The world’s best riders in show jumping and dressage have their sights set on the 2015 FEI World Cup™ Finals and they are gearing their horses to be part of equestrian sport’s biggest annual event when it is held in Las Vegas next April!
This will be the sixth time that Las Vegas will host the FEI World Cup™ Finals. The Jumping Finals were held there in 2000 and 2003 and combined Finals in both Jumping and Dressage were held there in 2005, 2007 and 2009; those were the first times that the world’s premier annual championships in the two Olympic disciplines were held together, and each one was more fantastic than the one before. Qualifying for the 2015 Finals has already begun and the qualifying process assures us that only the best will make it to the ‘Entertainment Capital of the World’ for what will surely be a week we will remember forever!
Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final
Started in 1979, the FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final has been held 36 times. Besides those in Las Vegas, Finals were held in the United States in Baltimore (1980), Tampa (1989), and Del Mar, CA (1992). The US has won the most titles, 9, including seven in the Finals’ first nine years. However, it was 25 years before the US won again, coming when Rich Fellers re-claimed the title in 2012 with Flexible. Beezie Madden and Simon then made it back-to-back wins for the US in 2013 when she became just the fifth woman to win.
Three riders have three Finals wins: Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum and Marcus Ehning of Germany, as well as Rodrigo Pessoa of Brazil. Pessoa is the only rider to win three in a row with the last of his three-peat coming in Las Vegas in 2000 aboard the famed stallion Baloubet du Rouet on whom he won all three.
Expect to see 40-45 riders in next April’s Jumping Final. They will get there by earning points at Qualifying competitions held in 16 FEI Leagues: Western Europe, Central Europe, North American (East Coast), North American (West Coast), Central America & Caribbean, South America North, South America South, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Central Asia, SouthEast Asia, Arab, South Africa, Caucasus, and China.
The Western European League is allowed 18 riders in the Final, and North America is allowed 14 (7 US riders from the East Coast League; 3 US riders from the West Coast League; 2 Canadian riders from the East or West; and 2 Mexican riders from the East or West). The number of finalists from the other Leagues is determined by the FEI Jumping Committee according to the overall standard of their League. If the country hosting the Final does not have a qualified rider, they may nominate a ‘Wild Card’ competitor to represent them in consultation with the FEI Jumping Committee.
In the Final, riders must ride horses on which they have completed at least one Qualifier. The Defending Champion (this year, Germany’s Daniel Deusser) is allowed to enter two horses of his choice.
The First Competition at the Final is a speed class held on Thursday night with jumps set at a maximum height of 1.50 meters (just over 4’11”). It is designed to give a rider with a rail down a chance to stay in the running. The Second Competition is held the following night and involves one round with a jump-off against the clock, with fences at a height of 1.50-1.60 meters (approximately 4’11” – 5’3”).
Points are awarded to each rider based on their finishes in each of the first two rounds. Those points are then converted into penalties that riders carry into the Third Competition which takes place on Sunday afternoon. The Third Competition has two rounds with a Grand Prix course set at 1.50-1.60 meters (approximately 4’11” – 5’3”). The top 30 riders (plus ties) after the Second Competition are eligible for Sunday’s first round. Then the 20 best-placed riders (plus ties) move on to the second round. The winner of the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final is the rider with the lowest number of penalties after all three Competitions. If there is a tie, there is a jump-off to determine the winner.
Reem Acra FEI World Cup™ Dressage Final
First held in 1986, the FEI World Cup™ Dressage Final has been held in the U.S. four times, in 1995 in Los Angeles and in 2005, 2007 and 2009 in Las Vegas. The United States won the title in 2003 when Debbie McDonald won on Brentina, owned by Peggy and Parry Thomas (for whom the Thomas & Mack Center is named), and in 2009 when Steffen Peters won in Las Vegas on Ravel. The Netherlands has won the most titles, 12, with 9 of those by Anky van Grunsven with her two famed horses, Bonfire and Salinero.
In order to compete in the Reem Acra FEI World Cup™ Dressage Final, riders and horses qualify through one of four FEI World Cup™ Dressage leagues: Western Europe, Central Europe, North America, and Pacific (Australia and New Zealand). In any League, a rider/horse combination may start in only six qualifying events, with the four best results to count.
To be eligible for the Final, each rider/horse combination must meet the minimum qualification score of at least 68% in the Grand Prix Freestyle to Music in two different Qualifiers (CDI-W), at least one of which must be in a foreign country. For riders that don’t belong to one of the recognized Leagues, they must score at least 68% in a Grand Prix Freestyle in a CDI3/4/5*/CDIO on two different occasions. The defending Champion (in this case, Charlotte Dujardin of Great Britain) is automatically qualified with a horse of her choice, but still must compete in the Freestyle in at least two Qualifiers during the qualifying season.
A maximum of 18 riders and horses may participate in the Final. The Final consists of the compulsory FEI Grand Prix and the FEI Grand Prix Freestyle to Music, and all competitors who finish the Grand Prix with at least 60% may continue through to the Freestyle. The Final results in the Freestyle determine the FEI World Cup™ champion!
With the Qualifiers for Las Vegas already underway, the world’s top riders in both dressage and jumping have marked their calendars and set their sights on a trip to the Finals next April. The good news for you is that you don’t need to qualify to be part of the big event – all you need to do is buy your tickets! And it is my recommendation that you do so right now so that you are part of next April’s incredible happening as the world’s best riders try to turn their dream of winning the FEI World Cup™ Finals into a reality!