Ben Asselin is one of the up-and-coming stars of the Canadian show jumping team. Photos © Spruce Meadows Media Services.
Calgary, AB, Canada – June 11, 2014 – Spruce Meadows, home to some of the most prestigious and popular show jumping events in the world, is excited to host its second Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Series qualifier, presented by Scotiabank, this summer during its ‘Continental’ Tournament CSIO 5*. Riders will compete to help their countries qualify for the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Final in Barcelona this October. Spruce Meadows looks forward to welcoming many of the world’s best horses and riders to their summer tournaments in 2014, which began June 4 and continue with five tournaments through July 13.
The ‘Continental’ CSIO 5* Tournament will run June 12-15, featuring the $125,000 Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ presented by Scotiabank on Friday, June 13, and the $210,000 CP Grand Prix on Sunday, June 15. The $85,000 Husky Energy Classic 1.50m will be featured on Thursday, June 12, and the $85,000 Talisman Energy Cup 1.50m will be the highlight on Saturday, June 14.
Spruce Meadows is host to one of only three Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ events in North America, which will be a qualifier for countries in the region hoping to attend the series final in Barcelona, Spain, in October. Since less than five teams are invited to the qualifier at Spruce Meadows, the countries from this region can have two teams compete. This provides a great development opportunity for Canada, USA, and Mexico, without having to travel all the way to Europe.
Spruce Meadows President, Linda Southern Heathcott, commented on the success of the tournament’s inaugural event for the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ series in 2013.
“Last summer’s competition was fantastic, and it provided an opportunity for the teams from Canada, the United States, and Mexico to give more of their riders the invaluable experience of competing in a major team event,” she noted. “We look forward to another great competition this year and are thrilled to host such an important contest in international show jumping.”
Having another Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ qualifying event in North America means a great deal to the teams as they hope to qualify for a highly coveted spot in the final to be able to send their riders to compete against the very best in the world. It is not only a great opportunity for the senior riders and their horses to compete, but also provides important experience for the younger, developing horses and riders. Last year, riders such as Chris Sorensen and Ben Asselin had the chance to compete on Canada’s second team at Spruce Meadows and went on to great success throughout the year.
After competing at Spruce, Sorensen and Asselin both went on to compete for Canada at the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ in Brazil in October 2013. Sorensen also rode for Canada in the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ in Xalapa, Mexico, in May 2014. Young riders from the United States have also gotten great opportunities in the series. In 2013, Katie Dinan had a breakthrough year, competing at her first World Cup Finals and representing the United States at the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping Final in Barcelona, Spain.
Canadian Show Jumping Chef d’Equipe Mark Laskin commented on the great experience that the Nations Cup at Spruce Meadows provided for his riders, especially for the country’s second team participants.
“Anytime we can get Nations Cup experiences for our riders it is extremely beneficial, and to be able to get it in our own backyard without having to accrue major expenses to get horses and riders around the world is very helpful,” Laskin stated. “It is really great that they run that format at Spruce Meadows with two teams per nation.”
“It did help our younger riders last year,” Laskin pointed out. “There is just no replacement for the experience. We just don’t ride in that format without it being a Nations Cup. It is really imperative that they get as much experience as possible, so that when they graduate to the A Team, we can count on them.”
John Madden, Chairman of the FEI Jumping Committee, commented on how the inaugural year of the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Series program proved successful for North America as well as teams outside of Europe.
“For North America in particular, the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ series gives our national teams an excellent annual goal,” Madden stated. “This prestigious series is a top priority for us and helps our Federation set initiatives to send our athletes to the three very important competitions for North American teams. The series also provides more opportunities for our athletes to compete, especially since Spruce Meadows allows for two teams. Globally, the series has also been exceptionally successful, as it allows 18 teams to qualify for the Final, exposing more teams and more riders to the highest level of competition. The mixing of the teams, riders and horses in competition at this level is hugely important for the growth of the sport.”
Laskin used the ‘National’ Tournament last week to determine his final selections for the competitors of Canada’s first and second teams.
“I have a pretty good idea,” he said of which horses and riders will be selected. “I tend to watch as much of the ‘National’ as possible to see what kind of form everyone is in and how their horses are and how they react to the Spruce Meadows environment. Then I make the selections accordingly.”
After winning the first two of three qualifiers for the year in Wellington, FL and Xalapa, Mexico, Canada is already qualified for the final in Barcelona, and Laskin hopes to continue his team’s winning form.
“I’d love to win all three Nations Cups in our league,” he acknowledged. “That would be a pretty admirable accomplishment, so I am going to go with our top riders for sure on our number one team, and then some of our developing riders will get an opportunity on our second team.”
Madden was impressed with last year’s Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ at Spruce Meadows and explained how it helps the nations like USA, Canada and Mexico when they can field two teams at a qualifier.
“Let me first say that every event is excellent at Spruce Meadows,” Madden noted. “They have an extremely high standard that they set for themselves, making the competitions very special and incredibly well executed, and the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ at Spruce Meadows was no exception. Additionally, the event takes place at a great time and fits into the competition calendar very well, and the opportunity to field two teams gives more rider opportunities, which is great for the sport. It helps a tremendous amount, because again it gives more riders and horses the opportunity to compete – it’s like having a fourth Nations Cup competition!”
Laskin looks forward to furthering the development of his teams throughout the summer and also noted that the competition will be great preparation for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games (WEG), which begin at the end of August.
“I am looking forward to going to Aachen. We got a team into Aachen, so we are going there after Spruce Meadows,” he detailed. “That is a real stepping stone in preparing for the World Equestrian Games. Then we are getting close into August and our final push for WEG. Last year we were at the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Final in Barcelona, and we have qualified and are assured a spot in that again this year. That was an incredible event last year – lots of money and a real championship atmosphere. We have quite a few big events on the horizon. Of course I don’t want to miss the BMO Nations Cup at the ‘Masters’ at Spruce Meadows either. That is very important for us. It is a CSIO 5*, and it is our home court, so we would love to do well there too.”
For more information on the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ presented by Scotiabank at the Spruce Meadows ‘Continental’ Tournament, please visit www.sprucemeadows.com.
Based in Calgary, Canada, Spruce Meadows is the brainchild of the Southern family who built a Show Jumping complex at the foothills of the Alberta Rocky Mountains. It was in 1976 that the first Spruce Tournaments were held, with annual spectator attendances reaching over 50,000 by the end of the decade. Today, Spruce Meadows boasts one of the greatest outdoor equestrian venues in the world and offers an incredible experience for riders and fans alike. Spruce Meadows focuses on the organization and hosting of show jumping tournaments of unmatched quality for junior, amateur and professional athletes in a manner that reflects basic family values in a clean, green and welcoming environment that celebrates the horse and encourages the breeding and training of quality sport horses and the teaching and development of athletes. For more information on Spruce Meadows, please visit www.sprucemeadows.com.