There’s a big week of show jumping ahead at Thunderbird Show Park in Langley, BC.

Not only will tbird’s CSIO5* Odlum Brown BC Open stage the coveted $235,000 Longines Grand Prix on Friday, it will also play host to the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ of Canada on Sunday, June 4. Canada, the USA, Mexico, Australia, and Ireland will compete for top honors and are the stakes ever high.

As the final Nations Cup event of the 2023 season for the North/Central America & Caribbean Division, this particular event is always a pressure cooker, with teams from the USA, Canada, and Mexico vying for coveted points toward the Final in Barcelona, Spain in September. (Only the top-two teams from the region are eligible to compete.)

This year, though, there’s even more on the line.

Nations Cup Finals is one of the final opportunities still remaining in the two-year-long qualification period for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris. What’s more: the U.S., Canada, and Mexico have yet to earn their berths, having missed previous chances at the 2022 FEI Jumping Nations Cup Final, the 2022 FEI Jumping World Championships, and others.

In other words, you can bet these three nations are sending some of their best and brightest to Langley, BC this week to lock-down a spot in Spain, with an eye toward the City of Light in 2024.

The U.S. currently leads the North/Central America & Caribbean Standings with 200 points; Mexico sits in second with 170; Canada a close third on 150. As final rider selections are made, here’s a preliminary look at Canada, America, and Mexico’s odds.

USA: Strength in Numbers

The USA is following their tried-and-true approach of fielding experienced partnerships alongside Nations Cup newbies. Lillie Keenan will ride as alternate this week. The likely anchor: Olympic silver medalist Kent Farrington aboard the 10-year-old Zangersheide gelding, Landon. The duo recently jumped 0/4 as part of the winning U.S Nations Cup team at CSIO5* San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. And, according to Jumpr App, they jumped 40% clear in their 15 rounds this year at 1.60m, finishing in the top-10 92% (!) of the time. 

Karl Cook and Kalinka van’t Zorgvliet have also seen this movie before, recently jumping 4/4 for the victorious U.S. team in the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ of the U.S. in San Juan Capistrano, California. On paper, this pair has one of the highest clear-round percentages at 1.60m in 2022, an impressive 60% out of five rounds.

Among the rookies on the roster: Lacey Gilbertson and Karlin van’t Vennehof, who would make their senior team debut for the USA at tbird. The pair are no stranger to team pressure, though, having competed together in Major League Show Jumping since 2022. In their four rounds at the 1.60m height, they’re clear 75% of the time, while the 13-year-old BWP mare also has five-star Nations Cup experience under former rider, Shane Sweetnam (IRL).

Charlotte Jacobs, 28, will also be making her five-star Nations Cup debut with Edocenta. The pair were part of two CSIO 3* teams in Madrid, Spain (jumping  0/5) and Lisbon, Portugal (4/8) in 2022.

Canada: Rallying the Soldiers

Canada’s hometown heroes have oodles of team-championship experience among them, with all five riders having competed at various World Championships, FEI World Equestrian Games, Pan American, and Olympic Games. Mario Deslauriers, alone, has been on three Olympic Teams, including Tokyo in 2020. Aboard the 11-year-old BWP gelding Emerson, however, he’s competed just one CSIO4* Nations Cup in Wellington, Florida, where the pair were double-clear.

The other three are more experienced partnerships that were part of Canada’s all-female 2022 World Championship “soldier” squad: Erynn Ballard and her 2022 World Championships partner, Gakhir, who were clear in 27% of the 11 rounds they jumped at 1.60m last year, averaging 5.73 faults. They recently jumped 0/4 at the CSIO5* FEI Nations Cup of Mexico in April, and were 0/4 in the CSIO4* Nations Cup in Wellington this winter.

Trending just ahead, statistically: Millar and Truman, who jumped to a 28% clear round average over 18 rounds at 1.60m last year. They have a strong recent track record at Nations Cups, putting up a pair of zeros at the CSIO5* BMO Nations Cup at Spruce Meadows in 2022.

Finally, aboard mount of three years, Hamilton, Tiffany Foster jumped clear 40% of 5 total rounds at 1.60m this year so far, averaging 2.60 faults. She and Hamilton last jumped 4/0 at the CSIO5* FEI Nations Cup of Mexico.

©tbird/Cara Grimshaw

Mexico: Hoping for a Ringer

Mexico has recruited a handful of members from its third-place-finishing CSIO5* Longines FEI Nations Cup of the United States team at San Juan Capistrano this month.

Three-time Olympian Federico Fernandez will bring a seasoned perspective to the ranks, having also competed at six FEI World Equestrian Games and, most recently, the 2022 World Championships in Herning, Denmark. He’s been partnered with 14-year-old DSP gelding, Davidoff, since 2017. The pair jumped to a clear round average of 11% at 1.60m in 2022, with a 33% top 10 finish average. This May, they posted a 5/5 this May in California.

Teammate Alberto Sanchez-Cozar also jumped in San Juan Capistrano, finishing 8/11 with his tbird mount, the 14-year-old Holsteiner gelding, Catover. Jose Antonio Chedraui Eguia was more successful aboard H-Lucky Retto, jumping 0/4 in the same event. This partnership is one that’s peaking right now. They jumped clear 50% of the time in their five rounds at 1.60m so far in 2023—the highest of Mexico’s team riders.

At just 24, Tanimara Maria Macari Carrillo is making her second ever senior team Nations Cup appearance for Mexico. While she has less experience than the other members of the team, she follows Chedraui Eguia in stats; averaging 3.25 faults and jumping clear in 25% of her four rounds this year at 1.60m with the 10-year-old Hanoverian mare, IB Chica, with whom she’s been partnered for less than a year.

The Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ of Canada airs live on FEI TV at 2:00pm (PT) Sunday, June 4.