Ben Maher and Tripple X III will compete for Team GBR at Hickstead on Friday. Photo by Céleste Wilkins

Ben Maher and Tripple X III will compete for Team GBR at Hickstead on Friday. Photo by Céleste Wilkins

Two critical Nations Cup tournaments will be held on Friday, at Hickstead (UK) and Bratislava. Do you know where your country stands in the standings? Should we care? The answer is YEAH! The Nations Cup competitions so far have proven to be some of the most exciting show jumping that has been seen in the last few years!

Earlier this year the FEI Nations Cup series acquired a dramatic facelift that has changed the dynamic of the series irrevocably. The tour received a significant influx of capital, 16 million euros over 4 years, from the Saudi Equestrian Fund under the name Furusiyya. The sponsorship package was a real coup for the FEI. In 2011, they reported a £824k loss as a result of sponsoring the series. The condition of sponsorship relied on the revitalisation of the Nations Cup format, moving it away from its primarily European-centered top table and allowing other up and coming nations the opportunity to compete at the final.

The new format divides the world into six regions with 37 nations competing: two European regions; North America, Central America and the Caribbean Islands; South America; the Middle East; Asia/Australasia and Africa. Nine teams from the European regions and two teams from the other regions qualify for the final in Barcelona in September. If Spain would not qualify they would automatically be eligible, making the total number teams competing in the final 19.

This format is good news for countries like Canada who were previously relegated to the Promotional League due to lack of European exposure. In some ways this may also raise the standard of horses and riders competing in Nations Cup performance, especially in the up and coming nations. It may also widen the ownership and sponsorship pool in equestrianism, bringing it further into the mainstream.

There are 22 Nations Cup competitions in as many countries this season. Nations pick up points towards the final at four designated competitions – the top four teams from the former top table (GB, IRL, GER, FRA) were allowed to choose which competitions they would count, with the other nations allocated competitions by the FEI. This initiative is meant to allow riders to balance the workload of their top horses in and amongst the plethora of other international competitions. It also allows nations to give younger riders exposure at events where they are not collecting points.

The final in Barcelona is rapidly approaching, making the next few competitions crucial. Thus far Canada, the USA, Brazil and Colombia have qualified from the Americas, Qatar and Saudi Arabia from the Middle East, Australia and Japan from Asia/Australasia, and Egypt from Africa.

So, who will qualify from Europe divisions 1 and 2?

Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum and Bella Donna went clear

Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum and Bella Donna in London 2012 – photo by Patricia

For division 1, the final two events at Dublin and Hickstead may have the power to shake the leader board significantly. Switzerland and the Netherlands have finished on 320 and 309 respectively, with the rest of the nation vying for points at one or both of these shows.

For instance, if Great Britain (currently on 143 points) were to win Hickstead and Dublin they would gain 200 points, pushing them into the lead as it now stands. It’s anyone’s game with great riders on all sides. I’m especially excited to see the German team with their all-star roster of Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, Ludger Beerbaum, Hans-Dieter Dreher, Marcus Ehning and Janne Freiderike Meyer.

In Europe Division 2, four competitions remain: Bratislava, Gijon, Arezzo and Kiev. Belgium sit at the top with 421, but all this could change with a large proportion of the teams to collect points in the latter stages of the series.

Although I will be at Hickstead, I think Bratislava could be a very interesting competition. Nine teams are going for points and this could change the leader board dramatically, although Belgium, having completed all of their qualifying competitions, is in a very strong position.

 Teams Going for Points at Hickstead (GBR):

Great Britain

Teams Going for Points at Bratislava (SVK):

Czech Republic

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