With six regions, fifty nations and countless athletes and horses competing for 2017, you’d be forgiven for not knowing the intricacies of the competition – so how does the FEI Nations Cup™ series work, who should you be keeping a close eye on…and who will take home the big title?
There are some basics which you should definitely be aware of if you want to keep up with the chatter at the yard, so here’s the FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping 101.
1. The world is split into six regions namely Europe (Division 1 and 2), North & Central America, South America, Middle East, Asia/Australia and Africa.
2. FEI Nations Cup™ competitions are held in all regions where the best nations from each region compete against each other to gain points.
3. The top teams from each of these regions eventually make up the eighteen teams who compete against each other at the Final in Barcelona for the overall title of the winning nation.
4. Each nation sends four riders per team. Every single rider and horse jumps the first round, and the worst score from each nation is dropped (so each nation then has three scores).
5. The nation with the best overall score is top of the table, and the top 8 teams compete in the second round.
6. If there are equal penalties for first place (for example, if more than one rider jumps clear) then there’s a jump off to determine who wins that leg.
7. All points accumulated from round one are dropped for the second round, so all teams start on zero.
Great! Now that the nitty gritty of the rules are out of the way, let’s get on to the serious business of who could win!
Who might upset the proverbial apple cart, and what you should be keeping an eye out for during the 2017 installment of the FEI Nations Cup™?
There have been some amazing moments over the many years that the competition has been active. Who could forget Lorcan Gallagher jumping his Irish team to victory in Ocala at the age of only 23, after working as a groom for Shane Sweetnam who lent him the horse to compete?
Not only that, but it was Diktator Van De Boslandhoeve’s first FEI Nations Cup™ ever! Talk about a dream debut!
Germany and France have historically been very strong in this competition, with Germany taking the title last year.
Obviously, France were the recipients of the individual gold in Rio last year too, and so these two teams are definitely going to be strong contenders.
Great Britain and the Netherlands have also featured fairly strongly in recent years and the European leagues are always exciting to watch.
Some of the best horses and riders are featured here, as well as some of the top young talent from emerging nations.
Of course, across the pond you can always look to the US and Canada to churn out some great performances, especially with the likes of Beezie Madden, McLain Ward, and Eric Lamaze all used to performing under pressure for their countries.
If you’re someone who likes to cheer on the underdog you might want to keep an eye on Brazil, who silenced their critics in their home nation at the Olympics last year.
Under the watchful eye of the legendary George Morris, the Brazilians have made amazing progress and were a joy to watch in Rio – if this progress continues, they could be a dark horse in the 2017 FEI Nations Cup™ series.
Qatar, though unlikely to come away with the overall title, were also impressive in Rio.
They’re currently coached by Jan Tops, and some impressive horse rider combinations have been steadily climbing the ranks over the last couple of years, culminating in a fantastic 2016 which featured their inclusion in both Nations Cup Final qualifications and their first ever Olympic Games.
The series starts in Abu Dhabi next weekend, so now you have the basics of the competition down, follow along with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, as well as all the action live over on www.fei.tv
Text by Sophie Baker
Images by Christophe Tanière & Richard Juilliart