“When I learned that the FEI World Jumping Challenge Final was in Uzbekistan, I didn’t know what to expect,” said South African rider Travis Dawson. “But it really has blown me away; it’s an amazing country.”
The competition’s inclusivity and diversity has been achieved thanks in large part to the work carried out by FEI Solidarity, the development programme of the federation that organises the Challenge series.
While the series is open to athletes of all ages, FEI Solidarity’s focus is on nurturing and developing young riders all over the world by providing them with an early opportunity to compete internationally.
This serves as ideal preparation for the athletes as they begin the transition into senior-level equestrians.
“The FEI Solidarity programme consists of around 80 countries,” explained Jacqueline Braissant, director of FEI Solidarity.
“Besides supporting Athletes’ training towards competition, we also finance school programmes for disadvantaged children whom I hope will in turn compete in the FEI World Jumping Challenge.
“The Series is open to Athletes as young as 15. It’s a good opportunity for the young generation to have access to FEI competitions.”
It’s not just the athletes who benefit from FEI Solidarity support. The programme is also heavily involved in coaching development, organising courses and tutoring workshops to ensure the sport’s best young athletes are able to realise their potential through access to high-quality coaching.
“The FEI taught me how to be a coach first,” said Luis Barreiro of Ecuador.
“I then came to be a tutor, so I can now teach coaches at levels 1, 2 and 3. Last year I went to Guatemala, El Salvador, Panama and Cuba, working with all the coaches there.”
What’s more, hosting internationally-renowned competitions such as the FEI World Jumping Challenge Final – coupled with the all-important support of FEI Solidarity – allows smaller bodies like the Equestrian Federation of Uzbekistan to build up organisational and event management experience, which can only be a good thing for the long-term growth of the sport.
“One of the main aims of the FEI World Jumping Challenge Final is to teach many of the host countries how to organise a show,” added Ramin Shafiee, chairman of the Asian Equestrian Federation Show Jumping Committee.
“They will learn what an international show is all about, or at least how an international show can be more interesting and more popular.”
An added significance of the FEI World Jumping Challenge Final for young athletes is its use of borrowed horses, making it an important warm-up event for those that went on to compete at October’s 2018 Youth Olympic Games (YOG) in Buenos Aires, where the equestrian event also pairs riders with unfamiliar horses.
The Challenge series was used as the official qualifying event for the YOG by 44 countries, and 23 of the 30 athletes that headed to the Argentinian capital secured their passage via the series. Five of these riders competed in Uzbekistan, including Zimbabwe’s Brianagh Clark.