The opening leg of the pilot season of the FEI Nations Cup in dressage begins at Vidauban in southeast France this week, and the United States plans to compete against top European countries in two of the four events scheduled at premier shows throughout the summer.
Five countries will field teams at the Domain Equestre de Grands Pins CDIO3* at Vidauban on Friday to kick off the Nations Cup series the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) hopes will generate the same level of excitment and commitment that has been created with Nations Cups for jumping.
Rotterdam in the Netherlands on June 20 and the World Equestrian Festival in Aachen, Germany on June 27 are both scheduled to stage CDIO5* events while Hickstead, England will hold its CDIO3* on Aug. 4.
For Vidauban, the five teams, which can have a maximum of four combinations and a minimum of three with three scores counting, are:
Jacques Albeck – Collin 73
Claire Gosselin – Karamel de Lauture
Catherine Henriquet – Paradieszauber
Karen Tebar – Florentino 47
Kay Maxted – Privaldi
Sarah Milis – HP Frontier
Daniel Watson – Fideramber
Katja Gevers – Thriller
Danielle Heijkoop – Kingsley Siro
Stephanie Peters – Unlimited
Laurens van Lieren – Hexagon’s Welnetta
Tinne Vilhelmson-Silfvén – Divertimento
Minna Telde – Don Charly
Caroline Darcourt – Paridon Magi
Jeanna Hogberg – Liza Minelli
The first three events in the series will be traditional Nations Cups format decided at Grand Prix but Hickstead will be decided by the Grand Prix Musical Freestyle for the first time ever as organizers experiment with formats to capitalize on massively successful Olympics in London last summer that has led to an upsurge in dressage in Great Britain.
The Nations Cup pilot project is an effort by the FEI to broaden the appeal of dressage that, if successful, could lead to creation of an official long-term series.
Rotterdam and Aachen have staged team competitions for many years and, along with Hickstead, have hosted championships in which the Nations Cup is a central feature. This is the first Nations Cup for the relatively new Vidauban though Saumur in France hosted team events.
The only Nations Cup outside Europe is the Wellington CDIO3* in Florida but it is a mixed Grand Prix/Prix St. Georges event aimed at raising the level of Pan American Games dressage to Big Tour from Small Tour.
However, the United States is planning to field teams at Aachen and Hickstead in the test series in Europe.
For this trial season, each event is of equal standing and the best two results for each nation over the four events will decide the overall winner.
A minimum of four teams will take part in each event, and each country must have at least four athletes on the FEI World Rankings list at the time of entry. There is no maximum limit to the number of events in which athletes and horses can take part and organizers have the right to invite a limited number of additional home or foreign individual competitors.
Prize money for each team event is a minimum of €20,000 (US$26,000) in addition to the standard prize money for individual classification for CDIO5*s and €10,000 (US$13,000) for CDIO3*s. If a team is eliminated it is not entitled to either prize money or Nations Cup points.
Trond Asmyr, FEI Director Dressage, said: “This new FEI Nations Cup Dressage series will provide National Federations with a fantastic opportunity to train up new athletes for teams and offers many more riders a chance to develop their experience and skills. It is very exciting, and a whole new concept, to have team dressage running throughout the summer season and Hickstead will present the first official team competition in Freestyle so will be breaking new ground.
“We are testing different models to find the way forward for our sport and to capitalize on the enormous popularity of the Freestyle in particular. We will learn a great deal over the coming months about the future of dressage as a Nations Cup sport.”