Tag Archives: Show Jumping

War Horses, Cavalrymen, and the FEI Jumping Nations Cup

Capt Xavier Bizard from the French Cavalry School at Saumur with Honduras after winning the King George V Gold Cup in 1937.

Riders and sports fans all around the globe are pining for the cut-and-thrust of FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ this year. Since it was first staged back in 1909, war is the only thing that has ever stopped this great annual tournament in its tracks, and it is another kind of war that is getting in the way of the 2020 Longines sponsored series as the world currently grapples with the Coronavirus pandemic.

Only two of the 11 qualifying events were completed this season, in Wellington (USA) where the hosts wrestled victory from Great Britain in a thrilling jump-off, and in Abu Dhabi (UAE), also in February, where New Zealand posted an historic back-to-back double.

However, the resilience of this particular branch of equestrian sport, so often described as the “jewel in the crown of the FEI,” is second to none. It emerged from epic sporting battles between military men, and it still stirs the blood in spectators today as they roar on their own national teams, which now of course also include female athletes, at many of the most prestigious horse shows around the globe.

It’s the unique sense of national pride that gives it the edge, with riders often talking about how their horses are “fighting” for them as they tackle the tough courses set by world-class designers. A steed with great courage was what was needed by cavalrymen of old. And in the story of two war horses from very different periods of military history, there’s a reminder of the fighting spirit that continues to set the best apart from the rest to this day.

Vonolel

In the grounds of the Royal Hospital in Kilmainham, Dublin (IRL), built in the 1680s for retired soldiers but now home to the Irish Museum of Modern Art, there is a gravestone that marks the final resting place of Vonolel, a brave and special horse.

He was the charger of the decorated Anglo-Irish Field Marshal Frederick Sleigh Roberts, a Victorian era general who became one of the most successful British military commanders of his time. Lord Roberts, aka “Bobs”, was only 160cm tall so was a perfect match for the beautifully-bred Arab horse who stood at just 148cm.

Named after a great Lushai chief, the little grey was bought in Bombay (now Mumbai, IND) as a five-year-old and served Roberts for the next 23 years. Vonolel played a pivotal role in the relief of the Siege of Kandahar (AFG), and also saw action in India, Burma, and South Africa. The horse was a legend in his day and was repeatedly decorated by Queen Victoria, receiving amongst others the Kabul medal and the Kandahar Star for bravery in battle, both of which he wore around his neck on ceremonial occasions.

He travelled about 50,000 miles during his career without ever taking a lame step, and when he passed away at the Royal Hospital in June 1899, Roberts was said to be heartbroken. Vonolel was buried in the rose gardens of the Royal Hospital with full military honours, and there is a painting of him, with “Bobs” on board, in London’s Tate Gallery.

It’s that tradition of horses and riders battling as part of a team on behalf of their country, albeit in peace time and in a spirit of healthy competition rather than antagonism, that underpins the FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ series to this day.

Honduras and Nipper

Vonolel’s glorious send-off was in stark contrast to that of a black 160cm gelding of unknown breeding who is no less deserving of an honorable mention in dispatches. His name was Honduras when he clinched the coveted King George V Gold Cup for Capt Xavier Bizard in London in 1937. The rider from the French Cavalry School at Saumur was a showjumping star of the 1920s and 30s with a formidable record of success on Nations Cup teams riding a variety of horses.

Bizard was on the winning French sides at Nice (FRA) in 1924, New York (USA) in 1925, and Lucerne (SUI) and Rome (ITA) in 1927. He was back in Rome in 1928 for another victory and the following year helped post two more Nations Cup top spots in Naples (ITA) and Dublin (IRL). In the 1930s he was on three winning teams in London as well as in Nice, Lucerne, Vienna (AUT), Rome, and Riga (LAT). It was partnering Apollan that he won the Nations Cup in the Latvian capital in 1937, and that same year he scooped the King George V title in London with Honduras.

It seems that the ride on Honduras was then handed over to Amador des Busnel who won the Grand Prix with him in Brussels (BEL) in 1939, before the onset of World War ll brought everything to a shuddering halt.

What is intriguing about this horse is not his success-rate, but the fact that he was captured during the German occupation of France, and then re-appeared after the war on the US Army showjumping teams that won the Nations Cups in both London and Dublin in 1948, now competing under the name “Nipper” and ridden by Lt Col Charles (Chuck) Symroski.

He was well-travelled at this stage of his life because, after being captured along with the rest of the German team horses near the town of Bayreuth in Bavaria (GER) in 1945, he was shipped to the United States in August of 1946. He competed across America and Canada that year, and again in 1947 before returning to Europe in the spring of 1948 to compete at a number of shows in the lead-up to the London Olympic Games for which he was selected as the reserve horse.

The Nations Cup win in Dublin in 1948 was historic, as it was the first time for a US side to lift the Aga Khan Cup, the first time for non-Europeans to take the title, and the last time an official US army team would line out at the Royal Dublin Society showgrounds. Nipper and Lt Col Symroski were joined by Capt JW Russell riding Airmail, Col JF Wing with Democrat, and Lt Col CH Anderson with Riem when New York-born Eamon De Valera, then Taoiseach (Prime Minister) and later President of Ireland, presented the coveted Aga Khan trophy.

One more time

And Honduras/Nipper would get to meet his old friend, Capt Bizard, one more time. Their encounter took place in London, but whether it was following their Nations Cup win or during the Olympic Games in the English capital that summer is unclear, as it has been separately reported at both venues. Wherever it happened it was an emotional reunion when the Frenchman accidentally came across his former mount who he had thought was long dead.

The story goes that when Capt Bizard told the Americans how old the horse was they were really surprised. However, the 19-year-old gelding wasn’t called into action for the one-round Olympic contest which proved to be a marathon, defeating all but three of the 14 participating teams. Mexico, Spain, and Great Britain clinched gold, silver, and bronze while the USA was amongst the 11 countries eliminated.

Following the Games, the US army team was disbanded and replaced by a civilian side. Although unconfirmed, it is believed that Honduras/Nipper returned to America to live out his days on the family farm of three-time Olympian Jimmy Wofford near Fort Riley in Kansas (USA) whose parents accepted all the remaining remounts for retirement following the mechanisation of the cavalry.

This horse’s life wasn’t celebrated with the pomp and ceremony that marked the passing of Vonolel a half-century earlier, but his story lives on as another symbol of survival in the face of destructive world conflict. And the FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ is also a survivor, just waiting in the wings for a return to centre stage as soon as the current pandemic crisis is sufficiently resolved.

Hopes are still high that a revised version of the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ Final will take place in October this year, but one way or another nothing will stand in the way of a renewal of the series that has been engaging and delighting spectators for well over a century and which remains the best-loved brand ambassador for equestrian sport.

And as for the once much-loved Vonolel and Honduras aka Nipper, they will not be forgotten. We’ll leave them with the words carved into that gravestone in Dublin, which reads:

“There are men both good and wise
Who hold that in a future state
Dumb creatures we have cherished here below
Shall give us joyous greeting when
We pass the golden gate
Is it folly that I hope it may be so?”

With special thanks to:
Olympian and coach Jimmy Wofford
Jane Garland, artist

By Louise Parkes

Media contact:

Shannon Gibbons
Media Relations and Communications Manager
shannon.gibbons@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 46

Millar Family Launches Millar Brooke Farm South

Ian, Amy, and Jonathon Millar of Millar Brooke Farm. Photo by Starting Gate Communications.

Perth, Ontario – The Millar family has announced the opening of its U.S.-based satellite operation, Millar Brooke South, as well as the addition of Alexander and Holly Grayton to Team Millar.

As Millar Brooke Farm continues to expand its business and grow, the timing was right for Jonathon Millar and his wife, Kelly Soleau-Millar, to base in the United States for the majority of the year, marking the official launch of Millar Brooke Farm South. The move allows the business to have an increased presence south of the Canadian border, providing easier access to more shows, the ability to source horses from a wider area, and greater networking and training opportunities.

“We are excited to open up Millar Brooke South,” said Jonathon, a veteran of the Canadian Show Jumping Team and 2010 World Equestrian Games competitor. “With operations based in Canada and the United States, our business now has a lot more flexibility surrounding what shows we can attend around the world, access to additional horses and sponsorships, and enhanced training opportunities for our horses and riders.”

Millar Brooke Farm South will compete predominantly in the United States during the summer months while Millar Brooke Farm North, based in Perth, ON, will spend the bulk of its time competing in Canada. Both operations will continue to train and compete together in Wellington, FL during the winter circuit.

“Every year we come together to discuss how to provide the highest level of training and management for our horses and students,” said Kelly, who made her Nations’ Cup debut riding for the United States in 2018. “I am very excited about the future for Team Millar as we continue to grow and provide new opportunities for our students, sponsors, and owners.”

The expansion of Team Millar also necessitated additional coaching power and expertise to support Ian Millar and his daughter and fellow Canadian Olympian, Amy, in meeting the increased training demands at home in Canada. To that end, Alexander and Holly Grayton have relocated to Millar Brooke Farm North. Since 2008, the Graytons had been operating Grayton Farms in Alberta where they focused on coaching, sales, and developing young horses.

“After an extensive search for the right fit, we could not be happier that we were able to attract them to Perth to join our team,” said Amy, who was a member of Canada’s fourth-placed team at the 2016 Rio Olympics. “Alex and Holly are highly regarded with a proven track record of success, and we are confident that they will contribute to Team Millar. We are all excited about the opportunities that lie ahead.”

Ian added, “I am very excited to add Alex and Holly to our staff. Alex and Holly are both dedicated horse people with whom we have a history, first as students and then as colleagues. Alex is a talented rider, fantastic teacher, and has incredible passion for our sport.”

Over the past several years, Alexander has developed several horses to the elite level, claiming Talent Squad National Final and National Young Horse Championship titles as well as grand prix victories and hunter championships. Alexander has trained riders of all levels, from those entering their first horse show to winning National Talent Squad Finals, FEI Children’s Finals, international grand prix classes, and every place in between.

Holly is a budding grand prix rider and will take on managerial duties at Millar Brooke Farm North. Students of the sport can look to Holly for her accumulated knowledge of horse care and can trust in her never-ending desire to continue to learn from esteemed and respected colleagues from around the world.

“Both Alex and Holly will be incredible assets to our team,” concluded Amy. “Their passion for the sport, training, people, and their horses make them a perfect fit for our program.”

For more information on Millar Brooke Farm and Team Millar, visit www.millarbrookefarm.com.

CONTACT: Jennifer Ward | cell: 613-292-5439 | www.startinggate.ca

NARG Releases Sport Report: 2020 Winter Venues

May 21, 2020 – When the North American Riders Group last sent a release about plans for the return of the NARG Top 25, the terms COVID-19 pandemic, shelter-in-place order, social distancing, and face masks were not common in our daily vocabulary. As we dealt with the challenges of a global issue on an international horse show level, and rearranged our schedules to stay at home until competition begins again, NARG decided to issue a Sport Report focusing on the Winter Venues.

NARG Top 25 work began last fall when we revisited the evaluation form, and reached out to managers, riders, and owners to get feedback. As a result, and to level the playing field, the evaluations include subjective scoring, plus NARG research and points awarded via a questionnaire answered by management.

In North America, the competition year kicked off with a winter season comprised of 21 CSI 3*, 4*, and 5* events over an 11-week period, leading directly into a busy spring season that had 12 more events of this caliber plus a Longines FEI World Cup™ Final that were to be complete by the end of May.

By the time that mid-March hit and shows were canceled, 19 shows over nine weeks at eight venues throughout North America were in the books and evaluations well underway. These events and the venues that hosted them are the focus of this first edition of the NARG Sport Report.

WHAT HAPPENED IN A DECADE

The sport of show jumping has evolved in the decade since we gave a voice to the riders, owners, and trainers in North America. The number of FEI events offered has more than doubled, but more importantly the star-ratings went up. For example, in 2010 there were four CSI5* events on the calendar, with three of them in summer or fall in Calgary; in 2020, there were 20 CSI5* events on the calendar, with eight (40%) scheduled in Wellington, Mexico City, and Miami, before the Canadian season even commenced.  Of course, these are pre COVID-19, but illustrate the point of how North America has stepped up in this regard.

In the four years and three months since we last released a report, new events, organizers, tours, and facilities have come on the scene, and we commend all of their efforts. We are truly sorry for those events that canceled since mid-March, as the loss is felt on so many fronts.

2020 REFLECTION, REALIZATION AND RECOGNITION

We were all set to have a busy year, from the NARG Top 25 perspective, focusing only on CSI 3*, 4*, and 5* events, there were 74 events and one Final to focus on. With this global change that halted the end of the winter season and obliterated the spring season, we all took a deep breath and considered what we had accomplished this winter.

Up from four events in 2010, eleven in 2015, Mexico had 22 FEI CSI 2*-5* events on their calendar. Six of those offered top competition at three impressive venues this winter.

The winter season is certainly important to the sport of show jumping in North America and worthy of its own report. Since the events are produced in two countries, at eight different venues by six managements, each week was evaluated multiple times and we averaged the scores by venue.

Although the evaluation form was updated for 2020, interestingly the highest scoring venue was within a percentage point of the top score earned by Spruce Meadows in 2015. The eight venues were separated by less than 14 percentage points, and the lowest scoring venue is certainly not ‘the bottom’ as the score would have not only made the top 25 in 2015, but securely in the middle of the list.  We also noticed that had we continued through the full year of 75 events we would have been splitting hairs with scores.

Of course, there are many events that would certainly have been recognized in the NARG Top 25 this year that we regrettably won’t be evaluating this season, including some of the top over many years, Thunderbird’s May events and the aforementioned Spruce Meadows, to name just two. NARG looks forward to the return of these as well as the GCT, Split Rock Jumping Tour, Tryon, and others to the North American calendar.

One final note – NARG is aware that our sport goes beyond FEI Jumping; that there are young horse programs, jumper development programs, as well as high performance hunter and equitation events and programs. Currently our focus is on high level show jumpers. We intend to expand that over time.

Wishing all riders, owners, trainers, organizers, and the wide net of those who help make this sport what it is, as well as all their horses, good health.  NARG presents the Sport Report: 2020 Winter Venues.

Her Majesty The Queen Wins at Virtual Windsor Horse Show

After the cancellation of Royal Windsor Horse Show which was to run in the private grounds of Windsor Castle, ‘The Queen’s Back Garden’, from 13-17 May, organisers moved the Show online to create Virtual Windsor 2020. More than 4,200 entries were received for the online Showing competitions, including several from HM The Queen.

A ‘usual’ Royal Windsor Horse Show would receive around 2,800 entries, illustrating how the equestrian community has come together to make Virtual Windsor 2020 a larger success than ever envisioned.

A huge number of viewers watched the Show online with more than 250,000 tuning in to enjoy the event over its five days, while the social media reach soared past the million mark.

The numbers surpassed all expectations and organisers were particularly delighted by the number of viewers from overseas with more than 90 countries getting involved.

24 Showing classes were run over the five-day virtual Show, mixed with streaming of 5* Jumping and Dressage classes from previous live events, along with displays and competitions that you can only see at Royal Windsor Horse Show.

HM The Queen had six entries in the Showing Classes and was the outright winner in two — Class 2 for Cleveland Bays which she won with Wyevale Harry ridden by Matthew Powers and Class 19 the Side Saddle which she won with Stardust ridden by Katie Jerram-Hunnable.

Over the course of the five days, many stars of the equestrian world joined the virtual Show in interviews and commentary. Their Royal Highnesses, The Earl and Countess of Wessex, also participated in a video interview showing their support for the event.

As a first-time event for Royal Windsor Horse Show, organisers expressed it was more than they could have ever wished for. Simon Brooks-Ward, Show Director, ended the Show by thanking all involved and hoping to see everyone again – in the flesh – next year.

Brooks-Ward said: “We’ve been delighted by the response we’ve had to Virtual Windsor 2020. It’s been fantastic to see the Show’s community getting together to keep the Show going – whether they are competitors, shop holders, sponsors, stewards, judges and officials, or visitors – everyone has been engaged. I think it demonstrates how important the Show is for all and how close it is to their hearts.”

Details of the virtual Show can be found by visiting virtual.rwhs.co.uk. The site will be constantly updated and will remain in place throughout the year.

FEI European Championships in Olympic & Paralympic Disciplines Cancelled for 2021

The FEI European Championships in the Olympic and Paralympic disciplines of Jumping, Eventing, Dressage, and Para Dressage will not be held in 2021 due to the revised dates for the Tokyo Games next year. European Championships in the non-Olympic disciplines will still be organised in 2021.

The Hungarian capital of Budapest had been due to play host to five disciplines next summer – Jumping, Dressage, Para Dressage, Driving, and Vaulting – from 23 August to 5 September. However, the proximity of the Championships to the rescheduled Olympic and Paralympic Games has meant that it is no longer feasible to run Jumping, Dressage, and Para Dressage. As part of its 50th anniversary celebrations of the first FEI European Driving Championships in Budapest back in 1971, the Organisers will maintain both Driving and Vaulting next year.

The FEI European Eventing Championships 2021 were scheduled to take place from 11-15 August at Haras du Pin (FRA), venue for the Eventing test of the FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2014, but the decision has been made to cancel the Championships following the postponement of Tokyo 2020.

The new dates for the Tokyo Olympic Games are 23 July to 8 August 2021 and the Paralympic Games will run from 24 August through to 5 September 2021.

The FEI Board has agreed that the bid process for the European Championships 2021 in these four disciplines will not be reopened, as all organisers would face the same challenges of trying to host major Championships so close to the Tokyo Games.

“Together with the Organising Committees of both Budapest and Haras du Pin, as well as the Hungarian and French National Federations, we have examined every possible option to try and save the Championships in 2021,” FEI Secretary General Sabrina Ibáñez said, “but we have reached the regrettable decision that it simply is not possible to have these important events so close to the Olympic and Paralympic Games next year.

“While there are some nations that have enough horsepower to send strong teams to the Olympic and Paralympic Games and also to the European Championships across the four disciplines, we have to offer a level playing field to all eligible countries and we simply cannot do that in this case, so we have agreed that the focus should be on Tokyo next year.

“Of course, it is desperately disappointing to lose these Championships from the 2021 Calendar, but we will continue to support Budapest with their double Europeans for Driving and Vaulting.”

The FEI Secretary General has overall responsibility for the FEI Calendar and is currently chairing the eight discipline-specific Task Forces that have been set up to seek ways of mitigating the effect of the current Covid-19 pandemic on the FEI Calendar, including the knock-on effects into 2021.

“It was the very first time that a Central European country had won the opportunity to organise the prestigious FEI multidiscipline European Championships, Dorottya Stróbl, Member of the Managing Board of the Budapest Organising Committee and Secretary General of the Hungarian National Federation, said. “We strongly believed that the event would serve as a high motivation for the owners and sponsors in Hungary and in the neighbouring countries and promote the sport towards the elite level, but we understand that the significant challenges of holding major FEI Championships in the Olympic and Paralympic disciplines in the year of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, has meant that unfortunately cancellation was inevitable. However, we will continue to work to ensure the very highest level of FEI Driving and Vaulting European sport in Budapest next year.”

Valérie Moulin, President of the Ustica Organising Committee at Haras du Pin, also expressed her disappointment: “We are very disappointed that the rescheduling of Tokyo 2020 has led to the cancellation of the Championships in Haras du Pin, but unfortunately we were unable to find alternative dates outside August 2021. We had gathered a lot of local partners and we were financially invested. All riders counted on this date; nevertheless, we understand that the situation has changed over the last months with the postponement of the Olympic Games. We have made a proposal to the FEI about potentially hosting the Championships in 2023 and we look forward to hearing about that.”

Discussions around other FEI Championships, including the Europeans in 2023, will be held during next month’s FEI Board videoconference meeting, which is set for 23-25 June.

Media contacts:

Grania Willis
Director Communications
grania.willis@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 42

Shannon Gibbons
Media Relations and Communications Manager
shannon.gibbons@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 4

Lee McKeever’s Impact on Castle Hill Farm

For over 30 years, Lee McKeever has been the head groom, right-hand man, and trusted counselor to arguably the most influential modern American show jumper – McLain Ward. An equestrian phenom, Ward has left little to prove in the arena, winning gold medals at the Olympics, the Pan American, and the World Equestrian Games, topping the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup Finals, and being ranked #1 in the world. As anyone at that level of competition will say, ‘it takes a village’ of dedicated, organized, and highly specialized people behind the scenes to make it to the summit of sport. McKeever has played a pivotal role in every step of Ward’s decorated professional career. With tremendous hard work, dedication, grit, and a bit of Irish superstition sprinkled in, Lee McKeever is indispensable to the Castle Hill dynasty and fortunately is not slowing down anytime soon.

“He knows the horses better than anybody. He knows how to have their conditioning, their health, how to prevent as well as deal with injuries. There’s never been a moment when I doubted that my horses were in anything but the best of care and had the best preparation to compete.” — McLain Ward, 2-Time Olympic Gold Medalist, Show Jumping

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From the US Equestrian Federation

Sport Is about Adapting to Every Situation: Steve Guerdat

Guerdat with Corbinian at Gothenburg (SWE) in 2016. (FEI/Liz Gregg)

He could be forgiven for being down in the dumps right now. His chance of becoming the first-ever four-time FEI Jumping World Cup™ champion blown out of the water and no opportunity to chase down a second individual Olympic gold medal this year either. All sport has ground to a halt and his personal life has also been affected because his wedding to fiancée, Fanny Skalli, which was planned for next month, has also been postponed for the foreseeable future due to the pandemic.

It doesn’t sound like a recipe for a good mood, but the man who has been holding court at the top of the Longines Rankings for 14 of the last 15 months is staying positive.

Halfway through our interview April 17, Swiss star Steve Guerdat put the current situation into perspective with his trademark passion.

“Nobody talks about the millions of kids around the world who don’t have clean water to drink, and are dying of hunger every single day. We only think about how am I going to get to the shows, how am I going to pay for my Mercedes, how am I going to buy my new car and buy my new truck and buy my new horse. The poor face a crisis every day of their lives. Now we in the rich countries have to face this problem, but there is no reason to be afraid. It’s an experience, and for once it’s the same for everyone. So we have to look forward and maybe think about doing things differently – but there will be a way out of it,” he says.

Heroes

Our Q&A interview began simply: Who were your heroes when you were a child? Steve doesn’t hesitate in answering…

“Michael Jordan (the world-famous basketball star who made several memorable come-backs during his extraordinary career). I’ve always been a sports fanatic, and his story is an inspiration. Normally a superstar is really good over a short period of time, but with him you were never disappointed (each time he made a come-back). It was like a lesson of life and sport, about not giving up, and as a kid he was someone I was crazy about.

“As a rider my hero has always been John Whitaker. I like him for much the same reasons. With John everything is easy. I think he doesn’t even know what he’s achieving because he does everything so naturally. Horses respond to him and it’s just natural for him to ride and win in a very natural way with a completely natural attitude. That inspires me as a rider,” Steve explains.

It takes him a bit longer to reply to the next question though. So what’s it like to be the hero now yourself? There’s a bit of a silence. I can imagine him shifting from foot to foot; he’s clearly not comfortable with this one….

“I really don’t feel like that; I don’t see myself as really good. I trust what I do but I still have so often the feeling that I am so bad at it, so many mistakes, so many things I’d like to do so much better. I’m not even thinking about being a hero, being someone who inspires other riders….”

So I say, “But so many people look at you and say, ‘Gosh, if only I could ever be as good as Steve,’” but he quickly comes back with “Well for sure they can, because I could get so much better!”

Influences

We move on to the person who has influenced him most, and his response is instant….

“My dad (Philippe Guerdat). He was never pushing himself forward, always letting me be free to do what I want and that’s why I respect him so much. In the sport he was the most influential person since day one. And of course in recent years Thomas Fuchs has also been an influence on my career.”

Who is in your support crew?

“My longtime grooms Heidi and Emma, my rider Anthony, we have 10 people at home and they are also very important to me. My family, from my parents to my cousins, and I have a close relationship with my owners too. The blacksmith and the vet – there are so many people and they don’t just work with me and support me; they are also my friends. And of course now for a few years I have my girlfriend, who will be my wife soon, so I’m very lucky in the situation I am in, to have so many great people around me.”

Why do you enjoy being around horses?

“Because they give so much and they don’t ask for anything back. We try to give them as much back as we can, but they are not asking for it! They are so loyal, and they never cheat on you.”

What do you like least about horses – all the hard work? This question provokes a tone of outrage….

“It’s not work! If you think it’s work, then you are doing the wrong job! Maybe a groom can say that, but definitely not a professional rider – what we have is an amazing life. It takes a lot of time, but it’s very far away from being hard work!”

Horses

Which of all the horses you’ve ridden was/is the one you’ve loved the most? Not the slightest hesitation here as his tone becomes much softer….

“Jalisca, because she’s basically the horse that made the biggest step in my career. I don’t want to say she saved me – I was riding, I was healthy, but I was in a complete hole in my sporting career when that mare brought me into the spotlight, winning the Cup in Geneva (in December 2010) and giving all the time 200% for me. She was the kindest horse you would ever find. She was always there fighting for me; she was the best horse that has ever been around for me!” he says.

Is there a horse that you didn’t like at all?

“I’d be lying if I said I’ve never been frustrated with a horse. But the truth is as soon as I’d be annoyed I’d be thinking no, it’s you that’s to blame, you made the mistake of having too high hopes for this horse, or you didn’t educate it the right way, or you put too much pressure on it or, or, or… in the end if a horse doesn’t work out it’s only yourself to blame. It could be riding wrong, or buying wrong and having the wrong expectations of the horse who couldn’t do what you would like him to do. It’s not his fault; we are all born with some qualities – there are some things you can do and some things you cannot do so well – but there is only so much any of us can do.”

Is there a horse that you would love to ride?

“No, because I already rode the best horse in the history of showjumping, Tepic La Silla! I only rode him for three or four months and I won my first medal in the European Championships in Donaueschingen (GER) in 2003 and a couple of Grand Prix. He was a horse from Alfonso Romo and I would have liked to have him longer, but I feel privileged I could ride him in just a few shows because he was unbelievable. He had absolutely everything. For me he was the very best!”

The horse who gave you his personal best? Steve laughs as he replies, “Nino, and he’s standing right in front of me!” Now 19 years old, the gelding that helped him to individual Olympic glory in London in 2012 is in happy retirement at Steve’s lovely farm at Elgg in Switzerland. “What was so good about him is that when I wanted to be clear I was clear 95% of the time. We also had some bad rounds, but from the time I really figured him out we had very few fences down. I didn’t jump him a lot, but most of the time he was double-clear in Grand Prix,” he says fondly.

Friendships

Your strongest friendships in the sport?

“I don’t have many, but the ones I have are very, very close. Alain Jufer, he was on the team in Calgary when we won (first-ever Swiss Nations Cup victory at Spruce Meadows in 2016). We grew up together, and started riding together as kids. Gregory Wathelet, for 15 or 20 years now, same with Daniel Etter and I could mention Eric Lamaze as well. They are my closest friends. I can’t say why; they are all very different people and came into my life at different times; they are good friends and get along together very well but it’s not that they are each best friends with the other – they are just people I know I can rely on, and they know it’s the same the other way around.”

Cares and worries?

“My biggest worry right now is I employ 10 people who’ve been with me a long time. They’re not just employees but friends and part of the family, and I want to have them around me. But I know that if I can’t keep some of them, they will find another job and they will survive as well. Two or three times in my life I’ve had to start from nothing and I’ve no problem with doing it again. I’m not worried that tomorrow I have to muck out myself and drive the truck and work more, because I love what I do. When you like what you do the only motivation is not just adding more and more money; it’s about enjoying life with your friends and family.”

One silly thing you’ve done during your working life?

“Maybe the first show I did when working for Tops… there was a show in a place called Heikant and I drove the truck for about three hours with the groom and eight horses, but when we arrived we couldn’t find the showgrounds. There was no navigation system in those days, and we drove around for a long time before I realised that I’d taken us to Heikant in Belgium, and the show was in Heikant in Holland! Luckily, it wasn’t too far, maybe another two hours’ drive, and we only missed a couple of classes!”

How are you feeling about the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games?

“It changes things for sure; it will be one year later and we don’t know what will happen between now and then. Horses will be one year older, but some that would have been too young this year will be ready for it. It’s different to anything we’ve faced before, but this is what sport is about. You have to be able to adapt to many different situations and make the best of it. There’s nothing we can do about it, and it was the right decision to move it. We’ll deal with this, and somehow we will move on.”

By Louise Parkes

Media contact:

Shannon Gibbons
Media Relations and Communications Manager
shannon.gibbons@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 46

FEI.TV Available Free of Charge while Live Sport Is on Hold

Swedish Dressage athlete Patrik Kittel tries out the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ trophy for size, whilst compatriot, former European Champion Peder Fredricson, takes hold of the FEI Dressage World Cup™ trophy. (FEI/Liz Gregg)

FEI.TV, the FEI’s online television platform, will be providing all its coverage of past events and special equestrian features free of charge to everyone while live sport is on hold until end of June.

Under normal circumstances, FEI.TV live-streams all major FEI Series and Championships, with an extensive range of replays, special features, and historic events coverage available on-demand combining to provide unparalleled coverage of equestrian sport year-round.

But with no live sport, access to FEI.TV will be free and existing subscribers will be compensated for the months of April, May, and June. They will get automatically refunded on their accounts. All content on the platform, including VOD, will be freely available to all users who will need to register, meaning that fans can re-live all the action from past events so there’s no need to miss out on your fix of equestrian sport.

“Premium content like this usually sits behind a paywall and is normally available only to subscribers, but while there is no ‘live’ sport, we want to give equestrian fans the chance to binge-watch for free during this terrible pandemic,” FEI Commercial Director Ralph Straus says.

This week’s Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ and FEI Dressage World Cup™ Finals in Las Vegas were one of the early high-profile victims of the Covid-19 outbreak when they were cancelled in mid-March. But Jumping and Dressage fans now have the opportunity to relive some of the very best moments of the FEI World Cup™ Finals from the past five years – 2015 to 2019 – live and free on FEI.TV, FEI Jumping and Dressage Facebook pages, and FEI YouTube channel daily. And if you can’t watch it live, catch it on replay on FEI.TV.

For fans of the other equestrian disciplines, FEI.TV has lots more unique content, ranging from FEI Vaulting and Driving World Cup™ highlights to wrap-ups of the FEI Eventing and Dressage Nations Cup™ series.

An additional broadcast offering has been made available by the FEI, equestrian sport’s global governing body, providing free access to video archive footage to TV broadcasters in EBU member territories across Europe through its partnership with EBU, and to key territories in the rest of the world via its partnership with IMG.

“Our broadcast partners are struggling to fill their air-time without live sport, so this initiative has been put in place to ensure that they have access to top equestrian footage and, together, we can keep our fans around the world happy with their daily dose of equestrian content,” Straus says.

Media contacts:

Grania Willis
Director Communications
grania.willis@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 42

Shannon Gibbons
Media Relations and Communications Manager
shannon.gibbons@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 4

Major Revision to Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup 2020 Rules

Photo: FEI/Lukasz Kowalski.

With the global sporting calendar decimated by the Covid-19 pandemic, the FEI has made drastic changes to the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ 2020 rules in a bid to maintain the series Final at Barcelona in October this year.

Under changes proposed by the FEI Jumping Committee and approved by the FEI Board during its teleconference this week, a total of 22 nations will be invited to compete at the Longines Final, staged at the prestigious Barcelona Polo Club. The 22 teams would be 10 from Europe, three from North America, two from South America, two from the Middle East, two from Asia/Australasia, one apiece from Africa and Eurasia, plus the host nation Spain.

The event held in February this year in Wellington (USA) will no longer be considered as a qualifier, and while events in North America and Europe that are still scheduled to take place over the next few months can be hosted as a Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™, no qualifying points will be awarded for the Final.

The three teams from North America and the 10 teams from Europe Division 1 will qualify directly for the Final, while the UAE and Syria, who claimed the two top spots at the Middle East qualifier in Abu Dhabi earlier this year, will retain their places for the Final.

The qualification system for the other divisions will be based on the Longines Rankings, using the combined points of each National Federations’ four best Athletes on the Longines Ranking published one month prior to the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ Final:

  • South America: 2 teams via Longines Ranking
  • Asia/Australasia: 2 teams via Longines Ranking
  • Africa: 1 team via Longines Ranking
  • Eurasia: 1 team via Longines Ranking

With Spain as the host nation of the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ Final, this brings the maximum number of teams competing to 22.

As the EEF has announced the postponement of the Longines EEF Series launch until 2021, there will be no promotion and relegation this year, so Division 1 will start with the same 10 teams for the 2021 season.

“The global pandemic has meant that sadly we have had a number of cancellations in the series, and even though we still don’t know what events will take place later in the season, we needed to provide clarity to all our stakeholders as soon as possible, so out of respect to all our Organisers, to our National Federations and their athletes, and of course to our Top Partner Longines, making this decision now was the only way forward,” FEI President Ingmar De Vos said.

“There is no certainty that teams would be able to travel to any of the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup events that are able to go ahead, and without a fair qualification system and the impossibility of being able to offer a level playing field where all teams have the same possibility to train and participate at events, this was a decision that had to be made.

“Of course all this is dependent on what happens with the pandemic, and we truly hope that there will soon be respite from all the terrible suffering around the globe, but we need to be optimistic and having the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup Final in Barcelona in October with up to 22 countries competing for our sport’s most prestigious team title is a goal we are hoping can be realised.”

Media contacts:

Grania Willis
Director Communications
grania.willis@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 42

Shannon Gibbons
Media Relations and Communications Manager
shannon.gibbons@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 4

How This Blind Jumper Rider Is Pursuing Her Dreams and Paving the Way for Others

As Wren Blae Zimmerman turns towards the first fence in her jumper classic at World Equestrian Center, she isn’t looking for a distance.  She’s just counting.  Because while Zimmerman might appear like her fellow adult amateurs, there’s a big difference between her and the others in the class.

Zimmerman has Stargardt’s Macular Dystrophy.  In other words, she’s blind.

And if jumping around the 1-meter tracks at big shows isn’t impressive enough, consider this: Zimmerman only learned to ride after she lost her vision.

Read more.

by Rennie Dyball, theplaidhorse.com