There’s still time to make plans to attend the Land Rover Great Meadow International presented by Adequan and the first ever FEI Nations Cup™ to be held outside Europe. This history-making event takes place at Great Meadow in The Plains, and it’s coming up fast: July 8-10.

This is a golden opportunity to see some of the best event horses and riders, including our Rio team. The roster of 40 accepted entries includes international and Olympic riders representing Australia, Canada, Great Britain, Puerto Rico, and USA. Teams from Canada, Great Britain, and USA are slated to compete in the Nations Cup™.

On June 20, the U.S. Equestrian Federation made the official announcement about the team for Rio (in alphabetical order): Philip Dutton (West Grove, Pa.) and Fernhill Cubalawn, Lauren Kieffer (Middleburg, Va.) and Veronica, Boyd Martin (Cochranville, Pa.) and Blackfoot Mystery, Clark Montgomery (Tetbury, England) and Loughan Glen.

Kieffer’a ticket to Rio began with a birthday gift of riding lessons when she was six. Another gift on the occasion of her high school graduation took her to Virginia for a week-long eventing camp, which led to Kieffer, 18, working for her ‘graduate equestrian degree’ with Olympians Karen and David O’Connor. After six years with the O’Connors, Kieffer went out on her own, but stayed in the area. She spends summers in The Plains and winters in Ocala, Florida.

Her career highlights include 2015 Team Gold medalist at the Pan American Games with Meadowbrook’s Scarlet, Team Bronze medalist in the 2015 Nations Cup™ in Aachen, Germany and the 2016 and 2014 Rolex/USEF CCI4* National Championships as top-placed U.S. Rider at Kentucky Rolex 3-Day Event – both with Veronica.

For many people who love horses, the Olympics are a dream, but the reality is dedication and hard work. As it says in the first line of her USEF biography: “With grit and grind, and plenty of support, Lauren Kieffer has risen to the top of the sport of eventing in the U.S.” It takes more than talent, and Kieffer’s very positive attitude and commitment are stronger than ever.

“It’s certainly an honor and one I’ve been working towards for a very long time,” said Kieffer. “There’s still a lot of work to get done between now and then. We’ll be busy preparing and trying to leave no stone unturned.”

As for Veronica, owned by Team Rebecca’s LLC, she isn’t into hugs, but that toughness helps to make her a terrific event horse. She’s known for making intimidating faces and noises, but everyone connected with her, especially Shannon Kingsley, Kieffer’s groom, absolutely love her. In fact, when Kieffer heard about her ticket to Rio, the first person she called was Kingsley, then her family and friends. 

After retiring from eventing, Karen O’Connor put Veronica into Kieffer’s hands where the feisty mare, comparatively small at 16 hands, has come into her own.

“She’s always been a mentally competitive horse and she’s always been strong in that way,” said Kieffer. “I think that over the years they get bigger and stronger in their body. She certainly has a lot of experience and a lot of mileage and she knows the game. That’s the biggest difference to now from two years ago – she’s gotten stronger and stronger in her own body.”

You can watch them in action in the GMI Nations Cup, July 8-10. The new state-of-the-art, million-dollar arena will be ready for action. In fact, it’s part of the world-class 3* cross-country course designed and built by Mike Etherington-Smith, known world-wide for great cross-country design, including two Olympic Games, nearly 20 years at Rolex Kentucky, and the 2010 World Equestrian Games. He has worked closely with David O’Connor, U.S. Eventing Chef d’Equipe, and Rob Banner, President of the Great Meadow Foundation, from the beginning of this quest to bring Nations Cup™ Eventing to the USA.

“Great Meadow is a venue with fantastic views, and the new arena has produced fantastic opportunities to expand the course and be inviting to both spectators and competitors,” said Etherington-Smith. “This event is a milestone for the U.S. with the Nations Cup™ and especially during an Olympic year.”

This year’s course, slightly bigger than last year, provides a superb stage for horses and riders. It will also reflect the technical questions faced by riders and horses on the international Olympic level 3-star course in Rio.

Get up your family, your friends, your co-workers. Come for one, two or all three days. On July 8, you’re invited to #FreeOnFriday (gates open at 1 p.m.). Check out the cross-country, shop at the Meadow Market; at 6 p.m. enjoy the Nations Cup Welcome Party (cash bar and food or purchase a VIP ticket) and Opening Ceremony, followed by the $2,000 Bareback Puisssance, an exciting high jump competition, sponsored by Morningside Training Farm.

On Saturday, dressage tests begin at 7:40 a.m. The Meadow Market is open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. The show jumping phase runs from 5 to 7 p.m. The VIP Dinner/Dance Party begins at 6. Sunday is the Cross Country, 9:30 to 11:30. Even if you’re attending General Admission, plan for an early arrival. If you purchased a cross-country tailgate parking space, heads up: you must be parked in your spot by 8:30 – no amount of sweet talking will get you on course if you miss the cut-off time. Awards will be presented at the new arena at noon.

Tickets are selling out, so make plans soon. General Admission One-Day Car Pass (up to 6 occupants) for $30/carload and the GA Two-Day Car Pass – $50 per car can be purchased at the gate (cash/checks only) or at the Corner Store. If you purchase tickets online too close to the GMI event for them to be mailed to you, they’ll be held at Will Call. Sold out: cross country tailgate spaces on the cross country course and all rail-side boxes. VIP Packages and VIP Blue Ribbon Individual Tickets are pre-purchase only.

For more information: www.greatmeadowinternational.com