The FEI World Cup™ Jumping series celebrates its 38th season as the 2015/2016 Longines-sponsored Western European League gets underway in Oslo (NOR) this weekend. The race for this title is always guaranteed to produce the best of top-quality sport, and reigning Olympic champion, Steve Guerdat, was only the third Swiss rider to claim the treasured trophy when victorious at the thrilling 2014/2015 Longines Final in Las Vegas (USA) last April.
One of the reasons the world’s leading competitors want to hold this coveted award in their hands is because it places their names amongst the legends of the sport. The list of champions includes so many of the greatest horse-and-rider partnerships of all time, including back-to-back winners Ian Millar and Big Ben from Canada and John Whitaker and Milton from Great Britain. Both of these men were riding horses of exceptional ability and enormous character, and their relationships with their equine buddies has been an inspiration to the generations who have attempted to follow in their revered footsteps.
Holds the Record
There are four riders who have claimed the FEI World Cup™ Jumping title on three occasions, and Brazil’s Rodrigo Pessoa holds the record for a consecutive hat-trick of wins, all achieved with the same stallion, the brilliant Baloubet du Rouet, who proved unbeatable from 1997 until 1999. Austria’s Hugo Simon, who remains very active in the sport today, was the first champion back in 1979 with Gladstone, and added two more titles with ET FRH in 1996 and 1997.
American riders, who dominated the series in the early years, have made a significant comeback in recent times, but the two remaining three-time champions, Germany’s Marcus Ehning and Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, will undoubtedly be challenging throughout the qualifying rounds ahead of the 2015/2016 Final which returns to Gothenburg in Sweden for the 14th time.
A total of 15 Leagues are taking place across the globe, stretching from Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South East and Central Asia and China, across North and South America, the Middle East and on to Caucasia and Central and Western Europe. In all, 108 qualifying events will have been staged before the 2016 Final begins at Gothenburg’s Scandinavium Arena on 23 March next year.
It’s a rapid-fire affair in this season’s Western European League, with eight of the 11 qualifying legs taking place over the next 10 weeks, beginning with the opener in Oslo on Sunday 18 October.
It was Dutchman Jur Vrieling, on a roll with VDL Zirocco Blue following The Netherlands’ domination at both the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2014 in Normandy (FRA) and the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping 2014 Final in Barcelona (ESP), who claimed the honours at the Norwegian fixture 12 months ago when he pinned Germany’s Marco Kutscher and Cornet’s Cristallo into runner-up spot.
The early rounds of this series tend to attract a world-class field of starters attempting to rack up points in order to avoid the intense pressure of chasing qualification later in the season, and the defending champion, Steve Guerdat, did just that last year when finishing third in Oslo with his Olympic gold medal winning ride, Nino des Buissonnets. Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum took fourth spot on that occasion with the fabulous grey Fibonacci who, a year later, is considerably more experienced and one of the most exciting horses in the sport right now.
Jur Vrieling is back on the Oslo startlist again this year, and it really is a sparkling line-up with world number one Scott Brash joined by his British counterparts Joe Clee and Jessica Mendoza, who did a great job to secure runner-up spot for their country at the 2015 Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping Final in Spain at the end of last month. Guerdat will be there again, hoping to collect more of those valuable points that put him on the road to success last season, and with Patrice Delaveau, Simon Delestre, Penelope Leprevost and Kevin Staut lining out for France, and Ludger Beerbaum, Marcus Ehning, Hans Dieter Dreher and 2014 champion Daniel Deusser in action for Germany, it looks set to be a rip-roaring opening competition.
The League continues with the second leg in Helsinki (FIN) on 25 October followed by Lyon (FRA), Verona (ITA), Stuttgart (GER) and Madrid (ESP) in November, and London Olympia (GBR) and Mechelen (BEL) in December. Leipzig (GER) gets the New Year off to a start and then there are only two further legs remaining, at Zurich (SUI) later in January and Bordeaux (FRA) in early February 2016.
The FEI World Cup™ Jumping series has produced many of the greatest talents ever seen in the sport, and the Western European League has been the breeding ground of legends. With the dawning of another Olympic year only a few short months away, there is great anticipation of exceptional sport over the coming months as skill, accuracy, courage and stamina are tested in the demanding confines of Europe’s finest indoor arenas.