The Swiss watch brand Longines places great value on history and tradition, so title partnership of the FEI World Cup™ Jumping Western European League series fits like an elegant glove. This is a company with a connection to equestrian sport that dates back over 130 years and which, in December 2012, committed to a long-term, record-breaking deal as Top Partner, and Official Timekeeping Partner, to the international governing body, the FEI.
The Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping series is a core component of the international equestrian sports calendar and is hugely popular with competitors and public alike. Riders from 16 leagues around the globe battle it out for a place at the annual final, which this season takes place in Lyon, France from 20 to 24 March 2014. And across Western Europe in particular, the series is followed with intense interest as the best riders chase down one of the limited number of qualifying spots.
Excitement Already Building
The 2013/2014 Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Western European League gets underway at Oslo in Norway in four days time on Sunday, 13 October and visits 11 prestigious venues before culminating at the thrilling French final. After the first round in Norway it moves to Helsinki (FIN), then on to Verona (ITA) and Stuttgart (GER) during the month of November. The Christmas shows at London (GBR) and Mechelen (BEL) lead into the new year with just five more legs left to run.
In January, there are events at Leipzig (GER) and Zurich (SUI), while Bordeaux (FRA) and Gothenburg (SWE) will play host in February. By the time horses and riders arrive at the final qualifier in ‘s-Hertogenbosch (NED) in March it will be right down to the wire.
List of Legends
One of the reasons the series is so highly rated is because its list of champions is like a “Who’s Who” of Jumping. From the very first season back in 1978/1979, when Austria’s Hugo Simon and Gladstone emerged to steal the limelight, to last April’s victory for America’s Beezie Madden, the trophy has been held aloft by a glittering array of stars. The Roll of Honour is a list of legends - horse-and-rider combinations that made their mark during spectacular careers and who will never be forgotten.
Extraordinary riders like the first champion, Hugo Simon, who returned to produce another double of wins 17 years after his first one. And extraordinary horses whose personal popularity raised the sport to a whole new level - like Ian Millar’s Big Ben who was recognised as a Canadian icon when pictured on a stamp and whose statue stands in a park close to Millar’s home in Perth, Canada. Together they were first to claim back-to-back victories when clinching the title in Gothenburg in 1988 and again in Tampa, USA the following year.
John Whitaker and Milton are another of those partnerships whose names will always be linked with glorious moments of FEI World Cup™ Jumping history. Milton’s fan-club was enormous, and the excitement created by their double in 1990 and 1991 at Dortmund in Germany, and then in Gothenburg, which has always been home to this great event, secured a whole new generation of sports fans from outside the horse world who couldn’t resist the undeniable charm of the Yorkshireman and his lovely grey horse who simply loved to show off in front of the crowds.
Three riders have secured the trophy three times - Germany's Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum and Marcus Ehning, and Rodrigo Pessoa from Brazil. Pessoa has the distinction of being the only rider to win in three consecutive years, and his success is all the more remarkable for the fact that he did so with the same stallion, the brilliant Baloubet du Rouet, between 1998 and 2000.
For many years, German riders were the most prolific winners with nine victories to their credit, but the USA drew level with them when Madden won through in Gothenburg at the end of the 2012/2013 series. Americans were hugely successful during the early history of the event, with seven wins over the first nine seasons, but there was a 25-year wait before Rich Fellers and the feisty stallion, Flexible, put them back on the podium in 2012 in Leipzig.
There will be much interest in whether they can follow through on Madden’s success and make it three-in-a-row this time around, therefore pulling ahead in the league of winning nations. Madden meanwhile looks well set to defend her title, currently lying second in the Longines Rankings behind Olympic team gold medallist Britain’s Ben Maher whose spectacular form, when adding both team gold and individual silver at the PSI FEI European Championships in Denmark in August, saw him shoot to the top of the world Jumping rankings in September and now retain this lead heading into the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2013/2014.
The Netherlands’ Jeroen Dubbeldam was the first winner of the 2012/2013 season at Oslo last October, but as so often happens, he had to work very hard indeed to achieve the maximum number of points required in order to qualify for the Final. Points are hard-won and the battle intensifies as the season progresses, with the pressure mounting with every round.
Talking about Longines’ partnership, President of Longines, Walter von Känel, says “Longines is very proud to be the Title Partner of the Longines FEI World Cup, which is the biggest and the most prestigious indoor jumping series in the world. This partnership underlines Longines’ passion and support for equestrian sports which dates back to 1878 when it produced a chronograph engraved with a jockey and his mount. Since 1912, the brand has been partnered with equestrian competitions and is today involved in the most famous events in jumping, racing and endurance. Elegance, tradition and performance - these are the values which unite Longines and equestrian sports.”
The first leg of the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Western European League is set to begin at 12.25 local time on Sunday 13 October, and in time-honoured tradition, it is bound to be a thriller.
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Rider biographies: view online and download from http://fei.org/fei/your-role/media/biographies
Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Facts & Figures:
- Swiss watchmaking experts, Longines, take up title partnership of the FEI World Cup™ Jumping Western European League series and world Final in the 2013/2014 season.
- Longines became first Top Partner to the international governing body, the Swiss-based Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI), in a new long-term partnership agreement signed in December 2012.
- The Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping series is in its 36th season.
- A total of 11 qualifying rounds will take place before the Final is held in Lyon, France from 20-23 March 2014.
- Defending champion is America's Beezie Madden who came out on top at the 2013 Final in Gothenburg, Sweden.
- The very first series Final took place in Gothenburg, Sweden in 1979.
- Austria's Hugo Simon was the first champion. Riding Gladstone he finished ahead of America's Katie Monaghan and The Jones Boy in second place, while America's Norman dell Joio with Allegro and Ireland's Eddie Macken with Carroll's of Dundalk shared third.
- US riders claimed the trophy seven times over the first nine years, but there was a 25-year gap before Rich Fellers re-claimed it in 2012 with the brilliant stallion Flexible.
- American riders will be going for a back-to-back hat-trick of wins when the Final gets underway in Lyon, France next March.
- Three riders have claimed the FEI World Cup™ Jumping title on three occasions, Germany's Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum and Marcus Ehning, and Rodrigo Pessoa from Brazil.
- Pessoa has the distinction of being the only rider to secure three back-to-back wins, and he did so with the same stallion, Baloubet du Rouet, between 1998 and 2000.
- Other FEI World Cup™ Jumping Leagues also take place around the globe.
- Riders from the Arab, Australian, Caucasian, Central Asian, Central European, Chinese, South East Asian, Japanese, New Zealand, South African, South American South, South America North, Central America and Caribbean and North American Leagues are all eligible for a place at the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final.