The 1980s: When the U.S. Ruled the Show Jumping World!

The Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Final is an annual international showdown among the world’s best show jumping horses and riders, started in 1979.  Of the 41 Finals held through 2019, the U.S. has won the most titles – 11 – with seven of those wins coming in the 1980s.

Mclain Victory 2 © Lili Weik LOW RES

Mclain Victory © Lili Weik

While U.S. riders have won four Finals this decade – Rich Fellers in 2012, Beezie Madden in 2013 and 2018, and McLain Ward in 2017 – the dominance of the U.S. in the 1980 is not likely to be seen again.  The 1980s were the golden era for U.S. jumping. Not only did the Americans dominate the World Cup, but the U.S. also won team Gold medals at the 1984 Olympics and 1986 World Championships, as well as team Silver at the 1988 Olympics.

The first World Cup Final was held in Gothenburg, Sweden in 1979, and it was the start of something very special for equestrian sport. The event was everything the organizers, as well as the spectators, hoped it would be. Austrian rider Hugo Simon impressively won the inaugural event on Gladstone in a jump-off with U.S. rider Katie Monahan who took second place with The Jones Boy. It was a crowded podium that year as her compatriot Norman Dello Joio on Allegro tied for third place with Ireland’s Eddie Macken and Carrols of Dundalk.

The 1980 Final took place on American soil in Baltimore, Maryland, and began the U.S. domination. The Americans scored a one-two finish as Conrad Homfeld and Balbuco claimed victory with Melanie Smith and Calypso taking second. At the 1981 Final in Birmingham, England, the U.S. once again took the top two spots, with Michael Matz and the great Jet Run clinching the victory and Donald Cheska and Southside, who were competing outside the U.S. for the first time, taking the runner-up spot. The event’s debutante winners, Hugo Simon and Gladstone, took third place. It was an incredible result, as a total of six U.S. riders finished in the top ten!

The 19982 Final returned to Gothenburg with a change in the format and scoring, and the U.S. celebrated another victory. Melanie Smith became the first female to win the Final aboard her superstar Calypso. It was an exciting finish as the pair finished just one penalty point ahead of second-placed Paul Schockemohle of Germany and Akrobat, while Hugo Simon and Gladstone shared third place with Great Britain’s John Whitaker and Ryan’s Son.

Norman Dello Joio and I Love You World Cup Finals '83

Norman Dello Joio and I Love You • World Cup Finals ’83

Both Norman Dello Joio and Melanie Smith returned to the podium in 1983 in Vienna, but this time it was Dello Joio who clinched the win with I Love You, while Smith and Calypso took third place behind home nation favorites Hugo Simon and Gladstone. Although he wasn’t able to enjoy a victory on home soil, the ever-competitive Austrian did later reclaim the World Cup trophy with back-to-back victories in 1996 and 1997, and he remains one of five riders that have scored three wins in the history of the World Cup Final.

At the 1984 Final in Gothenburg, the Canadian national anthem was played, but the stars and stripes were still flying. Dello Joio and I Love You tied for second place with Brazilian rider Nelson Pessoa and Moet et Chandon Larramy, as Mario Deslauriers, at just 19 years-old, clinched the first win for Canada aboard Aramis who was only seven years-old! Deslauriers became the youngest rider ever to win the FEI World Cup Final, a record that still stands today.

Homfeld at 1985 World Cup Final with Abdullah

Homfeld at 1985 World Cup Final with Abdullah

The 1985 Final in Berlin saw a record field of 45 riders from 13 nations. Conrad Homfeld became the first rider to win the World Cup for a second time, and it was with the famed grey stallion Abdullah, his partner at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles where they not only helped the U.S. win its first-ever team Gold medal in show jumping, but also won the individual Silver medal. European riders rounded out the World Cup podium, as Great Britain’s Nick Skelton took second place aboard Everest S. James and France’s Pierre Durand and Jappeloup took third.

When the 1986 Finals returned to Gothenburg, it was another exciting victory for the U.S. as Leslie Burr became the second woman to win the World Cup Final. Leslie and her horse McLain won with a score of zero faults, ahead of Canada’s Ian Millar and Big Ben, who later would become the first rider to win back-to-back World Cup titles in 1988 and 1989. Leslie’s compatriot Conrad Homfeld made his third appearance in the top three, taking third place with May Be.

Katharine Burdsall and The Natural

Katharine Burdsall and The Natural

The U.S. claimed success yet again at the 1987 Final in Paris, taking two of the top three spots. Katharine Burdsall, a former student of Melanie Smith, copied her mentor and rose to victory aboard The Natural, the horse she rode on the Gold medal U.S. Team at the 1986 World Championships. France’s Philippe Rozier and Malesan Jiva took second place, while U.S. rider Lisa Jacquin and For The Moment rounded out the top three.

Following that incredible run of seven titles in nine years in the 1980s, it would be 25 years before another American rider claimed the World Cup title. At the 2012 Final in s’Hertogenbosch, Rich Fellers broke the spell. He and his chestnut stallion Flexible, reclaimed the title, followed a year later by a win by Beezie Madden and Simon in Gothenburg in 2013.

In 2017 in Omaha, McLain Ward and HH Azur jumped spectacularly throughout the event to clinch Ward’s first World Cup title. It was a truly special moment as he rode around in the victory gallop and waved to the appreciative home crowd while fighting back tears.  Switzerland’s Romain Duguet and Twentytwo Des Biches took second place, while Sweden’s Henrik von Eckerman took third aboard Toveks Mary Lou.

Beezie-Madden-Breitling-2018 LS-Photo-by-Taylor-Renner-45

Beezie Madden Breitling 2018 ©Taylor Renner

The American National Anthem played again at the 2018 Finals in Paris, when Beezie Madden claimed her second World Cup title, this time aboard Breitling LS. Countryman Devin Ryan and Eddie Blue had the ride of a lifetime, taking second place in their World Cup Final debut, while Henrick von Eckerman and Toveks Mary Lou again rounded out the top three on the podium. Ward and HH Azur finished fourth.

With U.S. riders dominating international competitions in recent years, it will undoubtedly be an exciting 2020 Longines FEI World Cup™ Finals! The best equestrian athletes from around the globe will be in Las Vegas (for the FEI Dressage World Cup™ too!) and you won’t want to miss it. The only prediction I can make is that history will be made once again, as it’s going to be the biggest and best Finals the world has ever seen!

The 2020 FEI World Cup™ Finals in Las Vegas take place April 15-19! All-Session tickets for either discipline are now on sale!  Tickets for individual sessions will go on sale early this winter, so it’s best to get your tickets NOW to be sure you get the best seats! Everyone is welcome to join the World Cup Club at Membership is FREE and members receive all the latest breaking news, information on host hotels, hospitality and much more!

All-Session Ticket Packages are available as follows:

  Jumping Dressage Combo
VIP Seating $2,000 $2,000 $3,950
Plaza $450 $450 $850
Balcony $250 $250 $450

*Additional fees may apply

All VIP ticket holders will have access to the impressive Taylor Harris Club presented by Lugano Diamonds which will be an amazing experience. Located in the brand new Strip View Pavilion, the new 36,000 square-foot, two-story magnificent VIP space has an outdoor patio overlooking the stabling area with spectacular views of the world-famous Las Vegas Strip. Access to the Taylor Harris Club, presented by Lugano Diamonds will provide:

  • VIP seating in the first four rows of the venue
  • Easy access from seats to the VIP area
  • VIP Food & Beverage
  • Live music
  • An exclusive entrance to the venue for VIPs only
  • Large screen TVs so no one has to miss any action
  • Complimentary World Cup Souvenir Program
  • Complimentary Day Sheets

Click here for the 2020 FEI World Cup™ Finals Tentative Schedule

Further information on the 2020 FEI World Cup™ Finals in Las Vegas, and the chance to join the World Cup Club, is available at the event’s official website at

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s