Three members of the German Olympic gold medal team are heading to the Complet International de Fontainebleau in France this weekend, where the opening leg of the second FEI Nations Cup Eventing test series will take place.
The Germans, winners of last year’s first test series, will be taking no chances and Chef d’Equipe Hans Melzer has a wealth of talent to choose from for this weeeknd. Michael Jung, the reigning Olympic, World and European Champion will have his fantastic horse La Biosthetique Sam FB and Leopin FST, third at Pau (FRA) CCI4* in 2012. He will be joined by London 2012 team mates Sandra Auffarth and Dirk Schrade, as well as Andreas Dibowski, Kai-Steffen Meier and Frank Ostholt.
Germany scored a runaway victory in the inaugural Nations Cup last year, after winning four legs, but other countries such as Spain, who finished second, also took a determinedly structured approach.
It is anticipated that other nations will now be working out a plan to do better in this second test series, which was given a resounding stamp of approval by riders and team officials in 2012.
Great Britain has announced a pool of six prospective team riders who will also use the FEI Nations Cup Eventing to gain valuable experience for Championships: Laura Collett, Pippa Funnell, Kitty King, Emily Llewelyn, Gemma Tattersall and Izzy Taylor.
The New Zealanders are also expected to present a stronger challenge in this year’s series, with Olympic bronze medallists Sir Mark Todd and Jonelle Richards joined by Megan Heath at the Grand Parquet.
Todd will ride Regent Lad for the team, and his London mount NZB Campino as an individual, while Richards adds her Olympic horse Flintstar to the team line-up and The Deputy as an individual. Heath is competing on St Daniel.
Equestrian Sports New Zealand high performance director Sarah Harris says the main aim for the Kiwis at the event is building on their team environment.
“Megan has had some very good results in the UK in the past 12 months and will be looking for a good run to prove herself as a contender for our HP programme.”
Harris says that while New Zealand supports the new Nations Cup concept, they’ll be keeping a bit of a watching brief on it to ensure it benefits the Kiwi combinations.
“It is still being trialled by the FEI, so there isn’t a lot of prize money incentive for teams at the event,” she said. “It is still very early in the season, but these are good riders on good horses, so we are confident of a podium finish.
“The 2014 World Equestrian Games in France is our next targeted pinnacle event, but we will also be looking for individuals to dominate the four star competitions, including the Rolex in Kentucky, Badminton, Luhmuhlen, Burghley and Pau.”
The Fontainebleau FEI Nations Cup event is part of a series that also includes Houghton Hall (Great Britain), Strzegom (Poland) Aachen (Germany), Montelibretti (Italy) and Boekelo (The Netherlands).
A total of eight nations are in a position to field teams of a minimum of three or maximum of four riders for this year’s series: France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand and Spain.
“We are extremely proud to be hosting the opening leg of the second FEI Nations Cup Eventing test series at the prestigious Grand Parquet in Fontainebleau,” said François Lucas, President of CREIF (Comité Régional d’Equitation d’Ile de France).
“Spectators will have the opportunity to see top-class Eventing in our historical surroundings, making this a truly thrilling three days of competition, and a fitting start to the 2013 series.”
One more venue has been added to the Nations Cup calendar, at Waregem in Belgium. The first six legs will be run as short-format (CICO3*) competitions, with the option of running the Cross Country as the last phase. The final leg, at Boekelo (NED) in October, will be long format (CCIO3*).
“We were very pleased with the way the first year went, especially with the commitment and enthusiasm from smaller Eventing nations such as Spain, the Netherlands and Brazil,” said Catrin Norinder, FEI Director, Eventing and Olympic.
“We hope to continue to expand the series. One more competition has been added this year at Waregem, and we expect the last leg at Boekelo to be a much closer affair as more nations begin to plan more tactically and use the FEI Nations Cup Eventing to help up-and-coming riders get a feel for the Championship experience. It will be a really exciting series this year.”
FEI Nations Cup Eventing 2013 calendar
1 Fontainebleau (FRA) 21-24 March
2 Houghton Hall (GBR) 23-25 May
3 Strzegom-W (POL) 30 May-2 June
4 Aachen (GER) 25-30 June
5 Montelibretti (ITA) 21-23 September
6 Waregem (BEL) 26-29 September
7 Boekelo (NED) 11-14 October 2013