When Team Mexico won the FEI Nations Cup in Dublin last summer, it was dubbed a Cinderella story, a historic rise of the underdog team. But last weekend at the Palm Beach Masters Series, they showed the world that day in Dublin wasn't a fluke. With the drive and fervor of a team looking to prove their worth, Mexico collected its second set of team gold medals, winning the $290,000 CSIO5* Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ of the United States of America in Wellington, Fla.
The first leg of the series and the only qualifier in the U.S. for the 2019 Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ Final in Barcelona, Spain, showcased a host of experienced players in the hunt, but the up-and-comers truly stunned. Mexico and Israel, another new team making waves on the world stage, battled it out in the jump-off to claim the top two positions on the podium. Team USA finished in third place.
“Coming up from our team’s win in Dublin, we knew that we had a good team – a great team – great riders and great horses,” said Eugenio Garza Perez, who rode on the team in Dublin and at the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games™ (WEG). “These three riders are amazing. They ride much more than their age, and we really pulled together and pulled out the win.”
Juan Jose Zendejas Salgado.
Team Mexico, made up of Eugenio riding Victer Finn DH Z, Fernando Martinez Sommer aboard Cor Bakker, Juan Jose Zendejas Salgado with Tino La Chapelle, and Manuel Gonzalez Dufrane on Hortensia van de Leeuwerk (mind you, all of these riders are under the age of 30) led from from the start of the competition, with a first round score of zero.
In the third and final round, the jump-off, Mexico could afford a single rail from Manuel, the last Mexican rider to negotiate Alan Wade’s testing course. Dialed in under pressure, he left every rail in the cups to secure gold for his country. Not bad for a Nations Cup newcomer!
“It feels amazing. This is my first Nations Cup, so it is just unbelievable for me,” Manuel said. “I tried to focus and keep calm, and everything went well. I know my mare quite well, but today [my team] gave me advice that made me jump even better and become more connected.”
Eugenio Garza Perez.
What is especially exciting for the Mexican team is that the young guns and the older, more experienced riders are able to help each other. Both the WEG team and Dublin Nations Cup team were a mix of older and younger riders. Having the younger generation teamed up in Wellington paid off in a big way and undoubtedly bolsters the team’s reliability regardless of structure.
Chef d'Équipe Stanny Van Paesschen told NoelleFloyd.com that having a younger set of up-and-coming riders is critical to ensuring the longevity of the team. He acknowledged the risk of putting less experienced riders in the spotlight, but said developing the depth of the team was his goal since taking on his position in early 2017.
“We always need fresh riders,” Stanny said. “That doesn’t mean the older ones don’t exist. We use them, but we still need to bring new ones on to the team or the team is finished after a couple of years [when horses or riders retire].”
Team Mexico now forges ahead with renewed confidence in themselves and their budding team. “[This] result is testament to the quality of the next generation of young Mexican riders,” Eugenio said. “There’s an Olympic place on offer in Barcelona, and we intend to take it!”
See full results from the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ of the United States of America here.
Photos by FEI/Shannon Brinkman.
Written by Hossein Maleki
Having grown up on horseback, Leslie Threlkeld, Managing Editor at NOËLLE FLOYD, treasures her career in the equestrian industry as a writer, photographer, and eventing technical delegate. Leslie thrives on frequent travel but never tires of returning home to the serene mountains of North Carolina.