Jumper riders took their horses around a course of eight fences in a training session today at the CHI Health Center. This was in anticipation of Wednesday’s first leg of the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Final in Omaha, Nebraska.
“Leone, he feels good,” said the defending champion Martin Fuchs (SUI). Fuchs won the 2022 Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Final in Leipzig, Germany. “He’s a horse with a lot of blood and a lot of energy so I always try to have him quiet. And I must say, today he felt really relaxed. He jumped very well in the warm-up and so now we are excited for tomorrow.”
Spectators were allowed in the arena, which Fuchs said helped with the 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding. “It was nice today in the warm-up that there was already a little bit of crowd here, so the horses can totally get used to it,” he said.
The 2023 FEI World Cup Finals are from April 4-8, 2023. In addition to jumping, they include the FEI Dressage World Cup™ Final and the Burlington Capital FEI Vaulting World Cup™ Final.
The nine U.S. jumper riders competing at the Final also warmed up their horses in the arena today. Though the World Cup is a competition of individual riders, U.S. Show Jumping Coach Robert Ridland is on hand to support the riders.
“They look good,” Ridland said after the warm-up. “I mean, the horses are in great shape. They looked good yesterday at the jog, and they look great warming up. They all did what they wanted to do. Everybody’s happy with it. We’re pretty optimistic.”
U.S. Team Veterans and First-Time Final Riders
The U.S. contingent of riders is made up of veterans and newcomers to the World Cup Final. “This is going to be a great experience for these newer riders, and hopefully it’ll be a successful one on top of that,” Ridland added “And then we’ve got some veterans that have done them before. It’s going to be a fun week.”
For the U.S., Devin Ryan and 14-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding Eddie Blue were members of the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games gold-medal team, and they placed second in the 2018 Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Final. And Olympic gold medalist McLain Ward’s Callas, a 15-year-old Holsteiner mare, won the $406,000 Fidelity Investments Grand Prix CSI5*at Wellington International in Florida in February.
U.S. newcomers to the Final include Natalie Dean and Acota M, a 10-year-old mare; Elisa Broz and Kardenta van ’t Meerhof, a 13-year-old mare; Simonne Berg and Cooper, a 16-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding; Ailish Cunniffe and Vivaldi du Theil, a 14-year-old Selle Français gelding; and Nicholas Dello Joio and Cornet’s Cambridge, an 11-year-old gelding.
Additional U.S. riders include Aaron Vale and Prescott, an 11-year-old Holsteiner gelding. Hunter Holloway and Pepita Con Spita, a 12-year-old Westphalian mare, and Eastern Jam, a 14-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding, are also competing.
“This is an individual competition. It’s not a team competition,” Ridland said. “The support that we give [these riders] is the same support we do at a championship. And it’s something that our [U.S. Equestrian Federation] does and we believe in them, so [the team support staff] is all here. I’m an extra eyes and ears to help out. [We offer] all the support that we can give these riders, both the newcomers and the veterans.”
Martin Fuchs and Leone Jei
As the defending champion, Fuchs is automatically qualified for the Final. So he and Leone Jei jumped in only one World Cup qualifier and a handful of classes before this week’s competition. The pair earned an individual medal at the 2022 European Championships.
“He’s really ready for these big championships. And I do believe that he will learn a lot here in the indoor. It’s obviously a different kind of jumping than open grass fields. And I’m sure we will learn a lot and take a lot of experience at this event.”
In terms of training, Fuchs said he doesn’t have a specific training routine with Leone. But “what I like to do with him once before the show starts is to really let him canter in the light seat,” he said. “I did it this morning, when we could go in the ring—just canter him, let blow off some steam, and then usually he’s ready for the class.”
To keep Leone healthy and happy, “He goes a lot on hacks. We longe him a bit, we ride him on the flat; we ride a lot on the grass. We don’t jump him very high at home; we mostly do gymnastics and small fences.”
As for being back in Omaha, where the Finals were first held in 2017, Fuchs said he’s glad to be here. “I really enjoyed it when I was here last time. When the show starts, the crowd is great. The stadium is beautiful. Those are always my most favorite shows, the stadiums, because you really have a different atmosphere in those kind of venues. So I’m really excited. I think it will be a great week.”
The 2023 Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Final I begins Wednesday April 5, at 7:15 p.m. CDT. For a full schedule, click here.
To read a report about the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup Final First Horse Inspection, click here.
Thanks to Absorbine for our coverage of the 2023 Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Final, including rider interviews, competition reports, photos, videos and more!