The first official season of FEI Nations Cup™ Dressage gets off to a flying start later today at the CDIO * in Wellington, Florida (USA) with six nations represented. The design of the series has been developed and polished throughout three successful pilot series, and it comes as little surprise that Team Germany reigned supreme in the final pilot season in 2015.
The rules allow for flexibility in an effort to encourage participation and to allow horse-and-rider combinations to develop their skills and their level of experience. So countries are permitted to include Big Tour and Small Tour horses and athletes in their sides which must consist of at least three horse-and-rider combinations per team.
As the action begins today in Wellington, the Small Tour combinations will tackle the FEI Prix St Georges test while the Big Tour partnerships will take on the FEI Grand Prix. Team medals will be awarded following the conclusion of the FEI Intermediate I and FEI Grand Prix Special tests tomorrow.
The six countries competing at this first leg are Australia, Canada, Costa Rica, Denmark, Spain and USA, while individual competitors from Argentina, Austria, Chile and Colombia are also taking the opportunity to test their levels of competence.
The Australian team consists of Kim Gentry (Leonardo), Kelly Layne (Von Primaire) and Ilse Schwarz (Cadenza), while the experienced Jacqueline Brooks (D Niro), Megan Lane (Caravella), Karen Pavicic (Don Daiquiri) and Belinda Trussell (Anton) will fly the Canadian flag.
Michelle Batalla (Westergardens Vivi Light), Anne Marie Egerstrom (Amorino) and Christer Egerstrom (Bello Oriente) make up the side from Costa Rica, while Denmark’s Mikala Munter Gundersen (My Lady), Signe Kirk Kristiansen (Roberto), Lars Petersen (Quascai Nexen) look major contenders.
The four-strong Spanish side consists of Pablo Gomez Molina (Lanzado de Ymas), Juan Antonio Jimenez Cobo (Elevado), Juan Matute Guimon (Dhannie Ymas) and Alfonso Jesus Ramirez Benitez (Legacy’s Cosmico), but the ones they may all have to beat are the US foursome of Shelly Francis (Doktor), Laura Graves (Verdades), Arlène Page (Woodstock) and Kasey Perry-Glass (Goerklintgaards Dublet).
Graves and her 12-year-old Dutch gelding, Verdades, made a big impression at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2014 in Normandy, France where they finished fifth in the Freestyle, and having lined up fourth at last year’s Reem Acra FEI World Cup™ Dressage Final in Las Vegas (USA), went on to take team gold and individual silver at the Pan American Games in Toronto (CAN).
They step into the Wellington arena later today in terrific form having posted four strong wins in the past couple of months.
Francis and the 13-year-old gelding Doktor will be making their third appearance at the US leg of the series. The pair have won two Grand Prix Special competitions and one Grand Prix in recent months. Perry-Glass and her 13-year-old Danish bred horse will be making their Nations Cup debut having moved up to Grand Prix level over the winter months.
The US team looks to have a strong edge, with Page and Woodstock, who represented their country at both Rotterdam (NED) and Hagen (GER) rounding out the competitive US line-up.
All four Americans will compete at Big Tour level, and will be led by Chef d’Equipe Robert Dover.
The FEI Nations Cup™ Dressage 2016 series consists of seven legs of competition, with Wellington followed by the CDIO 3* in Odense (DEN) and the CDIO 5* at Compiegne (FRA) in May.
The fourth leg will take place at CDIO 5* Rotterdam (NED) in June while CDO 5* Falsterbo (SWE) and CDIO 5* in Aachen (GER) each play host in July before the first ever official FEI Nations Cup™ champions will be declared after the last leg at CDIO 3* Hickstead (GBR) at the end of July.
Further details of the FEI Nations Cup™ 2016 Dressage series can be found here.