Next week Hickstead will play host to the final leg of European division one of the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ series, when competition will be at its fiercest.
The Longines Royal International Horse Show (26-31 July) normally hosts the penultimate leg of this prestigious team competition, but the impending Rio Olympics meant Dublin Horse Show – normally the final leg – has been moved to the week before Hickstead.
The Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ of Great Britain will be held on the afternoon of Friday 29 July, exactly one week before the start of the Olympic Games. The British squad comprises Scott Brash (Hello Guv’nor), Ben Maher (Diva II), Jess Mendoza (Spirit T), Tim Stockdale (Fleur de l’Aube) and Michael Whitaker (Viking V).
Ben and Michael will be heading from Hickstead to Rio to compete in the Olympics, while Jess Mendoza joins them as travelling reserves. But while the Brits will no doubt be fighting hard to retain their Olympic team gold from four years ago, the quartet at Hickstead will no doubt be keen to win their first home Nations Cup leg since 2010.
The Nations Cup competition sees teams of four riders compete over two rounds, with the best three scores from each round counting towards the team total. Countries from around the world take part in their various leagues, trying to qualify for the final in Barcelona in September. The teams choose which legs they want to count as ‘point scoring’ venues, and at other legs they try to stop their rivals picking up valuable qualifying points.
At Hickstead, Britain faces tough competition for points. Last year’s champions Belgium, the winners of the British Nations Cup for the first time ever, return with the hope of winning for a second year in a row. Switzerland, Germany and Italy are also all seeking qualifying points, while the USA (winners here in 2014), the Netherlands (reigning European and World champions) and Ireland (winners in 2012) will all be doing their utmost to win. Despite the proximity to the Olympics, many of the world’s top riders have been nominated to compete at Hickstead, guaranteeing a stellar line-up.
Sunday afternoon’s showcase class, the €200,000 Longines King George V Gold Cup. The class has been won by the USA’s Beezie Madden for the past two years, with Madden becoming the first female rider to win the historic trophy. Britain last won this class in 2013, when Ben Maher and his former Olympic ride Tripple X took the title.
Saturday’s Templant Events Queen Elizabeth II Cup is one of the most coveted titles in the national showjumping circuit, with only the highest-ranked riders in Great Britain eligible to compete. Last year it was won by the then 21-year-old Chloe Winchester, making her Hickstead international debut.
The show also plays host to hundreds of national showjumping classes, including the British Showjumping Winter Finals. The international showjumping classes get underway from Thursday onwards, with the Bunn Leisure Vase and the Bunn Leisure Trophy.
The show is also the most prestigious in the outdoor showing season, with hundreds of showing championships reaching their conclusion on the hallowed turf of Hickstead.
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