Nations Cup at Hickstead to Wrap Up Ambitious Pilot Series Aimed at Waking Up Dressage

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The Nations Cup winning team from Great Britain--Carl Hester, Charlotte Dujardin, Gareth Hughes and Daniel Watson on the medals podium. © 2013 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
The Nations Cup winning team from Great Britain–Carl Hester, Charlotte Dujardin, Gareth Hughes and Daniel Watson on the medals podium. © 2013 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

The final event in this year’s pilot series of four Nations Cups will be held in Hickstead, England this week as the first stage in what the International Equestrian Federation hopes may eventually become world wide leagues with a big global final.

Eight nations–seven from Europe plus the United States–have entered teams in the Hickstead CDIO3* to be decided by the musical freestyle as a rarely used but bold attempt by the Hickstead organizers to generate excitement by the public that is often lacking in Nations Cups typically based on the Grand Prix.

Hickstead became a wide open competition on withdrawal from the British squad of the Olympic team gold and individual bronze medal pair of Laura Tomlinson and Mistral Hojris. Most nations are not fielding their top combinations as it is just three weeks before the European Championships that are critical in qualifying for next year’s World Equestrian Games.

Vidauban, France was the first event in this year’s series where four teams started. Seven national squads were at Rotterdam where Britain led by double Olympic gold medalist Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro beat a strong Netherlands’ side and nine countries participated at Aachen’s World Equestrian Festival which was won by Germany.

Although this week’s event is not a “final”–there is not one this year–national pride will be a factor in driving teams to win. The Netherlands, Sweden and Germany have a virtual lock on the top three places in the series rankings.

The pilot series, Frank Kemperman, chairman of the FEI Dressage Committee told dressage-news.com, was designed to spark interest in getting countries to participate.

“We hope this will help,” said Frank who also manages the World Equestrian Festival in Aachen, Germany, “to get more teams to participate. This is a start for the future.

“The Nations Cup is one of the most valuable products in our sport.

“It will be a pity if we don’t have more Nations Cups. Some could get the idea not to have Nations Cups at championships or Olympics…

“Lets hope this series will develop.

“Our goal at the end is world wide leagues like in jumping, a dream to have several leagues with one huge final.”

Frank admits that it is more difficult in dressage than jumping.

Outside of Europe, regional leagues at Grand Prix level would be difficult to impossible to create at this time.

USA dressage team celebrating their third place finish at the World Equestrian Festival Nations Cup before a crowd of 45,000 spectators in the main arena at Aachen, Germany. © 2013 Ilse Schwarz/dressage-news.com
USA dressage team celebrating their third place finish at the World Equestrian Festival Nations Cup before a crowd of 45,000 spectators in the main arena at Aachen, Germany. © 2013 Ilse Schwarz/dressage-news.com

In the Americas, for example, Brazil, Canada and the United States only are capable of fielding teams of at least three Grand Prix horses and riders. But that may change over the next few years with the Global Dressage Festival in Wellington, Florida staging Nations Cups of mixed big and small tour teams aimed at raising the level for the Pan American Games from the current Prix St. Georges.

Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Africa are considered a possible region but the immense costs of travel and some burdensome quarantine requirements are viewed as serious hurdles.

Frank Kemperman welcomes the move by Hickstead to make the Freestyle the Nations Cup competition, an experiment that could be more popular and kick start the sport that he describes as “sleeping.”

Here’s how the Hickstead event will work.

All horses and riders, both teams and individuals, entered in the Nations Cup CDIO3* get to compete in the Grand Prix on Thursday and Friday. Teams comprise a minimum of three combinations and a maximum of four of which the lowest score will be discarded.

Individual combinations will compete in the Grand Prix Special on Saturday. Among those scheduled for the Special will be Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro, the Olympic double gold medal pair.

The team combinations will move on to the musical Freestyle to be held on Sunday, a peak day for spectator attendance matched with the most popular performance of the sport and mixed with national pride.

The Nations Cup standings heading into Hickstead:
1. Netherlands 30 points
2. Sweden 28
3T. Germany 22
3T. Denmark 22
5. Great Britain 15
6. France 13
7T. Belgium 11
7T. United States 11
9. Switzerland 6
10. Spain 5
11. Finland 4

The teams for Hickstead:

France
JULIA CHEVANNE/LUCIANO
STEPHANIE COLLOMB/RIVERDANCE 11
ALIZEE FROMENT/MISTRAL DU COUSSOUL
CATHERINE HENRIQUET/PARADIESZAUBER

Germany
MATTHIAS KEMPKES/RICCOLETTO
STEPHAN KOBERLE/DARJEELING
JENNY LANG/LOVERBOY
JOHANNA VON FIRCKS/NYMPHENBURGS ROCKSPOT

Great Britain
NIKKI CRISP/PASOA
CARL HESTER/UTHOPIA
GARETH HUGHES/DV STENJKERS NADONNA
MICHAEL EILBERG/MARAKOV

Ireland
DANE RAWLINS/SYDNEY
ROLAND TONG/POMPIDOU
KATE DWYER/REVE D’OR

Netherlands
KATJA GEVERS/THRILLER
LOTJE SCHOOTS/EQUITOP TORRICELLI LS
JOYCE HEUITINK/WUP
LAURENS VAN LIEREN/ULYSES LA HAYA

Spain
DIANA OSTARIZ OLIVER/GUMIEL
LAURO AGUILO MIQUEL/HIERRO C
AUGUSTI ELIAS LARA/DECO BON

Sweden
CHARLOTTE HAIDBONNERGAARD/TRIVIANT
SOFIE LEXNER/CHARMING BOY
CAROLINE DARCOURT/PARIDON MAGI
NATALIE OLDFORS/WINNIE B

United States
GUENTER SEIDEL/CORAL REEF WYLEA
KATHLEEN RAINE/BREANNA
SHELLY FRANCIS/DOKTOR
ARLENE PAGE/ALINA