“It’s really very surreal for me right now,” said Vanderveen, 28. “I’ve always wanted to go to World Cup Finals, and this was a little bit of a last minute decision to come here and see if I could do something special today and get in.”
It was a balmy day in Florida with blue skies yielding to occasional spots of rain as 24 riders assembled for the first round of the 27th annual Live Oak International. What an exciting year it’s been since this season’s race to Paris began in Bromont, Quebec at the former equestrian venue for the Montreal Olympic Games.
The Ocala event was no exception, as only three riders managed to jump clear in the first round, with the first fault-free run going to Vanderveen as the 16th competitor, who finished in a rapid 79.38 seconds.
Great Britain’s Kelvin Bywater put together a tough course comprised of 13 obstacles and 16 efforts, which riders needed to complete in a time allowed of 84 seconds. Several 1.6-metre verticals, a roll back, and a 1.6 metre-wide oxer at the finish had even the most seasoned jumpers accruing faults.
Bywater wanted to make his course fair to riders who were making their Longines FEI World Cup™ debuts, but it challenged competitors seeking points for the Final.
Brianne Goutal-Marteau of the USA also managed to go clear in the first round (81.26 seconds) aboard Viva Colombia and made it into the jump off, taking second place with another clear ride at 52.99 seconds.
Third place at Ocala was snagged by Switzerland’s Beat Mändli on Galan S. While he went clear in the first round (79.80 seconds), Mändli picked up two faults in the jump off, and finished with a time of 56.59 seconds and eight penalty faults - not enough to win but enough to get him to 53 points and a likely berth on his team at Paris.
The daunting course got the best of several riders; two wound up retiring, and two were eliminated, including the USA’s Chloe Reid, who fell after her horse Adamo got a little too much air at the double obstacle.