Three-Peat Pessoa: History Made At First World Cup Final In Las Vegas In 2000

Las Vegas has a well-earned reputation as an unrivaled host for the FEI World Cup Finals. Nowhere is our sport presented with the pizzazz one finds only in the “Entertainment Capital of the World!”

It all started in the year 2000 when Las Vegas hosted the FEI World Cup Final for the first time. Back then, no one had thought of hosting the Finals in both Jumping and Dressage together, something that was done for the first time in Las Vegas in 2005. It was all about Jumping at that first event in 2000 and there was excitement about bringing the sport’s premier annual event to Las Vegas. There was also an added buzz about whether or not Rodrigo Pessoa could achieve an unprecedented “three-peat” by winning the Final for a third consecutive year.

Making History: Rodrigo Pessoa and Baloubet du Rouet clinch their third consecutive World Cup title in Las Vegas in 2000 (c) Jan Gyllensten

Making History: Rodrigo Pessoa and Baloubet du Rouet clinch their third consecutive World Cup title in Las Vegas in 2000 (c) Jan Gyllensten

As we know, the Brazilian superstar pulled it off and Rodrigo became the first – and still only – rider to clinch back-to-back-to-back World Cup wins. To top it off, he won all three titles with the same horse, Baloubet du Rouet!

Rodrigo, son of show jumping legend Nelson Pessoa, and Baloubet du Rouet won their first World Cup Final in Helsinki, Finland, in 1998 and then followed that with a win in Gothenburg, Sweden, in 1999. The pair came to Las Vegas as odds-on favorites but, incredibly, almost never even got the chance to step foot in the ring!

Imagine the concern that gripped Rodrigo and his team when the plane bringing the horses from Europe landed and his incredible chestnut stallion stepped off the plane with a case of ‘shipping fever’ and temperature of 105 degrees! Fortunately he recovered quickly and went on to make show jumping history.

The pair won the first round speed class on Thursday night and then placed second in the second round jump-off class on Friday. Under intense pressure in front of a sold-out Thomas & Mack Center, Rodrigo and Baloubet kept their cool and jumped two clear rounds on the final day to clinch the win, etching their names indelibly in the World Cup record books.

The amazing duo went on to win a team bronze medal at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney that fall and then, four years later, the individual gold medal at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.

World Cup Champions Rodrigo Pessoa and Baloubet du Rouet

Three-Peat World Cup Champions Rodrigo Pessoa and Baloubet du Rouet

Rodrigo has participated in a total of 13 World Cup Finals, including all five held in Las Vegas (2000, 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2009). He has ridden in six Olympic Games, winning a team bronze medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics in addition to his other aforementioned medals. He has also been in six World Equestrian Games and he won the show jumping World Championship at the 1998 Games in Rome. He also has won two individual silver medals as well as team gold and silver in his three appearances in Pan American Games.

Although three other riders have won the World Cup Finals three times (Austria’s Hugo Simon, and Germany’s Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum and Marcus Ehning, who narrowly edged Rodrigo to dash his hopes of a fourth title in 2003), no one, other than Rodrigo, has done it in consecutive years. That accomplishment remains his and his alone.

If you’d like to watch Rodrigo and Baloubet du Rouet in World Cup action, then click here to see their winning performance at the 1999 FEI World Cup Final in Gothenburg, Sweden.

If you want to see World Cup action from Las Vegas, then you need to make sure you get your tickets for next April’s Finals and I suggest that you do that right now because there’s a good chance that history will be made there again and I know you won’t want to miss it!

When Brentina Rocked the House

In looking ahead to next year’s FEI World Cup Dressage Finals, I want to flashback to the 2005 Finals in Las Vegas and remember the mesmerizing performance by U.S. rider Debbie McDonald and her superstar mare, Brentina, owned by Peggy and Parry Thomas, for whom Las Vegas’s Thomas & Mack Center is named.

Based on their record, Debbie and Brentina are one of the most successful combinations in US dressage history. The pair won the 2003 World Cup Final in Gothenburg, Sweden, the first U.S. pair ever to do so. They competed at two Olympic Games – 2008 in Hong Kong and 2004 in Athens, where they were part of the U.S.’s Bronze medal team. They also participated in the 2002 World Equestrian Games (WEG) in Jerez, Spain, and the 2006 WEG in Aachen, Germany, where they also won a team Bronze medal.

Brentina's retirement ceremony in Las Vegas 2009 (PMG photo)

Brentina’s retirement ceremony in Las Vegas 2009 (PMG photo)

Brentina was formally retired in ceremonies at the 2009 World Cup Finals in Las Vegas. There was barely a dry eye in the house as a scarf of roses was laid over Brentina’s neck in celebration and appreciation of the much-loved Hanoverian mare and her contribution to the sport. However, with all their winning performances, Brentina and Debbie are in many ways most remembered for their groundbreaking performance at the 2005 Finals in Las Vegas when, performing in front of a sold-out crowd, the duo virtually ‘rocked the house” with their Grand Prix Freestyle, forever changing the way dressage is watched.

The general rule of thumb in dressage is for the spectators to remain silent from the start of the performance until the finish, but in this case the crowd could not contain itself. The choreography and music choice could not have been more perfect for the big chestnut mare, as each of Brentina’s footfalls struck the ground in perfect timing.

Debbie McDonald & Brentina wow the crowds at the 2005 FEI World Cup Dressage Finals in Las Vegas

Debbie McDonald & Brentina wow the crowds at the 2005 FEI World Cup Dressage Finals in Las Vegas

As Debbie and Brentina performed to a medley of Motown hits, the crowd got totally involved and as Brentina performed her last piaffe pirouette and passage down the center line, the packed stadium found itself clapping along to the music which was reaching its climax with Aretha Franklin’s R-E-S-P-E-C-T. With McDonald grinning from ear-to-ear, Brentina floated to her final halt after which the crowd erupted in cheers. What an amazing moment!

Although Debbie and Brentina didn’t win that Final, winding up in third place, the world will forever remember that performance as one that changed the direction of the sport. For the way the crowd reacted to the upbeat performance changed the way people watch dressage, a fitting and lasting legacy for one of the sport’s most beloved combinations.

I spoke with Debbie earlier this year about that night and she agreed that it truly was an incredible moment. “People still bring it up when they see me,” she said. “And I have to say that I smile every time they do. It was something special that I know I will never forget!”

If you’ve never seen this remarkable performance, give yourself a treat and click on the video below to watch the night Brentina and McDonald ‘rocked the house’ at the 2005 FEI World Cup Finals in Las Vegas. And be sure to listen as the end of the performance nears to hear the crowd join in like it never had before!

The 2015 FEI World Cup Finals in Las Vegas feature both the Reem Acra FEI World Cup™ Dressage Final and the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final. The event promises to be bigger, better and more exciting than ever, and who knows what magical moments lie in store! So if you haven’t ordered your tickets yet, you should do so now. What a perfect holiday gift!

Top Jumping Officials Announced for 2015 Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Finals

With the world’s best horses and riders competing for the prestigious title of FEI World Cup Champion at the 2015 Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final in Las Vegas next April, it is vital that a world-class slate of officials be on hand to oversee the competition.  Well, we are happy to report that that will be the case as an impressive slate of officials is in place and will be officially announced in the next few days.

Heading the list of officials for jumping is Kim Morrison of Canada who will be President of the Ground Jury. She will be joined by Ground Jury Members David Distler, Neil O’Connor, and Jack Robson, all of the U.S., and Sven Holmberg of Sweden. The Course Designer will be Anthony D’Ambrosio of the U.S., while Leopoldo Palacios of Venezuela will act as Foreign Technical Delegate. President of the Appeal Committee will be Cesar Hirsch of Venezuela. Maria Hernek of Sweden is Overall Chief Steward, Debbie Sands of the U.S. is Chief Jumping Steward, and Kate Horgan of Ireland will be the EU Steward.

Kim Morrison (CAN) – President of the Ground Jury

President of the Ground Jury Kim Morrison

President of the Ground Jury Kim Morrison

Kim Morrison has been active in equestrian sport for over 25 years. She competed in four North American Young Rider Championships, and was long-listed for the Canadian Show Jumping Team for the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. Morrison has served as a Judge and Steward, and is the only FEI Level 4* show jumping official in Canada. Morrison was President of the Ground Jury at the 2014 FEI World Equestrian Games in Normandy, France, was a member of the Ground Jury at the 2012 London Olympic Games, the 2010 FEI World Equestrian Games, and 2012 FEI World Cup Final.  Morrison has taught National Judge Courses over the past several years and was awarded 2013 Official of the Year by Jump Canada.

David Distler (USA)

David Distler has been judging around the world since 1975, and has organized national and international equestrian competitions since 1985. He became an FEI show jumping judge in 1989, and is currently the only FEI 4* rated judge in the U.S. Distler served as a member of the Ground Jury at five previous FEI World Cup Finals, three of which he was Ground Jury President, including the 2009 World Cup Finals in Las Vegas. He served as a member of the Ground Jury at the 2008 Olympic Games in Hong Kong and was also on the Jury at the 2007 Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. His most recent major accomplishment was serving as a member of the Ground Jury for the Show Jumping World Championships at the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Normandy, France.

Sven Holmberg (SWE)

Sven Holmberg has been involved in national and international equestrian sport for over 45 years as both a judge and organizer. He served as the 1st Vice President of the FEI, was an FEI Bureau Member and was also Chair of the FEI Jumping Committee until 2010. A member of the Board of the Swedish Equestrian Federation for 15 years, Holmberg is one of only two FEI 4* rated judges in Sweden. He has been involved in the organization of the Gothenburg Horse Show since 1979, where he also served as President for three FEI World Cup Finals. He was one of the key figures behind the 1990 World Equestrian Games in Stockholm, Sweden, and was a member of the Ground Jury at the 2002 FEI World Equestrian Games in Jerez, Spain, the 2003 and 2007 European Championships, and was President of the Ground Jury at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece.

Neil O’Connor (USA)

Neil O’Connor is a USEF and FEI 3* Judge and Steward and officiates regularly at national and international shows. He has served as President or Member of the Ground Jury at many prestigious U.S. shows such as the Hampton Classic, Pennsylvania National, Winter Equestrian Festival, Washington International, National Horse Show, and the inaugural 2014 Central Park Horse Show. Internationally, O’Connor has officiated at Spruce Meadows and the Royal Winter Fair, both in Canada. A native of Millstreet, County Cork Ireland, O’Connor now resides in the U.S., and ironically he was the Foreign Judge at the 2014 Dublin Horse Show.

Jack Robson (USA)

Jack Robson is an FEI 3* rated judge and course designer with over 30 years of experience in the industry. He has worked with the likes of Frank Chapot, Bert de Nemethy, Pamela Carruthers, and Robert Jolicoeur to name a few. He was a Member of the Ground Jury for the 2009 FEI World Cup Jumping Finals in Las Vegas, and has been either President or a Member of the Ground Jury multiple times at the Las Vegas National Horse Show, Los Angeles National Horse Show, Blenheim Equisports Shows, Del Mar International Horse Show, and Ocala Masters.

Anthony D’Ambrosio (USA) – Course Designer

Course Designer Anthony D'Ambrosio

Course Designer Anthony D’Ambrosio

Anthony D’Ambrosio has over 35 years of experience in the equestrian industry. As a competitor, he won thirty five grand prix competitions at highly esteemed shows such as the Hampton Classic, International Jumping Derby, USET Show Jumping Championship, International Cup of Mexico and twice held the world record in the Puissance (1973 on Sympatico at Madison Square Garden’s National Horse Show and in 1983 on Sweet & Low at the Washington International Horse Show). D’Ambrosio owns and operates Wild Horse Ranch with his wife Michael which specializes in developing grand prix jumpers and has sold four Olympic horses. For over ten years D’Ambrosio has been a FEI 4* Course Designer and Technical Delegate as well as a member of the USEF Jumper Committee, and received the USHJA Course Designer of the Year Award in 2008 and 2010. He has created tests for horse and riders at Spruce Meadows, the Young Riders Championships and the Pan Am Trials for the Canadian Team Riders. He was the Technical Delegate for the 2009 Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, Florida, and the Course Designer for the 2009 FEI World Cup Finals in Las Vegas.

Leopoldo Palacios (VEN) – Technical Delegate

Leopoldo Palacios

Technical Delegate Leopoldo Palacios

Leopoldo Palacios is a one of the most highly respected and sought after course designers in the world. He is an FEI ‘O’ level and 4* Course Designer and Technical Delegate, and has officiated at competitions in more than 35 countries. He has designed courses at the highest level including the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia, and the 2008 Olympic Games in Hong Kong, and is only the second person in history to have had the distinction of designing two Olympic courses. Palacios created the courses for the 1997 World Cup Final in Gothenburg, Sweden, and the 2005 World Cup Final in Las Vegas as well as the 1991 and 1995 Pan American Games in Havana and Buenos Aires respectively. He served as Technical Delegate for the 2003 Pan Am Games in Santo Domingo, 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, and the 2007 Pan-Am games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Formerly the 2nd Vice President of the FEI, Palacios is also the co-founder of the Aachen School of Equestrian Arts.

Cesar Hirsch (VEN) – Appeal Committee President

Cesar Hirsch began his equestrian career as a jumping competitor in Venezuela in 1979, and turned his interest in the sport into his full-time profession. Hirsch is an FEI 3* Judge and Steward, and has officiated at hundreds of shows for over 15 years including four Pan American Games (Winnipeg, Santo Domingo, Rio de Janeiro, and Guadalajara), Central American and Caribbean Games, South American Championships, Spruce Meadows, and the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Lexington. He was also President of the Ground Jury at the North American Junior and Young Rider Championships.

Debbie Sands (USA) – Chief Jumping Steward

Debbie Sands has been an equestrian professional for almost 40 years. She is an FEI 3* Jumping Steward and a USEF “R” rated judge in Hunter, Jumper, Hunter Breeding, and Hunter Seat Equitation. Her most recent accomplishment was as a Steward at the 2014 Las Vegas National Horse Show and Chief Steward at the 2014 Los Angeles Masters. For many years Sands has been an official at the Gold Coast Series, Arizona Winter Festival, Los Angeles National, and Blenheim Equisports Horse Shows.

Maria Hernek (SWE) – Overall Chief Steward

Maria Hernek is a FEI 3* Jumping Steward and conducts FEI Jumping Steward clinics all over the world. She has been the Chief Steward at the Gothenburg Horse Show in Sweden for many years, including the 2013 FEI World Cup Jumping Final. She was also an FEI Steward at the 2011 FEI European Jumping Championships in Madrid, Spain.

Kate Horgan (IRL) – EU Steward

Kate Horgan has been an equestrian official for over 15 years. She is a FEI 3*Judge and Steward, and also acts as an FEI Steward Course Director as well as the FEI General Steward for Ireland. She has officiated at many international horse shows including the 2013 FEI World Cup Final in Gothenburg, Sweden.

If you haven’t ordered your tickets for the Finals yet, I recommend that you do so today. It’s not every year that the World Cup Finals are held in the U.S. and next April in Las Vegas promises to be an incredible event that I know you won’t want to miss!

Las Vegas Showdown: Valegro and Totilas

Two of Dressage’s All-time Best Horses Set Sights on 2015 World Cup™ Final in Las Vegas

Well, it looks like the showdown we have all been dreaming about is finally set to happen! The word is out that two of the greatest horses in dressage history plan to compete at the Reem Acra FEI World Cup™ Dressage Final in Las Vegas next April 15-19.

Reigning Olympic and World Champion Charlotte Dujardin of Great Britain will bring Valegro while Germany’s Matthias Alexander Rath will bring Totilas. Both have scheduled the qualifying competitions in which they plan to compete and announced that they are targeting the Final in Las Vegas. It is going to be a historic showdown and there is no better setting for this clash of the titans than the “Entertainment Capital of the World!”

Dressage fans from all around the globe are anxiously awaiting this encounter. Both horses are mesmerizing to watch and are almost freaks of nature in their talent. Their performances in recent years have helped catapult the sport of dressage into the limelight and projected the sport’s popularity beyond equestrian sports’ fans and right into the mainstream media.

Matthias Alexander Rath (GER) and Totilas at CHIO Aachen 2014 © Hippo Foto - Dirk Caremans/FEI

Germany’s Matthias Alexander Rath and Totilas
© Hippo Foto – Dirk Caremans/FEI

Totilas, the legendary black stallion, first set the dressage world on fire about 5 years ago when he seemed unbeatable with his former rider, Edward Gal of The Netherlands. Together they were the first ever to break the previously unthinkable score of 90%, and they won all three gold medals at the 2010 FEI World Equestrian Games in Kentucky. Following those Games, Totilas was sold to Germany to become the new ride for Matthias Alexander Rath, a sale that caused an uproar in the dressage world.

With all eyes on the new pairing, Totilas suffered an injury and disappeared from competition. He even wound up missing the 2012 Olympic Games. However, after a two-year hiatus and some changes in training regime, Totilas and Rath made a very successful return to the competition arena this past spring looking for a spot on the German Team for the 2014 World Equestrian Games.

The pair had wins in Kapellen (Belgium), Wiesbaden (Germany), and Perl (Germany) prior to competing at the last team qualifier in Aachen (Germany) last July. That was to be the site of the highly anticipated showdown with Valegro, who swept double gold at the 2012 Olympics; however, it was a showdown that began but didn’t have the climax everyone was longing to see.  More on that in a moment.

British superstars Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro  © Kit Houghton/ FEI

British superstars Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro
© Kit Houghton/ FEI

Meanwhile, Dujardin and Valegro are the reigning sweethearts of the sport and have become household names in Europe. The duo has set world records (previously held by Totilas) in all three tests (Grand Prix, Grand Prix Special and Freestyle), are ranked number one in the world, and are the first to hold four titles simultaneously as they are the reigning Olympic, European, World Cup and World Champions!

 

Since the beginning of 2012, Dujardin and Valegro have never placed lower than second, although their invincibility started to be questioned last July at Aachen where they had an uncharacteristic lackluster performance due to higher than usual temperatures at the competition. Totilas and Rath, who now seem to have gelled together, made their way into the winner’s circle after claiming both the Grand Prix and the Grand Prix Special with Dujardin and Valegro placing second. However, the much anticipated climax of the showdown, in the Grand Prix Freestyle, didn’t take place as Totilas was withdrawn from the competition “to be saved for another day.”

Another face-off was set for the 2014 World Equestrian Games (WEG) this past summer with the title of World Champion on the line. There was an incredible sense of excitement and speculation as to which of the two legends would win the gold. However, misfortune struck again as Totilas incurred another injury prior to WEG and was withdrawn from the competition.

The dressage world was excited to see Dujardin and Valegro back in top form, however, as they executed near-perfect performances which received high scores. The pair helped Great Britain to the team silver medal and they won both individual gold medals and the prestigious title of World Champion. However, the long-awaited match-up between the sport’s two all-time greats was put off yet again.

Well, now it looks like those at the 2015 World Cup Finals in Las Vegas next April will be the lucky ones who get to see this historic face-off.  Much like the famous ‘Match Race of the Century’ between Thoroughbreds Seabiscuit and War Admiral, or other big sports showdowns like Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady in football or the famous basketball battles between Bird and Magic in the 1980s, this competition between the two ‘heavy weights’ of the dressage world will be of historic proportions. I hope you’ve ordered your tickets because this “Dressage Showdown of the Century” is surely one that you will not want to miss!

Impressive Slate of Officials On Board For Reem Acra FEI World Cup Dressage Finals

When the stakes are as high as they are for the 2015 FEI World Cup Finals, it is important that the officials overseeing the competition be worthy of the world’s best horses and riders. Well, an impressive slate of officials is in place for the 2015 Reem Acra FEI World Cup™ Dressage Finals in Las Vegas next April. The officials for the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Finals will be announced shortly.

Heading the list of officials for dressage is Lilo Fore of the United States who will be President of the Ground Jury. She will be teamed with Stephen Clarke of Great Britain, Francis Verbeek of The Netherlands, Peter Holler of Germany, Isabelle Judet of France, Annette Fransen-Iacobaeus of Sweden, and Maria Schwennesen of Australia. Hans-Christian Matthiesen of Denmark is the Reserve. Freddy Leyman of Belgium will serve as Technical Delegate and Elisabeth Williams of the U.S. will be Chief Steward.

The Finals will be managed, as was the case for the Finals’ previous appearances in Las Vegas in 2005, 2007 and 2009, by Glenda McElroy and Jennifer Killinger of Cornerstone Event Management.

Ground Jury President Lilo Fore (USA) photo (c) PhelpsPhotos.com

Ground Jury President Lilo Fore (USA) photo (c) PhelpsPhotos.com

Liselotte ‘Lilo’ Fore (USA) – President

Lilo Fore has been involved with top level dressage in the U.S. and around the world for decades. She is an FEI 5* judge, and has been a member of the Ground Jury for numerous international competitions including the Olympics, Pan American Games, and World Equestrian Games (WEG) including the recent 2014 WEG in Normandy, France. Fore is also a 3* Judge for Para-Equestrian and a United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) “R” Sporthorse judge. Fore has also has been successful as a rider, coach and breeder, and she has trained many horses to national and international victories.

 

Stephen Clarke (GBR)

Stephen Clarke has always been interested in training horses for every discipline. He was a show jumping and eventing rider prior to concentrating fully on dressage starting in the late ‘70s. He was team reserve rider for the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games with his horse Becket. Clarke is an FEI 5* judge. He is legendary for his leadership and was unanimously elected as FEI Official International Judge General. Clarke travels virtually all over the globe, and has been on the Ground Jury at numerous international competitions including the World Equestrian Games, European Championships, FEI World Cup Finals, and was President of the Ground Jury at the 2012 London Olympic Games.

Francis Verbeek (NED)

Francis Verbeek of The Netherlands is also an FEI 5* judge, and has been successful as a trainer and clinician. Verbeek has been a dressage official at several FEI World Cup Dressage Finals and was President of the Ground Jury in 2010 at s-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands. She has also officiated at Nations’ Cups, European Championships, and most recently, at the 2014 FEI World Equestrian Games in Normandy, France.

Peter Holler (GER)

German judge Peter Holler has trained and educated dressage riders worldwide. He is an FEI 5* judge and also an FEI Dressage Mentor Judge. He has been an official at top international shows and Championships across the globe including the German Championships, Bundeschampionate, World Championships for Young Horses, and European Championships for Juniors and Young Riders. Most recently, he was the President of the Ground Jury at the Asian Games in Korea.

Isabelle Judet (FRA)

Isabelle Judet is well known worldwide as a FEI 5* judge and as a trainer for over 20 years. She has judged at the FEI Dressage World Cup Finals, European Championships, CHIO Aachen, and was the President of the Ground Jury at the 2014 FEI World Equestrian Games in Normandy, France. She served as the French Equestrian Federation’s Chef d’Equipe from 1991 to 1994 including for the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona. From 1999 to 2002, she was France’s National Trainer. Judet is also on the long list for the Ground Jury for the 2015 European Dressage Championships.

Annette Fransen-Iacobaeus (SWE)

Annette Fransen-Iacobaeus is an FEI 5* judge for both dressage and Young Horses. She was a member of the Ground Jury for the 2014 FEI European Pony Championships in Ireland, as well as for the 2014 FEI/WBFSH World Breeding Championships in Germany. She is also on the long list for the Ground Jury for the 2014 European Dressage Championships.

Maria Schwennesen (AUS)

Maria Schwennesen resides in Brisbane, Australia. She retired from the workforce and from competitive and professional riding which allows her to dedicate more time to her passion of dressage. Schwennesen is an FEI 4* judge and has worked on many national and state committees and boards including the Australian Dressage Committee. She was an Australian selector for the past two Olympics and for the WEG. She has been involved with the sport for over 30 years, and officiates at many international shows including the FEI World Challenge Tour each year.

Hans-Christian Matthiesen (DEN) – Reserve

Hans-Christian Matthiesen of Denmark became an FEI 5* dressage judge last June. He is also a FEI 5* judge for Young Horses. He is a veterinarian, and has been a member of the Danish Equestrian Federation Board of Directors. Matthiesen was a member of the Ground Jury at the 2014 FEI European Young Rider & Junior Championships in Arezzo, Italy last July.

Freddy Leyman (BEL) – Technical Delegate

Freddy Leyman is passionate about dressage and traveling. He is an FEI 4* Dressage Judge and FEI Dressage Technical Delegate, and has been an official at many international competitions. He was a member of the Ground Jury at the 2014 FEI European Young Rider & Junior Championships and the 2014 Asian Games, as well as Foreign Technical Delegate at the FEI/WBFSH World Breeding Championships in Verden, Germany in August.

Elisabeth Williams (USA) – Chief Steward

Elisabeth Williams was extensively involved with the US Pony Clubs and managed part of their National Championships for many years. Elisabeth has been a US Equestrian Federation Technical Delegate since 1981, and an FEI Chief Steward for Dressage since 1994. She has officiated at many prestigious competitions, among them the 1995 FEI World Cup Finals in Los Angeles, the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, the 1997 North American Senior Championships in Maryland, and the 1999 Pan-American Games in Winnipeg. She has also been the moderator for many US Equestrian Federation and USDF Technical Delegates Forums.

First held in 1986, the FEI World Cup™ Dressage Final features the world’s best dressage horses and riders. The United States has won the championship twice – in 2003 (Debbie McDonald with Brentina) and 2009 (Steffen Peters with Ravel). The Final has been held in the U.S. previously in Los Angeles (1995) and Las Vegas (2005, 2007, 2009). There is a sense of great anticipation for the Finals’ return to the U.S. next April and I urge everyone to order their tickets today!

The FEI World Cup™ Finals — How It Works

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-time FEI World Cup champion Marcus Ehning (GER) won the 2014 FEI Jumping World Cup Qualifier in Bordeaux, France with Cornado NRW (c) Fred Chehu / FEI

Three-time FEI World Cup champion Marcus Ehning (GER) won the 2014 FEI Jumping World Cup Qualifier in Bordeaux, France with Cornado NRW (c) Fred Chehu / FEI

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.

Belgium's Nicola Phillipaerts & Donatella win the 2014 FEI Jumping World Cup Qualifier in Gothenburg, Sweden (c) Roland Thunholm - FEI

Belgium’s Nicola Phillipaerts & Donatella clinched the 2014 FEI Jumping World Cup Qualifier in Gothenburg, Sweden (c) Roland Thunholm – FEI

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.

Germany's Helen Langehanenberg & Damon Hill NRW win the FEI Dressage World Cup Qualifier at Neumunster on home turf (c) Karl-Heinz Freiler /FEI

Germany’s Helen Langehanenberg & Damon Hill NRW scored a personal best score to win the FEI Dressage World Cup Qualifier at Neumunster (GER) (c) Karl-Heinz Freiler /FEI

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.

Denmark's Anna Kasprzak & Donnperignon won the 2014 FEI Dressage World Cup Qualifier in front of the home crowd at Odense (c) Annette Boe Ostergaard / FEI

Denmark’s Anna Kasprzak & Donnperignon won the 2014 FEI Dressage World Cup Qualifier in front of the home crowd at Odense (c) Annette Boe Ostergaard / FEI

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!

WEG Jumping Finals Set The Stage For Las Vegas

There was a great sense of anticipation and excitement in the air as the Show Jumping competition of the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games got underway in Normandy, France, last week; not unlike what the buzz will be in Las Vegas next April for the 2015 Longines FEI World Cup Final!

Great Britain, one of the Gold Medal favorites with a team comprising Olympic and European Champions, had a major setback before the competition even began as Ben Maher had to withdraw Jane Clark’s Cella due to a small overreach injury before heading to France. Belgium then withdrew Jos Lansink’s mount Ensor de Litrange before the first horse inspection.

Team U.S.A. was also favored for a spot on the podium after a very successful summer on the European circuit which included victories in Nations’ Cups at Hickstead and Dublin as well as a second-place finish at Aachen. The team comprised Olympic veterans Beezie Madden and McLain Ward, as well as veteran Kent Farrington and youngster Lucy Davis who were both making their WEG debuts.

Ireland's young superstar Bertram Allen and Molly Malone V won the opening Speed class at WEG - (c) Hippo Foto Team - Leanjo De Koster / FEI

Ireland’s young superstar Bertram Allen and Molly Malone V won the opening Speed class at WEG – (c) Hippo Foto Team – Leanjo De Koster / FEI

A total of 153 horse-and-rider combinations started the first leg of competition with 35 nations in the Team competition and 54 countries having riders in the Individual competition. The opening leg was a speed class and Ireland’s young superstar Bertram Allen (only 19!) had a fantastic round on Molly Malone V, his Dublin Grand Prix winner, which proved unbeatable. Patrice Delaveau of France finished second on Orient Express HDC, while Belgium’s Gregory Wathelet and Conrad de Hus finished third just ahead of 2013 World Cup winner Beezie Madden and Cortes C. Germany’s Daniel Deusser and his 2014 World Cup winner Cornet d’Amour finished 7th. After the first round, France led the Team standings with Sweden second and the US third.

For the next round of Team competition, the course was nothing short of breathtaking in its design, and it also proved influential in the standings. Some felt that perhaps the horses may have been distracted by the artistic jumps which included a Viking ship, a giant hand that held brushes like Normandy’s famed impressionist painters, a gun with a knot tied in its barrel, and a medieval fortress, to name a few; but it was a masterpiece to look at!

Jeroen Dubbeldam (NED) and Zenith SFN make history for The Netherlands with double Gold (c) Hippo Foto Team - Dirk Caremans / FEI  only rider to produce four clear rounds he secured his second Gold Medal of the Games and became the first Dutch rider to win the Individual World Championship

Jeroen Dubbeldam (NED) and Zenith SFN make history for The Netherlands with double Gold (c) Hippo Foto Team – Dirk Caremans / FEI

Only 20 of the 144 starters managed to cross the finish line fault-free, and only two teams managed to have no penalties added to their overnight score, including the Dutch Team who rose from fifth place to the top of the leaderboard, and Brazil, who jumped up from 12th place to fifth, which earned them a spot in the top-ten team finale.

Super performances by Team U.S.A., specifically clears from McLain Ward on Rothchild and Beezie Madden with Cortes C, moved the US into second, and Madden into second individually. Germany, the WEG 2010 Gold Medalists, moved into third after clears from both Marcus Ehning on Cornado NRW and Daniel Deusser on Cornet D’Amour. Host nation France dropped to fourth, but their star Patrice Delaveau and Orient Express HDC jumped into the individual lead. Sweden’s Rolf-Goran Bengtsson and Casall Ask stood third, while Germany’s Deusser and Dutch rider Jeroen Dubbeldam with Zenith SFN rounded out the top five.

The pressure in the final round of the Team competition was intense, especially for France who desperately wanted a win on home soil. Penelope Leprevost, a member of the French team said it best, describing entering the arena as being “like entering a boiling cauldron.”

Team Gold for The Netherlands, while France takes Silver and the US takes Bronze (c)  Hippo Foto Team - Leanjo De Koster / FEI

Team Gold for The Netherlands, while France takes Silver and the US takes Bronze (c) Hippo Foto Team – Leanjo De Koster / FEI

In the end it was The Netherlands who captured Team Gold on a score of 12.83. This was their second championship title, having won at WEG 2006 in Aachen. The Gold Medal team included Maikel van der Vleuten on VDK Group Verdi TN N.O.P., Jur Vrieling on VDL Bubalu, Dubbeldam on Zenith SFN, and Gerco Schroder on his Olympic mount Glock’s London N.O.P. Both Dubbeldam and Schroder had been members on the Gold Medal team in Aachen.

 

Team USA's Beezie Madden and Cortes C - 'Best Horse' of the show (c) Hippo Foto Team - Leanjo De Koster / FEI

Individual Bronze medalist Beezie Madden of the US and Cortes C – ‘Best Horse’ of the show (c) Hippo Foto Team – Leanjo De Koster / FEI

France re-claimed their Silver Medal from WEG 2010 in Kentucky with a score of 14.08, edging out the US who took Bronze with 16.72. As the second-to-last rider to go, Beezie Madden had all the pressure knowing she had to go clear to clinch the Bronze. She demonstrated why she is regarded as one of the world’s best by producing one of only ten clears in the competition, which secured the US a spot on the podium and propelled her to the top of the standings in the Individual competition. Sweden’s Bengtsson held second, while Denmark’s Soren Pedersen and Tailormade Esperanza De Rebel S moved into third. Overnight leader Delaveau of France dropped a rail and three spots to end the day in fourth.

With the weight of the team competition off their shoulders, the riders focused on the individual medals as the top 29 in the standings competed in a two-round competition hoping to earn one of just four spots in the Final. Madden and Ward were among the top contenders and they advanced with 19 other riders to the second round. In the end, just 3/10th of a penalty kept Ward from joining Madden in the Top Four, as the two-time Olympic team Gold Medalist and 2006 WEG team Silver Medalist wound up fifth.

The home crowd went wild with the news that Delaveau, who grew up only 40km away, not only made it through but actually led the rankings. Sweden’s Bengtsson and The Netherlands’ Dubbeldam joined him and Madden for the final battle for Gold.

France's own Patrice Delaveau and Orient Express HDC take both Team and Individual Silver at WEG (c) Hippo Foto Team - Leanjo De Koster/ FEI

France’s own Patrice Delaveau and Orient Express HDC take both Team and Individual Silver at WEG (c) Hippo Foto Team – Leanjo De Koster/ FEI

The final round at WEG is different from all other competitions in that the top four riders ride not only their own horses, but each other’s horses as well. The format is controversial, but it’s truly exciting to watch the world’s top riders compete over a world-class course with only minutes to prepare on horses which they have never ridden!

Dutch rider Jeroen Dubbeldam wins Gold (center),  France's Patrice Delaveau takes Silver (left) and  US rider Beezie Madden takes Bronze  (c) Hippo Foto Team - Leanjo de Koster / FEI

Dutch rider Jeroen Dubbeldam wins Gold (center), France’s Patrice Delaveau takes Silver (left) and US rider Beezie Madden takes Bronze (c) Hippo Foto Team – Leanjo de Koster / FEI

Dubbeldam’s rides on all four horses was pure harmony. As the only rider to produce four clear rounds he secured his second Gold Medal of the Games and became the first Dutch rider to win the Individual World Championship. It was disappointment for Delaveau who was achingly close to Gold and who had to settle for Silver after receiving one time penalty in the third round on Casall Ask. Madden secured the Bronze medal with a total of 12 faults, her second WEG individual medal after having won Silver in 2006.

Madden’s amazing mount, Cortes C, owned by Abigail Wexner, earned the ‘Best Horse’ title as he was the only horse to produce clear rounds with all four riders. In addition, he jumped four clears out of five rounds in the earlier competitions.

The thrilling finale to WEG gives us good insight into the excitement we can expect next April at the 2015 Longines FEI World Cup Final in Las Vegas. Don’t miss your chance to watch the sport’s absolute best horses and riders go head-to-head in Las Vegas next April; be sure to order your tickets today!