Written by Georgie Roberts
South Africa is poised to become a centre of equestrian excellence as it proudly hosts the highly anticipated FEI Jumping World Challenge Final this week. This prestigious event marks the culmination of an exhilarating season, where 16 amateur Jumping athletes from 13 nations will vie for a place on the podium.
History has borne witness to the evolution of the FEI Jumping World Challenge Final since its inception in 2001. Over the years, it has travelled across continents to foster development and unity, and in 2014 it made a historic move to the African continent where it returns this week to the Ranch Equestrian Centre located in Polokwane, the capital of the Limpopo Province of South Africa.
The FEI World Challenge series is an initiative designed to provide athletes with a unique opportunity to compete on an international stage without the usual barriers, such as travel costs and long distances. These “hybrid” competitions bridge the gap between national and international competition levels, enabling National Federations to foster the growth of various equestrian disciplines within their respective countries, promoting not only progress but international relations.
A Level Playing (and Riding) Field
The road to qualification involves competing locally on identical courses, within the same arena dimensions (65 x 45 metres), meticulously designed by an FEI-appointed Course Designer, ensuring a level playing field for all competitors.
Competition in the FEI Jumping World Challenge is divided into geographical regions, with region host South Africa inviting contemporaries from Algeria, Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Indonesia, Dominican Republic, Morocco, Mauritius, Puerto Rico, Singapore, Uzbekistan, Zimbabwe, and Iran who unfortunately could not attend.
The pinnacle of this thrilling journey is the FEI Jumping World Challenge Final. Featuring the top 16 riders who have qualified by being amongst the two best-placed Category A riders from their regional zone, competing over tracks of 1.20-1.30 metres high, they must now come together to see how they will fare against their counterparts.
A Platform for progress
In addition to its competitive aspect, the FEI Jumping World Challenge also serves an educational purpose, aligning competition with coaching. The technical aspects of the courses correlate with Levels 1 and 2 of the FEI Coach Education System, furthering the sport’s development under the auspices of the FEI’s Solidarity development portfolio, with a global vision.
What sets the FEI Jumping World Challenge Final apart is its competition formula. This exciting event takes place outdoors at The Ranch, featuring horses generously provided by local riders. Participants draw horses at random, with only a limited time to become acquainted with their new equine partners for the week of competition.
The event is comprised of various stages, including the Welcome Competition, 1st Qualifying Competition, 2nd Qualifying Competition, Farewell Competition, and ultimately the Final Competition held on the 7 October.
In a remarkable display of talent, Alireza Khoshdel of Iran emerged victorious among a formidable field of global riders at the FEI Jumping World Challenge Final in 2022, held in Bulgaria.
Unity through diversity
It is worth noting that over 16 starters, four are men and 12 are women, speaking to the diversity of this sport which allows all genders to compete in the same category, and as highlighted by Dominican Republic rider and previous national champion, Giorgia Anna Ieromazzo:
“Women can rule the horse world; we are strong, we are fast, we are competitive.”
But even more interesting is the age variance, with the youngest competitors being 16 year olds Mikaela Martin of South Africa and Moroccan U21 champion Melissa Charlier, riding against experienced athletes such as Gayrat Nazarov, representing Uzbekistan at 53 years old.
When asked what this competition means to them, we repeatedly get the same feedback, whether they are a first-time international campaigner such as Argentinian Juana Ruiz Ocampo, or Christi Paige Nair from Singapore who finished 10th overall in this event last year – the honour of flying your country’s flag in a global event.
What this format offers developing countries, however, transcends mere performance, and speaks to the underlying nature of sport: connection. As mentioned by Indonesian national champion and one-day Olympic hopeful Natasha Herjawan, as well as Argentinian Valerio Baruzzo, the opportunity to connect with riders from other countries and form relationships remains key to these events, Valerio said;
Join us in celebrating the global spirit of equestrian excellence as the FEI World Challenge series reshapes the landscape of international competition, bringing the world closer to home from The Ranch Equestrian Centre, Polokwane, 5 – 7 October.
Live streaming will be available via EquestrianLive on YouTube for 5 and 7 October.
|Name of Horse
|Rotoflo Capital Harrison
|Mathias Cespedes Casal
|Branic Bullet Proof
|Christie Paige Nair
|Louise de Coriolis
|Giorgia Anna leromazzo Latour
|Farnham For Gold
|First For Horses WS Seeis Datolya
|Rivervales Rebels Destiny
|Ranch Caramba L C
|Souhaib Karim Mostefaoui
|Juana Ruiz Ocampo
|Lina Barreto Capelo Beltrao
|Kondos Give Me A Break
|Locarno Fara Diba
|The Ranch’s Darc Dancer LC