US Seeks to Halt Sharp Decline in World Cup North American League Qualifiers

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Steffen Peters on Ravel holding aloft 2009 World Cup in Las Vegas, the last Final in which a combination from North America competed. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Steffen Peters on Ravel holding aloft 2009 World Cup in Las Vegas, the last Final in which a combination from North America competed. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

A sharp decline in qualifying competitions in North America for the World Cup Final has led to the U.S. Equestrian Federation to seek ways to increase the number of shows, especially in California where there are no qualifiers for the second year in a row. Canada also has no scheduled qualifiers for the 2011 Final.

Six qualifiers are scheduled in North America–all in the United States–for the 26th World Cup Final to be held in Leipzig, Germany, that will combine dressage, driving and jumping championships at the end of April. Three have already been held, two in Saugerties, New York and one at Devon, Pennsylvania. The three remaining are in South Florida, two in West Palm Beach and one in neighboring Loxahatchee,

The three competitions held in the Northeast conflicted with final qualifying and preparation by the top U.S. and Canadian riders for the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky at the end of September. In fact, Devon was the same week as the WEG dressage.

For the 2009/2010 series there were six qualifiers in the United States but none in California, and four in Canada. For the first time in the 25-year history of the only annual global championships, there was no representation from the U.S. or Canada when the Final was held in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, the Netherlands.

In the 2008/2009 series when the final was held in Las Vegas at the same time as the jumping final and the title went to Steffen Peters on Ravel, only the second American combination to claim the championship, there were 10 qualifiers in the U.S., including four in California, and four in Canada.

Steffen told dressage-news.com that he would seek to qualify for the 2011 World Cup Final if there are competitions available. His focus in 2010 was on WEG where he won two individual medals.

North America is one of four leagues used to qualify for the World Cup Final, the others being West Europe, Central Europe and Asia/Pacific. The most competitive is West Europe, where the first of 10 qualifying competitions began in Odense, Denmark Oct. 23 and includes Lyon, France; Stockholm; London; Frankfurt, Germany; Mechelen, Belgium; Amsterdam; Neumünster, Germany; Gothenburg, Sweden, and ‘s-Hertongenbosch.

The West European League is so competitive and the indoor competitions well organized with lots of entertainment that they draw crowds large enough to attract a series sponsor from New York, the fashion house Reem Acra. The company is sponsoring the entire series as well as the Final for the next three years.

Eva Salomon, in her first year as USEF Managing Director and Chef d’Equipe for Dressage, said that organizers in the U.S. of international competitions, CDIs and CDI-Ws, have been contacted to try to increase the number of CDI-W organizers in general and specifically in California for the 2011/2012 qualifiers.

As a result of approval by the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) extending the qualifying period to Mar. 31 from Mar. 1 in 2011, Eva said, the USEF may discuss with California organizers and riders the possibility of West Coast qualifiers for the Leipzig Final.

A major hurdle for show organizers is the high cost of staging World Cup Grand Prix and Grand Prix Freestyle qualifiers that may have a starting list of fewer than five horse and rider combinations but require five judges. Prospective World Cup qualifiers cannot be included in CDI3/4/5* or CDIO classes at the same level.

For example, three CDI3* competitions and one CDI5* event in addition to the three CDI-Ws in Forida are scheduled for California and Florida from January through the end of March in 2011. Although the level of competition and judging is the same as a World Cup qualifier, riders in those classes can qualify for the World Cup Final only through the specially designated qualifiers.

Unless a rider’s national federation is not covered by the established four leagues. Then qualification can be made in the other CDIs/CDIOs.