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Nations’ Cup First Round

November 1, 1997

NEW YORK (AP) _ McLain Ward gave in to his headstrong horse and ended up with a clean second round that guided the U.S. Equestrian Team to victory Friday in the Nations’ Cup in the 114th annual National Horse Show.

Margie Goldstein-Engle and Leslie Burr-Howard rode flawlessly in the first round to put the USET well ahead of Germany, Canada and Switzerland, which had to rely on three riders when Stefan Lauber withdrew in consideration of his horse, Pernod S.

Ward wrestled with his mount, Omnibus, through the first round, narrowly escaping with only one rail down as the horse repeatedly pitched his head forward and down.

It was a familiar problem, Ward said: ``He’s a little bit strong. I’ve had him four years and I deal with it as best I can.″

How did he deal with it in the second?

``I just stopped pulling,″ he said. ``The first round I was trying to get control of him; the second round, I just let him go.″

Omnibus answered with speed as well as accuracy _ their ride, at 68 seconds, was faster than any other.

``I used to be a very, very slow rider. I was always getting time faults,″ Ward said with a smile. ``They kept yelling at me and yelling at me over the last couple of years and now every time I go in the ring, I have the fastest time. I don’t know if that’s good or bad.″

Ward and his teammates were the only riders to run cleanly except for Switzerland’s Urs Fah, who beat the course on Jeremia at the end of the second round, too late to help his team.

Burr-Howard followed up her clear first round with only one knockdown in the second. Goldstein-Engle, scheduled to ride last in the second round, withdrew as the USET already had a winning score. The fourth team member, Beezie Patton, had one knockdown in the first and two in the second.

It was the second time Burr-Howard has ridden Ulane du Plessis in a Nations’ Cup. The two had a double-clear performance this summer to lead the USET to victory in Rotterdam on the way to winning the Samsung Nations’ Cup Series that ended in September.

``It was a nice course, very careful. It suited my mare very well. ... She has a tiny stride; I thought she jumped it well,″ said Burr-Howard, a member of the 1984 Olympic gold medal-winning USET. ``You couldn’t just go blasting down there and expect to jump it clear. You had to jump it a little bit backwards.″

The USET ended with 16 total faults, followed by Canada with 32.25, Germany with 32.5 and Switzerland with 50.25.

Swiss chef d’equipe Charles Barrelet said it wasn’t clear what was wrong with Pernod S, who ran roughshod through the first round, prompting Lauber to withdraw midway through and drop out of the second round altogether.

In the overall standings for the National, the country’s premier indoor show, the USET was in the lead after Friday’s events with 48 points. Canada followed with 45, Germany with 43 and Switzerland with 27.

The show concludes with the $50,000 Budweiser Grand Prix on Saturday evening.

In a new class in the National, Holly Hayes and Overdressed showed impeccable style and form to win the $30,000 Grand Championship Hunter Classic, now the richest hunter event in the United States.

Hunt seat jumping differs from show jumping in that horse and rider are judged on the correctness of their form over fences, not speed. The course is meant to mimic obstacles that might be met in the field during a hunt.

Aside from knockdowns or refusals, competitors can be faulted for a number of variables including taking off too close to a jump or drifting away from the center on approach.

While hunter events easily make up the majority of English equine competitions in the United States, none is included in the Olympics and the discipline doesn’t get the attention of its flashier counterparts.

National president Alan Balch said the classic was added to the show this year to promote the sport and is intended to be an annual event.

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