WELLINGTON, Fla.--The young U.S. Jumping Team that finished fifth in the $150,000 FEI Jumping Nations Cup won by Canada on Saturday, March 4 was the final appearance this year of a team used as a proving ground for the next generation of top riders.
As chef d'equipe Robert Ridland has been saying since last year and McLain Ward reiterated during the live stream of the Nations Cup, now is the time to bring out teams loaded with heavy hitters.
"Our plan has been set for months that we were going to use this home Nations Cup, this four-star Nations Cup, for basically our next generation of riders,” Ridland said. “We’ve got a major priority this year in qualifying for the Paris 2024 Olympics, so the five-stars will have more of the veteran riders."
The U.S. in not yet qualified for next year's Paris Olympics, so every effort from now on will be focused on qualifying.
The first opportunity to qualify will come in the Nations Cup Finals in Barcelona next fall, and that entails getting the U.S. qualified for the Nations Cup Finals.
Then the last opportunity to qualify is at the Pan American Games held Oct. 20 to Nov. 5 in Santiago, Chile.
To qualify for the Nations Cup Finals, the U.S. has to be one of the top two teams from the five star Nations Cup classes in Mexico, April 26-30, California, May 10-14 and Langley, Canada, May 31 to June 4.
"THE APPLICATIONS are out," said Ridland. "The teams will be named from the computer rankings list in a few weeks. All three teams will be named at the same time. The reason I'm dong this so early is the logistics of fielding those teams have to be met."
"We don't have the option of sending two veterans and two young riders, as we've been doing," said Ridland, stressing the importance of getting qualified for Barcelona.
"We had two successive Olympic cycles of having U.S. teams on the podium in every major international event, something no other nations has ever accomplished," said Ridland.
But that all fell apartlast year, when our jumping teams failed to qualify for Paris.
"Last year was a year we don't want to repeat," said Ridland, who said he has told every owner and rider in every call that this would be the plan for this year.
"I told every veteran to not even apply for last night's Nations Cup," said Ridland. "That was to be the last time we used a team as a proving ground for the next generation of riders. We had to save everything for what counts, qualifying for the Nations Cup Finals and for the Pan Am Games."
Among those top riders reserved for these events are Olympic medalists Ward and Laura Kraut.
"McLain will be apart of this, and he has a pland" said Ridland. "Laura has Baloutinue and he is back in top form"
Ward has said repeatedly that although a few of his top horses are getting old that they have been carefully taken care of and are still in top form.
He also has a few top young prospects coming up, among them Quimi Del Masat, a 9-year-old warmblood gelding that won the $50,000 National Grand Prix on March .
This scopey gelding is a relatively new horse to join Ward’s string but has been showing tremendous promise.
“We are very excited about him. We started with him in February, and we have been building up through the levels, starting with 1.35m just getting to know him and this week we had a plan to put him to a larger test and wanted to set him up for this. He performed beautifully today.”
Ward described this horse as, “a dream to ride, he’s like riding an equitation horse over big jump. He’s easy, but at the same time clever, and obviously competitive.”