The riders spoke. Equestrian Sport Productions listened.
Last winter during the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF), Olympic show jumpers Eric Lamaze (CAN) and Nick Skelton (GBR) expressed frustration over the high number of riders competing in the international division. On any given week of the Wellington, Florida circuit, the WEF Challenge Cup alone, a weekly qualifier for the Grand Prix, can attract upward of 100 entries.
That sheer volume of horses, argued the veteran team members, creates an unfair playing field for up-and-coming riders, not to mention excessive wear-and-tear on the footing and marathon workdays for horse show and barn staff.
One proposed solution: switching to the concurrent 5*/2* show format popular in Europe.
“Doing that would also give a chance for younger riders to access some prize money and winnings because they wouldn’t be riding against McLain and Kent and others,” said Skelton at the time. “They’re in a big group of people as it is now, and it’s hard for some of the young riders to get ahead, and also get some prize money.”
This winter, the organizers of show jumping’s largest and longest-running circuit have responded in kind. For the first time in its 38-year history, WEF will run concurrent CSI 2* and CSI 5* competitions during Weeks 5, 7, 9, and 11 of the 12-week circuit.
Each CSI 5* week will have a $380,000 grand prix, with the exception of WEF 11’s $500,000 Rolex Grand Prix, along with four other FEI World Ranking classes. The CSI 2* division during those four weeks will have a $50,000 grand prix, as well as another FEI World Ranking competition, and two additional classes.
Under the new format, the top 60 in the FEI World Rankings will be eligible for the 5* competition, while other jumper competitors may compete in the 2* classes.
“We have seen the popularity and growth at the international level at WEF, and we feel that offering a concurrent 2* during the 5* weeks will give more riders the opportunity to compete at the top level,” said ESP President Michael Stone.
Both competitions will run in the International Ring, with the 2* grand prix events being held each Sunday.