It’s that time of year again, when the show jumping World Cup qualifying classes are in full swing and riders and racing from show to show to rack up points and hopefully grab some money to take home. Now that I’m in a barn with a trainer trying to qualify, I can appreciate the dedication and managemant it takes to keep grand prix horses fresh over what can be a tiring stretch of months leading up to the Cup.

To make it to this holy grail of show jumping, horses and riders must chase points at a number of events spanning from the opening of qualifying season, which officially starts June 1 in the US, to around mid-March the following year. Per FEI rules, only 50% of possible results count towards the finals. So out of 15 East Coast events, only 8 would be counted. Only the top 3 US West Coast riders and top 7  US East Coast riders are invited to participate in the Final. Additionally, the top two Canadian riders and top two Mexican riders from either league get tickets to the Final.

On the west coast, Rich Fellers leads with 72 points, followed by Australia’s Harley Brown with 61, Ashlee Bond with 57, Richard Spooner with 54, and 2008 gold medalist Will Simpson with 51. This group of riders has been tearing up the Southern California grand prix scene lately, providing a number of close classes and thrilling jump offs.

Back east, Canada’s Mario Deslaurieres leads with 78 points, followed by Andres Rodriguez of Venezuela with 63, Erynn Ballard of Canada with 55, Ljubov Kochetova of Russia with 48, and Margie Goldstein-Engle with the top US score of 46. US Equestrian Team member Mclain Ward currently sits in 7th place with 42 points.

The 2010 World Cup Final will be held in Geneva Switzerland, from the 14 to 18 of April. Geneva is an appropriate location for next year’s competition, as title sponsor Rolex is headquartered in the city.

The Final is more than just the top show jumping in the world; it is a showcase of the world’s best, of years of hard work and training; it is the summation of so many dreams. Some equstrians write off the Olympics altogther and put their efforts and that of their stable and team towards reaching the Final.

HRH Princess Haya, president of the FEI, said in a statement, “Riders at this level are the ambassadors of our sport and they are instrumental in keeping the spotlight focussed (sic) on elite performance, while inspiring the young riders who will steadily infiltrate their ranks.” Young riders around the world look up to the athletes acheiving their dreams today at these competitions, which is why the FEI has put so much effort into their Year of Youth program.

This will be the 32nd  year of the World Cup Final, a competition which sprouted in Gothenburng, Sweden, in 1979. That first Final featured 27 riders from two leagues; today, there are 14 leagues spanning the globe.

With 11 more qualifying classes for the North American League (5 in the East Coast League, 6 in the West Coast), US riders have plently more chances to climb the rankings or keep their hard-earned spots.