The United States Equestrian Team won the $10,000 Prix Des Nations Cup competition for international jumpers last night at the Washington International Horse Show at Capital Centre.

The team of Katie Monahan (Upperville, Va.) on Noren, Norman Dello Joio (South Salem, N.Y.) on I Love You, Donald Cheska (Waukesha, Wis.) on Southside and Melanie Smith (Litchfield, Conn.) aboard Calypso finished with four faults after two rounds of competition.

Going into the finals the U.S. team was tied at zero faults with France. But the French team fell apart in the second round and finished third with 16 1/4 faults. Canada brought eight faults to the final round and finished that way after that team put together a faultless score in the final stages.

The victory marked the ninth time in 10 years that the U.S. team has won. Only in 1978 did they lose it, to Canada, in what is considered one of the most prestigious events in international competition.

"The rider feels that the competition is different," said Chrystine W. Jones, team coach and former rider who won the same event "many years ago. It (riding and winning) is not just for yourself. The rider feels completely different. The pressure is on."

"It sounds corny, but it's true," said Smith, who did not have to come back for the second round when it became evident that the U.S. victory was inevitable.

"Tonight was very hard on the horses," said Monahan, who was one of two riders to put in back-to-back clear rounds. "It's very cold outside in the stabling area and then the horses come inside and get sweaty and then they have to go outside and cool off again."

Monahan now stands in first place with points in the international rider championship this week after she won the opening event Sunday night and took third place Monday night.

She has described this season as "my best ever," and is now in first place on the American Grand Prix Association leading rider chart. Her total winnings are listed at $45,433.