Winnowing all the world’s Grand Prix-level dressage competitors down to the top 18 for the annual FEI World Cup Dressage Final is quite a process. The Féderation Equestre Internationale’s (FEI) rules for the 2016-2017 season, which is culminating in the Final currently being held in Omaha, Nebraska, run 11 pages. Let me try to distill them for you here.
The dressage World Cup (jumping has its own World Cup, being held concurrently in Omaha) consists of a series of qualifying events plus the Final. The qualifying events are known as CDI-Ws, which is FEI-speak for FEI-sanctioned dressage competitions designated at World Cup Final qualifiers. There were five CDI-Ws in the US this season: Devon in Pennsylvania and four in Wellington, Florida.
As of the current season, there are four leagues in which competitors may qualify: Western European League, Central European League, North American League, and Pacific League (Australia and New Zealand). A rider from a non-league nation may qualify in the Western European League if his or her national federation completes the required red tape.
Horse/rider combinations qualify by earning points in their respective leagues. Points are awarded based on class placings. There are specified minimum and maximum numbers of qualifiers to be attended. Because the World Cup Dressage Final championship is based on the results of the Grand Prix Freestyle, it is the GP Freestyle that earns the qualifying points. To be eligible to qualify for the Final, the competitor must earn two or more scores of 68 percent or better.
Trust me, there are WAY more rules and intricacies regarding league participation, qualifiers, and how points are awarded. But let’s skip ahead to the actual process of determining who gets invited to the World Cup Dressage Final.
The Final is limited to 18 horse/rider combinations. (There are 16 in Omaha this year because two horses were withdrawn just before they were scheduled to ship from Europe to the USA.) For the current season, here is how the slots are allocated:
Western European League: 9 slots
Central European League: 2
Pacific League: 1
North American League: 2
Non-league national federations: 1
The World Cup Dressage Final title defender: 1
FEI extra starting places: 2
In the North American League, the two highest-ranked combinations were Laura Graves on Verdades (1) and Kasey Perry-Glass on Goerklintgaards Dublet (2). As an athlete from the host national federation (the USA/US Equestrian), Steffen Peters on Rosamunde (ranked #3) got one of the extra starting places.
The title defender, Hans Peter Minderhoud of the Netherland on Glock’s Flirt, was unfortunately one of the combinations that had to withdraw.
The non-league slot for 2017 went to Maria Florencia Manfredi of Argentina on Bandurria Kacero. An extra starting place went to Brazilian rider Joao Victor Marcari Oliva on Xama Dos Pinhais, who per the rules qualified at Western European League CDI-W competitions.
Now that the final 16 are here, they will contest today’s Grand Prix as a qualifier for Saturday’s Grand Prix Freestyle final. The FEI doesn’t really want anyone who’s made it this far not to make it to the Freestyle, so it set the bar fairly low: A score of 60 percent or better in the Grand Prix qualifies you for the Freestyle. Then the results of the Freestyle alone determine the World Cup Dressage Final placings.
Clear as mud? This is an oversimplified summary of the qualifying process, but I hope it’s given you an idea of the path dressage competitors from around the world had to take on the road to Omaha.