Monthly Archives: November 2014

Top Jumping Officials Announced for 2015 Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Finals

With the world’s best horses and riders competing for the prestigious title of FEI World Cup Champion at the 2015 Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final in Las Vegas next April, it is vital that a world-class slate of officials be on hand to oversee the competition.  Well, we are happy to report that that will be the case as an impressive slate of officials is in place and will be officially announced in the next few days.

Heading the list of officials for jumping is Kim Morrison of Canada who will be President of the Ground Jury. She will be joined by Ground Jury Members David Distler, Neil O’Connor, and Jack Robson, all of the U.S., and Sven Holmberg of Sweden. The Course Designer will be Anthony D’Ambrosio of the U.S., while Leopoldo Palacios of Venezuela will act as Foreign Technical Delegate. President of the Appeal Committee will be Cesar Hirsch of Venezuela. Maria Hernek of Sweden is Overall Chief Steward, Debbie Sands of the U.S. is Chief Jumping Steward, and Kate Horgan of Ireland will be the EU Steward.

Kim Morrison (CAN) – President of the Ground Jury

President of the Ground Jury Kim Morrison

President of the Ground Jury Kim Morrison

Kim Morrison has been active in equestrian sport for over 25 years. She competed in four North American Young Rider Championships, and was long-listed for the Canadian Show Jumping Team for the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. Morrison has served as a Judge and Steward, and is the only FEI Level 4* show jumping official in Canada. Morrison was President of the Ground Jury at the 2014 FEI World Equestrian Games in Normandy, France, was a member of the Ground Jury at the 2012 London Olympic Games, the 2010 FEI World Equestrian Games, and 2012 FEI World Cup Final.  Morrison has taught National Judge Courses over the past several years and was awarded 2013 Official of the Year by Jump Canada.

David Distler (USA)

David Distler has been judging around the world since 1975, and has organized national and international equestrian competitions since 1985. He became an FEI show jumping judge in 1989, and is currently the only FEI 4* rated judge in the U.S. Distler served as a member of the Ground Jury at five previous FEI World Cup Finals, three of which he was Ground Jury President, including the 2009 World Cup Finals in Las Vegas. He served as a member of the Ground Jury at the 2008 Olympic Games in Hong Kong and was also on the Jury at the 2007 Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. His most recent major accomplishment was serving as a member of the Ground Jury for the Show Jumping World Championships at the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Normandy, France.

Sven Holmberg (SWE)

Sven Holmberg has been involved in national and international equestrian sport for over 45 years as both a judge and organizer. He served as the 1st Vice President of the FEI, was an FEI Bureau Member and was also Chair of the FEI Jumping Committee until 2010. A member of the Board of the Swedish Equestrian Federation for 15 years, Holmberg is one of only two FEI 4* rated judges in Sweden. He has been involved in the organization of the Gothenburg Horse Show since 1979, where he also served as President for three FEI World Cup Finals. He was one of the key figures behind the 1990 World Equestrian Games in Stockholm, Sweden, and was a member of the Ground Jury at the 2002 FEI World Equestrian Games in Jerez, Spain, the 2003 and 2007 European Championships, and was President of the Ground Jury at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece.

Neil O’Connor (USA)

Neil O’Connor is a USEF and FEI 3* Judge and Steward and officiates regularly at national and international shows. He has served as President or Member of the Ground Jury at many prestigious U.S. shows such as the Hampton Classic, Pennsylvania National, Winter Equestrian Festival, Washington International, National Horse Show, and the inaugural 2014 Central Park Horse Show. Internationally, O’Connor has officiated at Spruce Meadows and the Royal Winter Fair, both in Canada. A native of Millstreet, County Cork Ireland, O’Connor now resides in the U.S., and ironically he was the Foreign Judge at the 2014 Dublin Horse Show.

Jack Robson (USA)

Jack Robson is an FEI 3* rated judge and course designer with over 30 years of experience in the industry. He has worked with the likes of Frank Chapot, Bert de Nemethy, Pamela Carruthers, and Robert Jolicoeur to name a few. He was a Member of the Ground Jury for the 2009 FEI World Cup Jumping Finals in Las Vegas, and has been either President or a Member of the Ground Jury multiple times at the Las Vegas National Horse Show, Los Angeles National Horse Show, Blenheim Equisports Shows, Del Mar International Horse Show, and Ocala Masters.

Anthony D’Ambrosio (USA) – Course Designer

Course Designer Anthony D'Ambrosio

Course Designer Anthony D’Ambrosio

Anthony D’Ambrosio has over 35 years of experience in the equestrian industry. As a competitor, he won thirty five grand prix competitions at highly esteemed shows such as the Hampton Classic, International Jumping Derby, USET Show Jumping Championship, International Cup of Mexico and twice held the world record in the Puissance (1973 on Sympatico at Madison Square Garden’s National Horse Show and in 1983 on Sweet & Low at the Washington International Horse Show). D’Ambrosio owns and operates Wild Horse Ranch with his wife Michael which specializes in developing grand prix jumpers and has sold four Olympic horses. For over ten years D’Ambrosio has been a FEI 4* Course Designer and Technical Delegate as well as a member of the USEF Jumper Committee, and received the USHJA Course Designer of the Year Award in 2008 and 2010. He has created tests for horse and riders at Spruce Meadows, the Young Riders Championships and the Pan Am Trials for the Canadian Team Riders. He was the Technical Delegate for the 2009 Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, Florida, and the Course Designer for the 2009 FEI World Cup Finals in Las Vegas.

Leopoldo Palacios (VEN) – Technical Delegate

Leopoldo Palacios

Technical Delegate Leopoldo Palacios

Leopoldo Palacios is a one of the most highly respected and sought after course designers in the world. He is an FEI ‘O’ level and 4* Course Designer and Technical Delegate, and has officiated at competitions in more than 35 countries. He has designed courses at the highest level including the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia, and the 2008 Olympic Games in Hong Kong, and is only the second person in history to have had the distinction of designing two Olympic courses. Palacios created the courses for the 1997 World Cup Final in Gothenburg, Sweden, and the 2005 World Cup Final in Las Vegas as well as the 1991 and 1995 Pan American Games in Havana and Buenos Aires respectively. He served as Technical Delegate for the 2003 Pan Am Games in Santo Domingo, 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, and the 2007 Pan-Am games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Formerly the 2nd Vice President of the FEI, Palacios is also the co-founder of the Aachen School of Equestrian Arts.

Cesar Hirsch (VEN) – Appeal Committee President

Cesar Hirsch began his equestrian career as a jumping competitor in Venezuela in 1979, and turned his interest in the sport into his full-time profession. Hirsch is an FEI 3* Judge and Steward, and has officiated at hundreds of shows for over 15 years including four Pan American Games (Winnipeg, Santo Domingo, Rio de Janeiro, and Guadalajara), Central American and Caribbean Games, South American Championships, Spruce Meadows, and the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Lexington. He was also President of the Ground Jury at the North American Junior and Young Rider Championships.

Debbie Sands (USA) – Chief Jumping Steward

Debbie Sands has been an equestrian professional for almost 40 years. She is an FEI 3* Jumping Steward and a USEF “R” rated judge in Hunter, Jumper, Hunter Breeding, and Hunter Seat Equitation. Her most recent accomplishment was as a Steward at the 2014 Las Vegas National Horse Show and Chief Steward at the 2014 Los Angeles Masters. For many years Sands has been an official at the Gold Coast Series, Arizona Winter Festival, Los Angeles National, and Blenheim Equisports Horse Shows.

Maria Hernek (SWE) – Overall Chief Steward

Maria Hernek is a FEI 3* Jumping Steward and conducts FEI Jumping Steward clinics all over the world. She has been the Chief Steward at the Gothenburg Horse Show in Sweden for many years, including the 2013 FEI World Cup Jumping Final. She was also an FEI Steward at the 2011 FEI European Jumping Championships in Madrid, Spain.

Kate Horgan (IRL) – EU Steward

Kate Horgan has been an equestrian official for over 15 years. She is a FEI 3*Judge and Steward, and also acts as an FEI Steward Course Director as well as the FEI General Steward for Ireland. She has officiated at many international horse shows including the 2013 FEI World Cup Final in Gothenburg, Sweden.

If you haven’t ordered your tickets for the Finals yet, I recommend that you do so today. It’s not every year that the World Cup Finals are held in the U.S. and next April in Las Vegas promises to be an incredible event that I know you won’t want to miss!

Las Vegas Showdown: Valegro and Totilas

Two of Dressage’s All-time Best Horses Set Sights on 2015 World Cup™ Final in Las Vegas

Well, it looks like the showdown we have all been dreaming about is finally set to happen! The word is out that two of the greatest horses in dressage history plan to compete at the Reem Acra FEI World Cup™ Dressage Final in Las Vegas next April 15-19.

Reigning Olympic and World Champion Charlotte Dujardin of Great Britain will bring Valegro while Germany’s Matthias Alexander Rath will bring Totilas. Both have scheduled the qualifying competitions in which they plan to compete and announced that they are targeting the Final in Las Vegas. It is going to be a historic showdown and there is no better setting for this clash of the titans than the “Entertainment Capital of the World!”

Dressage fans from all around the globe are anxiously awaiting this encounter. Both horses are mesmerizing to watch and are almost freaks of nature in their talent. Their performances in recent years have helped catapult the sport of dressage into the limelight and projected the sport’s popularity beyond equestrian sports’ fans and right into the mainstream media.

Matthias Alexander Rath (GER) and Totilas at CHIO Aachen 2014 © Hippo Foto - Dirk Caremans/FEI

Germany’s Matthias Alexander Rath and Totilas
© Hippo Foto – Dirk Caremans/FEI

Totilas, the legendary black stallion, first set the dressage world on fire about 5 years ago when he seemed unbeatable with his former rider, Edward Gal of The Netherlands. Together they were the first ever to break the previously unthinkable score of 90%, and they won all three gold medals at the 2010 FEI World Equestrian Games in Kentucky. Following those Games, Totilas was sold to Germany to become the new ride for Matthias Alexander Rath, a sale that caused an uproar in the dressage world.

With all eyes on the new pairing, Totilas suffered an injury and disappeared from competition. He even wound up missing the 2012 Olympic Games. However, after a two-year hiatus and some changes in training regime, Totilas and Rath made a very successful return to the competition arena this past spring looking for a spot on the German Team for the 2014 World Equestrian Games.

The pair had wins in Kapellen (Belgium), Wiesbaden (Germany), and Perl (Germany) prior to competing at the last team qualifier in Aachen (Germany) last July. That was to be the site of the highly anticipated showdown with Valegro, who swept double gold at the 2012 Olympics; however, it was a showdown that began but didn’t have the climax everyone was longing to see.  More on that in a moment.

British superstars Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro  © Kit Houghton/ FEI

British superstars Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro
© Kit Houghton/ FEI

Meanwhile, Dujardin and Valegro are the reigning sweethearts of the sport and have become household names in Europe. The duo has set world records (previously held by Totilas) in all three tests (Grand Prix, Grand Prix Special and Freestyle), are ranked number one in the world, and are the first to hold four titles simultaneously as they are the reigning Olympic, European, World Cup and World Champions!


Since the beginning of 2012, Dujardin and Valegro have never placed lower than second, although their invincibility started to be questioned last July at Aachen where they had an uncharacteristic lackluster performance due to higher than usual temperatures at the competition. Totilas and Rath, who now seem to have gelled together, made their way into the winner’s circle after claiming both the Grand Prix and the Grand Prix Special with Dujardin and Valegro placing second. However, the much anticipated climax of the showdown, in the Grand Prix Freestyle, didn’t take place as Totilas was withdrawn from the competition “to be saved for another day.”

Another face-off was set for the 2014 World Equestrian Games (WEG) this past summer with the title of World Champion on the line. There was an incredible sense of excitement and speculation as to which of the two legends would win the gold. However, misfortune struck again as Totilas incurred another injury prior to WEG and was withdrawn from the competition.

The dressage world was excited to see Dujardin and Valegro back in top form, however, as they executed near-perfect performances which received high scores. The pair helped Great Britain to the team silver medal and they won both individual gold medals and the prestigious title of World Champion. However, the long-awaited match-up between the sport’s two all-time greats was put off yet again.

Well, now it looks like those at the 2015 World Cup Finals in Las Vegas next April will be the lucky ones who get to see this historic face-off.  Much like the famous ‘Match Race of the Century’ between Thoroughbreds Seabiscuit and War Admiral, or other big sports showdowns like Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady in football or the famous basketball battles between Bird and Magic in the 1980s, this competition between the two ‘heavy weights’ of the dressage world will be of historic proportions. I hope you’ve ordered your tickets because this “Dressage Showdown of the Century” is surely one that you will not want to miss!