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Spectators were treated to the first of the 13 Western European Leagues – one of the most competitive leagues in the series. Daniel Deusser and Cornet came away with first place and maximum points, followed very closely by Kevin Staut in second and Edwina Tops-Alexander in third.
Thirty-eight riders were representing 17 different nations in Oslo, all vying for their spot in Paris for April 2018 at the World Cup Finals. The jump-off was a real treat to watch with each new rider digging deeper than we thought possible and really setting the scene for an incredible season of competition.
The indoor arena that many of us would agree was on the smaller side of things presented riders and horses with a real challenge in a course that rode very tight, full of twists, turns and bending lines galore. Douglas Lindelow was the first to go clear with a calm and composed round.
William Funnel opted to retire as his younger horse and save him for another day as he seemed to just slightly lack the experience needed for a competition at this level. Spain’s Manuel Fernandez Saro followed William Funnel and made the same decision. British hopes were later dashed further when Michael Whitaker looked to have gone clear and put himself into the jump off, but he was a little bit behind the pace with one time fault which slotted him neatly into 8th place when everything was done and dusted. Instead, they’d have to put their support behind the two Irish riders Mark McAuley and Bertram Allen who both got around with zero penalties.
Daniel Deusser and crowd favourite Cornet put up the fifth clear of the day, as everyone was hoping, and was joined by European Champion Peder Fredricson and H&M Christian K, as well as Kevin Staut and Edwina Tops-Alexander. Romain Duguet riding for Switzerland came in last, and as last season’s runner up he was looking to stake his claim to the title early on and establish himself as a force to be reckoned with. Unfortunately, one pole put him out of the running for points this qualifier.
As the first clear of the day, Douglas Lindelow and Zacramento were first to tackle the jump off with a clear in 39.27 seconds and a heartstopping moment as one pole was tapped, rattled and then luckily stayed on the rails! The gauntlet had been laid down for the next six riders and boy, did they rise to the occasion.
Mark McAuley had four faults as his horse spooked coming round the corner in front of a large oxer and just lacked the impulsion to get over cleanly. Edwina Tops-Alexander and California rode a positive and very forward round to shoot into the lead on 38.22 with four horses left to go. It seemed at this stage that the time would be very hard to beat with the small arena giving very limited chances to cut corners and shave off seconds but former world number one Kevin Staut and his very careful, scopey gelding For Joy Van't Zorgvliet achieved the impossible and posted yet another clear in a time of 36.96. Daniel Deusser and the wonderful Cornet went around looking far less rushed – but were deceptively fast with a time of 36.83.
The last to go of the seven riders in the jump off was young Bertram Allen and Izzy by Picobello. You could hear a pin drop in the arena as he started his jump off round, but a tight turn to the oxer meant he finished with four faults and a time of 37.50. His time put him into 6th, with Peder Fredricson in 4th, Douglas Lindelow in 5th and fellow Irishman Mark McAuley rounding up the jump-off competitors in 7th.
Text by Sophie Baker
Images by Mette Sattrup