New Zealand hosts the very first leg of the 2011 FEI World Cup Eventing 2011 series, with the event kicking off on April 7 on John Nicholson's imaginative cross-country course at Kihikihi.
This year's series - which takes place at eight venues across Australasia, Europe and Britain - will once again run in similar fashion to the Meydan FEI Nations Cup in Jumping, with the rider topping the points table at the end of the season claiming the prestigious title of FEI World Cup Eventing champion 2011.
The points-based system has proved extremely popular with riders as it opens up the series to those not able to travel long distances with their horses. Riders will gain points based on their performance and final placings at each venue. They will have to obtain a minimum of three FEI World Cup Eventing results during the series to be eligible for the title.
All eyes will undoubtedly be on Germany's world champion Michael Jung, who last year pipped Australian Olympian Megan Jones by just four points to claim the HSBC FEI World Cup Eventing title for 2010 at the final event of the season in Schenefeld.
Jung, who won individual gold at the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky last year, was also crowned HSBC FEI World Cup Eventing champion in 2009 and would be the first rider to score an FEI World Cup Eventing hat-trick if he can top the leaderboard again in 2011.
Jones will be another one to watch in the FEI World Cup Eventing 2011 series. In 2010, she effortlessly won the HSBC FEI World Cup class at Kihikihi for the second year running with her home-bred grey Kirby Park Irish Jester and a win next month could make it three in a row.
"The FEI World Cup Eventing series plays a pivotal role in the international calendar and is a thrilling competition for our riders," FEI Eventing Committee Chair Giuseppe della Chiesa said. "With the build-up to the London Olympic Games, we expect to see some exceptional talent vie for the 2011 title."
The FEI World Cup Eventing 2011 series also includes venues in Australia, Britain, Poland, Belarus, Germany and Sweden, before the seasonal curtain-closer in France at Normandy's world-renowned Haras du Pin.