The FEI has created a new format, called the League of Nations, to replace the current Nations Cup series leading up to the Nations Cup Finals in Barcelona.
While The FEI was trying to create a new format in which the leading nation is evident after each qualifier, this new series has many questions to be answered.
Under the current format, nations compete in their individual league to qualify for the Finals.
For the U.S., the two nations from the U.S., Mexico and Canada with the most points from three Nations Cup competitions qualified.
Beginning in 2024, under the new League of Nations Format, the top 10 nations compete at four top venues in order to qualify for a Final where the best eight teams go head-to-head to be crowned the League of Nations Champion.
The League of Nations was created following a six-month consultation phase with a Task Force, which was set up to review and redefine the Nations Cup series and included representatives from all of the interested nations.
The FEI Board announced the Qualifiers and Final of the League of Nations for the 2024, 2025, 2026, and 2027 seasons as: Qualifiers:
CSIO5* Abu Dhabi in the UAE, CSIO5* Ocala, Fla., in the USA, CSIO5* St Gallen in Switzerland and CSIO5* Rotterdam in the Netherlands, with the Final at CSIO5* Barcelona in Spain.
“WE HAVE made a historic decision for the future of equestrian sport,” FEI President Ingmar De Vos said. “This series is about inspiring individuals and nations around the core values of our sport – camaraderie, team spirit, horsemanship and excellence - and for over a century it has played an invaluable role in the development of equestrian globally."
"The intent was good," said U.S. chef d'equipe Robert Ridland. "There's no continuity now. Under the new format the top teams will all compete against each other. But everyone agrees there are some flaws."
If one or more of the top teams decides not to compete in one of the qualifiers, the next team in line will compete, so there will be 10 nations in each qualifier.
The League of Nations consists of a two-round format where all four athletes from all 10 teams participate with the three best scores to count, followed by a second round where the best eight teams compete in reverse order with only three athletes per team and no drop score.
The choice of the venues seemed rather strange.
The top Nations Cup competitions have historically been in the spring and summer on grass fields like Aachen, Hickstead and Dublin.
Abu Dhabi is indoors in the winter, Ocala's World Equestrian Center is indoors or outoors on dirt in March and Rotterdam is on dirt, so only St. Gallen is on grass.
"It will be interesting to see how it plays out," said Ridland. "To see what countries send teams, and what of those countries sent their top riders."
For most of the top nations, their top riders take the winter months to prepare young horses and get their top mounts in form to compete as the summer's big competitions.
Ocala seemed a particularly strange choice, as it goes against some of the FEI's own requirements, which are that a venue must have an extensive background of hosting FEI events, plus having hosted five star completions.
Ocala only recently even received USEF recognition and has only hosted three star competitions and its organizers have no experience in hosting major five star events.
Conversely, Blenheim in San Juan Capistrano California recently hosted a five star Nations Cup qualifier that was beautifully organized and was hugely popular.
“We were very pleased with the large number of organizers eager to host a League of Nations event in the coming seasons," said FEI President De Vos. "We undertook the task of selecting the events with great responsibility and I believe we have made a difficult but fair choice, striking a good balance between continuity and evolution. This fresh and exciting Series gives us the opportunity to display the very best of team equestrian sport to large audiences in key territories and we are looking forward to working closely with these Organizers to continue the Nations Cup legacy and inspire future generations of equestrians. Our work is far from finished. It is only just beginning with the next phases focusing on logistics, branding, and promotion to prepare for the inaugural season of the new Series.
“The Board allocated four Qualifiers for this global series in three regions – two Qualifiers in Europe, one in North America, and one in the Middle East,” FEI Secretary General Sabrina Ibáñez said. “Although we originally planned to have five Qualifiers, we were mindful that next year will be particularly busy with the Paris 2024 Olympic Games taking place from 26 July to 11 August. Having four Qualifiers keeps the calendar reasonable and allows athletes, horses, and chefs d’équipe to manage horsepower and still have enough time to train, compete, and prepare for the Olympic Games.
“During the inaugural League of Nations season in 2024, we will evaluate the new concept and together with the FEI Jumping Committee, we will work towards adding a fifth qualifier in the following seasons.”