For competitors all across Western Europe, the long and winding road to the Longines FEI Jumping Final, which will take place in Gothenburg, Sweden next April, begins in Oslo, Norway this weekend.

Horses and riders from 18 countries will do battle in Sunday afternoon’s first leg of the Western European League which once again takes place in the famous Telenor Arena where Germany’s Daniel Deusser got his campaign underway with victory last season. Collecting early qualifying points is a real bonus, and the competition can be expected to be fierce from the outset.

It’s going to be a busy start to the series, with Oslo immediately followed by legs in Helsinki (FIN) and Verona (ITA) later this month before the action moves on to Lyon (FRA), Stuttgart (GER) and Madrid (ESP) in November. La Coruña (ESP) will mark the half-way point in early December, and then, after the Christmas shows at London, Olympia (GBR) and Mechelen (BEL), there will be just four chances left to chase down those precious points.

Basel in Switzerland will be a welcome new addition in January when Leipzig (GER) and Amsterdam (NED) will also attract the best riders to the closing stages. And Bordeaux (FRA) will present the 13th and last qualifier in February.

Now in its 41st season, the FEI World Cup™ Jumping series has legendary status. It marks the mastery of indoor jumping which requires a unique level of understanding, trust, precision and team-work between horse and rider. Unlike competing in the great outdoors there is relatively little space to adjust your stride or change your plan, so accuracy is essential from start to finish. And one of the things that keeps spectators on the edges of their seats is the speed of it all, especially when it comes down to a jump-off to decide the winner. No doubt the roofs of many of the venues will be lifted by roars of excitement as the best combinations battle it out for a chance to put their names on the trophy that has been such a badge of honour for so long.

Switzerland’s Steve Guerdat knows what it’s like to hold it in his hands. The London 2012 Olympic gold medallist grabbed it two years in a row, in Las Vegas (USA) in 2015 and again the following year in Gothenburg (SWE). He was also just pipped at the post at the Gothenburg Final in 2013 by Beezie Madden, the lady who won the title again this year in Paris (FRA) where her American compatriot, Devin Ryan, lined up second ahead of Sweden’s Henrik von Eckermann in third.

Guerdat, currently No. 2 in the Longines World Rankings, will be setting out his stall in Oslo, just a week after competing at the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ Final in Barcelona (ESP) and only three weeks after claiming individual bronze at the FEI World Equestrian Games™ in Tryon (USA). He has an extraordinary strike-rate, and he’s likely to be the man to beat this weekend.

But Australia’s Edwina Tops-Alexander will also be coming out with all guns blazing as will Belgium’s Pieter Devos, a member of the winning team at that Final in Barcelona just three days ago. And 2016 Olympic team champion Kevin Staut from France will be there along with Dutch stars, father-and-son Eric and Maikel Van der Vleuten, and the best that Norway has to offer including the highly-competitive Gulliksen family, sister-and-brother Victoria and Johan-Sebastian and their father Geir.

The road to Gothenburg, where the inaugural FEI World Cup™ Final was held way back in 1979 and where the new-season Final will take place from 3 to 7 April 2019, looks set to be paved with many more magical moments. And, for the Western European riders, it all begins this coming weekend….don’t miss a hoofbeat!