‘This is a well-oiled machine’: Seasoned FEI judge reflects on the wonder that is the Winter Equestrian Festival

  • As the dust settles on Nations Cup week at the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF), FEI foreign judge, Bolivia’s Liliana Rivera, reflects on last night’s Nations Cup and the wonder that is WEF.

    “The course [designed by Nick Granat (USA) and Steve Stephens (USA)] was really great,” says Lily, who as a third level judge was the first female judge to be president of a ground jury at WEF (in 2017). “It had all the technical aspects that you would expect from a four-star CSIO. It was really interesting to see the difference between the first round and the second round – same riders, same horses.”

    Lily continues: “The fact that it was a night class did change the combinations. There were riders that went clear in the first round and in the second round, horses weren’t acting as well as they were on the first round. They were spooking a little bit more at the wall – at the water at the last jump. The wall wasn’t an issue in the first round, but became an issue for three riders in the second round, when horses spooked, stopped and spun from it.”

    For some the second round proved beneficial – it enabled the USA to close the gap on Canada, bringing the contest down to the wire.

    “Some combinations had double clears and did perfectly both times and actually improved on their second round. And the results were – like in any good Nations Cup – you didn’t know the winner until the last rider of the last team. The US and Canada ended up in a tie, even though after the first round, Canada had a lead, they lost that in the second round. The US had a much better second round and it ended up coming down to the times of the best riders so it was actually really really exciting.”

    Ireland came in first, with Canada second and the USA third. The depth of riders that teams had to choose from, reflected a Winter Equestrian Festival that has seen a high volume of top riders in residence. “Nobody expected such a big increase in riders,” said Lily, who has been a judge at WEF for 7 years. “This is a well-oiled machine. There are tours that have copied this system, but nobody’s pulling off 12 weeks like this of top-level competition.”

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