‘A fresh opportunity’: Di Lampard previews a radical new shake up of team showjumping

  • With the Paris 2024 Olympics fast approaching, all eyes will be turning to who is performing well in international team competitions as riders vying for a place in the squad begin their Olympic build up – and where better to look for clues than the new-look Longines League of Nations?

    Great Britain enjoyed a successful 2023 Nations Cup season, winning the home leg at Hickstead after a 13-year dry spell and finished the series with victory in the opening leg of the Longines FEI Nations Cup Final in Barcelona. The new CSIO5* Longines League of Nations season kicks off at the Al Forsan International Sports Resort in Abu Dhabi, UAE, on 11 February and British chef d’equipe Di Lampard will lead a strong quartet for this top flight competition under its new format.

    Joe Stockdale will be taking the reins on either 13-year-old mare Equine America Cacharel, who is owned by Joy Cocklin and Joe’s mother Laura Stockdale and recently returned to competition after several months on the sidelines, or the 10-year-old stallion Ebanking, who is jointly owned by Barbara Hester and Laura Stockdale.

    Joe will be joined on the British squad by France-based Skye Higgin riding Bernadette Lejeune’s 11-year-old mare Djordania Du Tillard.

    Completing the British side are cousins Jack Whitaker and Donald Whitaker. Jack is the youngest member of the British side at 22 and he has the choice of two horses – either his father Michael Whitaker’s 15-year-old Equine America Valmy De La Lande or the 12-year-old mare Equine America Q Paravatti N, who is owned by Michael and Graham Gillespie. Donald, 31, brings either 13-year-old stallion Di Caprio or 11-year-old mare Millfield Collette, both of whom he jointly owns with Reitsportanlage Dagobertshausen GMBH.

    Joe Stockdale at the World Showjumping Championships

    Joe Stockdale and Equine America Cacharel in action at the world showjumping championships in 2022.

    “We’ll work to showcase the horses and riders involved in the series and tell their stories to inspire others,” says Di Lampard as excitement builds towards the Longines League of Nations.

    “The new team competition format will provide fresh opportunities to develop our athletes – both human and equine – against some of the best jumping nations in the world and I look forward to seeing what they can bring to the table.”

    Longines League of Nations: “It will take riders out of their comfort zone”

    Di Lampard took the helm as Great Britain’s first female performance manager in 2015, having previously competed herself at the highest level, including representing her country at world and European championships. She now focuses on team structure, management and coaching, working to continue Great Britain’s rich equestrian history “and the legacy it provides”.

    “We have a proven system which we know works for the squads, but the new Longines League of Nations enhances the opportunity for younger and less experienced riders, and indeed horses, looking to gain international experience in a team setting,” she says. “They’ll have the chance to gain their air miles and learn about travelling further afield, alongside mixing with the very best riders in the world.”

    According to Di, the new format is “creating a buzz” among the riders.

    “It’ll create a bit of competition for selection for the teams, which is always healthy, and it will even take some of the riders out of their comfort zone,” she says, describing the series as “an achievable goal for riders” and “a vital stepping stone” towards championships.

    “The series is inspiring and educational for those new to equestrianism, as well as those starting on their competitive journey,” she says, adding that the selection door “is always wide open”.

    “The series is a great opportunity for many riders. For example it’s ideal for one-horse riders who are just making their way up the international pathway and competing at elite level.”

    “The experienced riders help support the younger, less experienced ones”

    The secret to Great Britain’s success, says Di, is the all-important team meal.

    “There’s always a good sense of camaraderie, but getting the team spirit going with the riders is important,” she says. “It’s such a great learning environment with a mix of experiences, so that meal is important.

    “The experienced riders help support the younger, less experienced ones, and educate them along the way. Team order is also important. Certain riders like to go in certain positions – it’s lucky for them – while we like to make the less experienced riders feel more comfortable in the order.”

    Great Britain lines up as one of the world’s 10 top ranked nations competing for the Longines League of Nations curtain-raiser in Abu Dhabi, before the action moves to Ocala in USA, St Gallen in Switzerland, Rotterdam in the Netherlands with the final taking place for the series’ top eight teams in Barcelona in October.

    Germany celebrates victory after anchor rider Richard Vogel's clear round on United Touch S, who is owned by Julius-Peter Sinnack and groomed by Felicia Wallin, in the Nations Cup Final in Barcelona, Spain.

    Germany celebrates victory after anchor rider Richard Vogel’s clear round on United Touch S, who is owned by Julius-Peter Sinnack and groomed by Felicia Wallin, in the 2023 Nations Cup Final in Barcelona, Spain.

    Longines League Of Nations: top 10 teams line up

    The teams are drawn according to their world ranking, with host side United Arab Emirates – who are not vying for qualification – leading the way in Abu Dhabi, followed by Brazil, Sweden, Belgium, the Netherlands, Great Britain, Switzerland, Germany, France, USA and finally Ireland have pole position.

    The reigning Olympic, World and European champions Sweden are sending out Henrik von Eckermann, Wilma Hellström, Peder Fredricson and Rolf-Göran Bengtsson, while Brazil fields former Portuguese team member Luciana Diniz, Marlon Zanotelli, Yuri Mansur and Luiz Felipe de Azevedo Filho.

    Flying the Belgium flag are Gregory Wathelet, Koen Vereecke, Abdel Saïd and Wilm Vermeir with France sending Kevin Staut, Roger Yves Bost, Olivier Robert and Olivier Perreau.

    The 2023 Nations Cup title holder Germany fields Christian Ahlmann, Jörne Sprehe, David Will and Christian Kukuk while representing Ireland are Michael Pender, Richard Howley, Mark McAuley and Denis Lynch.

    Dutch fans will be cheering home Kim Emmen, Jur Vrieling, Loewie Joppen and Leopold van Asten, while the Swiss team consists of Janika Sprunger, Barbara Schnieper, Elian Baumann and Pius Schwizer.

    Team USA will be represented by Alise Oken, Callie Schott, Hannah Selleck and Aaron Vale with hosts UAE, led by chef d’equipe William Funnell, fielding the quartet of Abdullah Mohd Al Marri, Omar Abdul Aziz Al Marzooqi, Abdullah Humaid Al Muhair and Ali Hamad Al Kirbi.

    While the first round is run much like the traditional Nations Cup seen until last year – with the best three scores counting – only three riders from each of the top eight ranked nations after round one progress to round two under the new Longines League of Nations format, with every score then counting. If a jump-off is required to decide top honours after round two, just one rider from each team in contention will go against the clock.

    There’s €700,000 in prize money to play for at each qualifier and €1,600,000 on offer at the Barcelona Final, so the stage is set for a very exciting year.

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