FEI Exploring Nations Cup Series

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Frank Kemperman. © 2011 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

Creation of a Nations Cup series for dressage is being explored by the International Equestrian Federation as a next ambitious expansion of the Olympic discipline and to help build greater public interest.

Frank Kemperman, chairman of the FEI Dressage Committee, held a meeting of chefs d’equipe and other parties from dressage countries and groups at the European Championships in Rotterdam.

The concept envisages a summer circuit as the FEI is strengthening the World Cup, an annual individual championship, as the primary winter competition series with fewer qualifying events in the highly competitive Western European League to raise interest.

National team competitions are a centerpiece of Olympic, World Equestrian Games and regional championships such as the Europeans and the Pan American Games.

However, an annual Nations Cup has precedent.

The most prestigious and hugely popular annual CDIO is at the World Equestrian Festival in Aachen, Germany, where Frank heads the organization that stages what is regarded as the premier and best-attended horse show in the world. This year, for example, Aachen attracted entries from eight countries that included the major equestrian powers in Europe as well as the United States, as it has for many years as one of the final preparations before championships such as the Olympics and WEG.

Other CDIOs have been staged in recent years in Rotterdam and Saumur, France, and the first non-championship CDIO in the Western Hemisphere is scheduled for next April at the new dressage complex under construction to host the Global Dressage Festival at Wellington, Florida.

“The chefs said, ‘yes’ to the idea and now we have to go to the next stage of working out the details,” Frank told dressage-news.com.

“We have to get the support of the riders that if we launch a Nations Cup series we will get their commitment. Most dressage riders are not in the same position as their counterparts in jumping. Only a few have more than one or two Grand Prix horses.

“Other issues are, for example, how many combinations to have on a team, whether we have three or four; the calendar of competitions which is very crowded in the summer, whether we start with a few events and see how it goes, and sponsorship.”

This year’s European Championship, the 25th event that is held every two years, saw Great Britain claim the Nations Cup– contested by 16 countries–for the first time in history. The British victory and development of top horse and rider partnerships in a growing number of countries outside the traditional powerhouses of Germany and The Netherlands were seen by many in the dressage community as providing an opportunity to open up the sport.

Verbal approval from national federation was viewed as a major first step so that the FEI can work on tackling the other issues to have a complete program to present to prospective sponsors.

Frank Kemperman previewed the kind of change that he sees as required for the future of dressage in an interview distributed at the European Championships.

“Planning for the future is the greatest challenge of all,” he said. “We need to understand what the public of tomorrow expect from dressage. We want exciting sport and attractive competitions–attractive for everyone, the riders, spectators, sponsors and the media. And we must never forget the welfare of the horse.

“It is up to the dressage community to be open to the concept of change in the interest of taking the sport forward into the future.”

Asked where he saw the sport in five years, he said: “I expect that the sport will grow, and that more and more countries will have riders competing at the top level. We need to capitalize on the growing interest in dressage today and use that interest to create more awareness of the sport, and what it has to offer.”