"It is always exciting to ride in Aachen and to ride in the Nations Cup is something even more special. Big crowds, under the lights, great atmosphere. In particular this year wit the Olympics coming up, it has been very important for us American riders to get in the groove as a team. We obviously wanted to win the Nations Cup, but my goal was mostly to prepare as much as possible for Rio. I think I feel more comfortable going into the Olympics now that Barron and I were able to keep our calm under such pressurized situations again and Barron responding so well to the environment. We finished second, but I think we gave the Germans a run for their money, as we Americans like to say. It got really close and I can only be glad for the crowd that is was a night full of good sport and for the crowd it probably was also better that the Germans won it.
Barron jumped double clear in the Nations Cup two years ago and he repeated it this year again, so I think I can say this sort of arenas and venues suit him very well. For me it was a good course Thursday with big jumps. With a horse like Barron you can put the jumps on any size and he still has no problems jumping them. The course was full of long, unrelated distances in between the fences and since he has a huge stride, he likes that very much. I could kind of let him gallop an be loose and free, so he is more relaxed and everything goes much smoother and he starts to jump even better! I am hoping Sunday will be like that as well.
Since my trainer Markus Beerbaum is German, I was joking a bit saying we were going to fight until the death in the Nations Cup. But he really helped me to deliver these results here in Aachen again. I have been training on and off with him for six years now, so he exactly knows when to get me fired up and when to leave me in my zone. Especially at this venue in Aachen, Markus and Meredith can be very helpful. They have ridden in Aachen so many times and they know what it takes to deliver a clear round here. Markus does not only help me how to ride the courses, but also how to deal with the whole environment and the mental aspect of pressure that comes along. They have done it all.
Although the main goal of Aachen is to prepare for the Olympics, I don't think you can ever discount Aachen as a warm-up show or a stepping stone. Aachen is pretty much the highlight of the year and this year we luckily have another highlight at the end. The goal was to be fresh for Aachen and be fresh for Rio as well. Like I said before, the Nations Cup gave me a lot of confidence going into the Games next month. If you can jump clear in Aachen, you can probably jump clear anywhere.
I am a great believer of team spirit and comradery and the four that will ride in Rio will be the same four as in Caen two years ago. I think in such pressurized situations at the highest level of the sport, every sort of positive experience that you have been through together helps! Maybe it is even better that we finished second this week, so we are even hungrier for Rio.
Barron and I are both two years older and more experienced than we were back in Caen in 2014 and our Chef d'Equipe Robert Ridland told me earlier this week that I am no longer the rookie of the team. That is very nice to hear and it gives you much more confidence going into the ring. But I am still young and it is very helpful to feel the support of Markus and Meredith and my fellow American riders when entering the arena.
For Barron and me it all worked out in the Nations Cup in Aachen. It does not always work out like this, but I really appreciate the times that it does. Hopefully we will be able to deliver a counting result for the team in Rio as well next month!"
As told to World of Showjumping by Lucy Davis // Picture © Jenny Abrahamsson
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