I would like to bring your attention to a great, but often overlooked competition. It is the qualifier for the FEI Children’s International Jumping Final. The qualifier will be held in San Juan Capistrano Sept. 10-14, during the Oaks Blenheim Fall Tournament, and the Final itself will take place in Bogotá, Colombia, in December.
I had the wonderful good fortune to compete at the Guaymaral Country Club in this event and it was an unforgettable experience. I was on a team with two other Americans, Jordan Coyne and Rennick Townsend. I did not know them before I went to Bogotá, but we all became fast friends. We rode on horses borrowed from the Colombian host team. We competed against other kids from exotic locales that included Jamaica and South Africa. We were housed with local families and got to know a little about their customs and lifestyles.
I was familiar with this event as I competed in it the two years it was held at the Saperstein’s amazingly luxurious facility, Hummingbird Nest Ranch in Simi Valley. My roommate at that event was a girl from Lebanon. Part of the appeal of this program is that the host country arranges social events and barbecues as well as expeditions to local sites.
About those local customs: In Bogotá, if you win, you get dunked in the water pond! The kids really have time to get to know each other because it goes for an entire week. The National Governing Body absorbs a good portion of the cost.
I am still friends with many of the riders that I met. I see the South and Central Americans at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, FL. So many of the past American Finals contenders have gone on to become really accomplished jumper riders. One look at the Spruce Meadows results and you will see Carl and Annie Cook, Ricky Neal, Alec Lawler and Paris Sellon picking up an impressive number of wins. And here at Lake Placid, Julianna Fischer is always in the ribbons in the high Junior Jumpers. The FEI Children’s Final is a great stepping-stone to the big leagues. The trick is to know when the qualifier is because there is only one on the West Coast.
Making this year’s FEI Children’s Jumper event in California even more important is the fact that there are limited spots available to riders from the United States. The U.S. could qualify none, one or a maximum of two riders. This will be determined by how well the U.S. riders perform in the qualifier compared to all of the other riders in the world participating in the qualifiers once the standings are complete.
The Final, Dec. 6-12, will feature a total of 32 riders, including 16 from the host country of Colombia and 16 additional foreign riders. The foreign riders selected are the best 10 riders from the worldwide standings, plus the best rider from the remaining six FEI groups. The USA is in FEI Group IV.
The worldwide standings include the final scores for each competitor from every FEI Children’s Qualifying Competition in the world held before Oct. 15 of this year. The final score for each competitor is the total penalties of the four rounds and the total of time in the two second rounds.
With only two slots available to riders from the United States, the qualifier at this year’s Oaks is a vital event. If the U.S. has two or more riders in the top 10, the top two riders will be invited. If the U.S. has one rider in the top 10, only that rider will be invited. If no U.S. riders are in the top 10 but a rider from another country in Group IV is in the top 10, no U.S. riders will be invited.
The FEI Children’s Jumping Final is open to riders 12 to 14 years old, per the FEI’s age designations. This means for 2008, eligible participants will be born on or between Jan. 1, 1994 and Dec. 31, 1996.
Courses will be set at 1.10 to 1.20 meters (3’7” to 3’11”) in height and 1.20 to 1.30 meters (3’11” to 4’3”) in width. Triple bar spreads will be 1.50 meters (4’11”).
Zazou Hoffman is an accomplished junior hunter/jumper rider who lives in Santa Monica. California Riding Magazine is pleased to have this hard-working young rider as a regular columnist. She can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.