March 19, 2007 -- The Rolex FEI World Cup Finals may be focused on jumping and dressage but for the second time it will also showcase the sport of hunters.
On April 21 at 3 p.m. the World Champion Hunter Rider World Cup Team Hunter Challenge will take place at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas. The challenge pits four of the top U.S. hunter riders against four of the top European jumper riders on world-class horses that will be on loan for this special occasion.
In 2005, international riders Rodrigo Pessoa of Brazil, Marcus Ehning of Germany and Michael Whitaker and Nick Skelton of Great Britian faced off against Americans Louise Serio, Scott Stewart, John French and Peter Pletcher. Although the U.S. team lost to the Europeans, the impact of that competition was far-reaching. For the first time in history, show hunters were showcased on an international stage.
Now, two years later the American show hunter riders will compete again against the team of Olympic show jumping veterans in the hunter arena. The rematch will feature the same riders with the exception of Nick Skelton who will be replaced by Germany's Christian Ahlmann. All of the European riders are Olympic medalists. The U.S. hunter rider have each won the Monarch International Show Circuit Magazine WCHR Professional Hunter Rider title at least twice.
While show jumpers are judged on what happens in the ring based on objective criteria (where faults are accumulated and speed is a factor in who wins), hunters are judged subjectively, with the scoring based on the horse's smooth way of going, jumping style and overall presentation.
The competition will consist of two rounds. In the first round each team of four riders will compete over a 3'6" course and will be judged by three pairs of judges and will receive three scores, which will then be averaged. The lowest scoring competitor's total will be dropped for the team competition and the remaining scores added together for a single round team cumulative total.
The second round will be a handy course where the rider's interpretation of the course will be rewarded and emphasis will be placed on turns and promptness (the lowest score will be dropped). Riders will compete on a different horse. The scores of both the first and second rounds will be combined. The team with the highest two-round score will win.
The horses have been divided into two teams and a flip of the coin will decide which team will ride which set of horses. Once each rider completes his or her first round, the teams will switch horses for the handy competition.