There is plenty of eventing action this weekend, nationally and internationally. Highlights will be the Fontainebleau Nations Cup in France, as well as many Badminton-bound horses and riders having their first run at Great Witchingham International, Burgham and Gatcombe in the UK.
The magnificent Puhinui Reserve in Auckland will host a one-day event with 13 entries in the Honda CIC3* class and 21 in the ISpy CIC2*. There are good fields in the many other classes including over-40 Masters CNC95 through to CNC80.
Eventing Southland also have their Ryal Bush two-day inaugural horse trial with classes from two-star down to CNC80 as well as dressage- and jumping-only competitions. The Southlanders have got great sponsorship from local and national businesses and have been working hard to get the facilities and the brand new cross-country course built. It promises to be a great event and a fabulous facility for the district.
The 2016 international eventing season kicks off this weekend at Fontainebleau (France) with many nations fielding teams in a highly competitive first leg of this year’s FEI Nations Cup Eventing. No New Zealand team, however, but there are some top names in the field.
Olympic and European champion Michael Jung, World champion Sandra Auffarth (both from Germany), the host nation’s former European champions Nicolas Touzaint and Jean-Lou Bigot, alongside Christopher Burton, a key member of the prominent Australian squad last year, and WEG 2014 team bronze medallist Tim Lips (Netherlands).
Great Britain, firm supporter of the Nations Cup since its inception in 2012, and the leading nation last year, brings another strong group. Ireland has also entered a strong squad, which includes all four members of the team that produced a stunning performance to win the final event at Boekelo last year, and Belgium, Italy, Spain and Sweden will field teams.
There are eight legs at CIC3* level in this year’s Nations Cup, including a new addition in the USA at The Plains, Virginia on July 8-10. This event will also serve as one of the final trials for the US Olympic eventing team.
The FEI Nations Cup was designed to help national coaches give valuable team experience to up-and-coming riders. Last year, 15 countries contested the series which culminated in a thrilling finale at Boekelo.
This year, the series will be of particular value in view of the forthcoming Rio Olympics, and riders will be able to get a flavour of the Olympic cross-country course designer’s style, as Pierre Michelet (FRA) is officiating at Fontainebleau.
“The Nations Cup continues to go from strength to strength as national coaches realise how useful it is for evaluating and preparing riders for championships,” said Catrin Norinder, FEI Director, Olympic & Eventing. “As it is an Olympic year, I would expect the series to be even better supported and more competitive. We are in for a really exciting season.”
The UK has always supported Nations Cup events with strong entries, but New Zealand, has never been a big fan of the series, dipping into it now and then. High Performance Director, Sarah Dalziel, gives the background on why there are no Kiwi entries at the French event. “With Rio Olympics just around the corner (in less than six months!), and with the four-star events being the competition level prioritised in selection for Rio, Kentucky and Badminton are the primary targeted events for our Olympic eventing contenders.
“As a consequence, we are supporting our riders in these events, rather than entering a team at Fontainebleau, which is not viewed as critical to their campaign preparation at this time. We will be targeting a team at the Aachen Nations Cup Event which is much closer to the Games itself, to polish team processes, systems and performance.”
The full Nations Cup series is:
- 1 Fontainebleau (FRA) 23-25 March
- 2 Ballindenisk (IRL) 22-24 April
- 3 Houghton Hall (GBR) 26-29 May
- 4 Strzegom (POL) 24-26 June
- 5 The Plains (USA) 8-10 July
- 6 Aachen (GER) 14-16 July
- 7 Vairano (ITA) 16-18 September
- 8 Waregem (BEL) 22-25 September
- 9 Boekelo (NED) 6-9 October