by Louise Parkes
It is the ultimate prize. It’s about pride and passion, camaraderie, tradition, trust, skill, exceptional horsemanship and so much more. Adored by the public, revered by all those involved in the sport, the FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping series has long been described as “the jewel in the crown” of the international governing body, the Fédération Equestre Internationale. And, just days ahead of the double-bill that will open the 108th season at Al Ain (UAE) and Ocala (USA) and there is already a crackle of excitement.
This is going to be a record-breaking season, with competitors from 50 nations stretching right around the globe competing in four separate qualifying leagues. There will be a total of 19 qualifiers in 19 countries, and the aim from the outset is to make it to the Final in Barcelona (ESP) in September. However many riders have already achieved more than they ever dreamed of before that comes around each year, having grasped the very essence of this superlative team contest that is all about bringing honour and glory to your country in a spirit of friendship, respect and sportsmanship.
Few have consistently demonstrated the sense of “team” better than the Dutch in recent years, but it is Germany who will be the FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping title-defenders throughout 2017. The story of the German victory at the Final last autumn was very special, the legendary Ludger Beerbaum making his last team appearance for his country and his fellow-riders so determined to make it a winning one for the four-time Olympic gold medallist. And win it they did, and in true style with a jump-off against the clock to pin the British back in second.
The biggest qualifying league is Europe Division 2 with 19 nations including Belgium, Great Britain and Czech Republic who were all relegated at the end of last year. The promotion/relegation system ensures that competition in Europe Division 1 is all the sharper, and Italy’s resurgence as a world power when returning to this top league last year is indicative of what the FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping series sets out to achieve by providing the perfect platform for development of horses, riders and team-work.
The French had all those ingredients, and more, when claiming Olympic gold in Rio last summer and with their formidable record can be expected to be ones to beat this season. However, it is the North America, South America and Caribbean and Middle East Leagues that get the action underway when the new season explodes into action in three days’ time.
FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping - Simply the Best…..don’t miss a hoofbeat!
Facts and Figures:
The FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping series celebrates 108 years of team competition in 2017.
The forthcoming season comprises 19 qualifiers in as many countries.
A total of 50 nations will compete in the qualifying rounds.
The defending FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping champions are Team Germany.
Qualifying events will take place in Europe Division 1 & Europe Division 2, North America and the Middle East. Qualification of teams from South America, Africa and Asia/Australasia will be established through the Longines Rankings.
There will be eight qualifying legs in Europe Division 1 and seven in Europe Division 2, three in North America and a single event in the Middle East.
The FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping Final will once again take place at the Real Club de Polo in Barcelona (ESP), venue for the Jumping events during the Barcelona Olympic Games in 1992.
A total of 18 teams, plus the home team if not qualified, will compete at the Final which will take place from 29 September to 1 October 2017.
A total of 10 nations will compete at the season-opener which takes place in Al Ain (UAE) on Thursday 16 February 2017. Only Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates will be competing for qualifying points at this event.
A total of seven nations will compete at the second leg which takes place the following day, Friday 17 February 2017, in Ocala (USA). Only Canada, El Salvador, Mexico and USA will be competing for qualifying points at this event.
The 8 teams qualified for Europe Division 1 this season are France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
Watchmakers, Longines, are the official timekeepers for the FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping series.