium defending their title from last year, but a berth to the 2024 Paris Olympic Games is on offer for those who have not yet qualified.

FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ Youth Final results here.