What It’s Really Like Riding in the Global Champions League

Ph: Lisa Bennett

This article was published in the Fall 2017 issue of NOELLE FLOYD Magazine. If you’d like to receive a hard copy of NOELLE FLOYD Magazine, visit this link. 

Saturdays on the Longines Global Champions Tour have become a whirlwind. Against the glamorous skyline serving as backdrop for that week’s stop, the environment in and around the field of play is always similar in its rushed intensity. The athletes, wearing coordinating shirts and modern jackets that sport team logos, huddle together to discuss course walk strategies as officials adjust and re-measure the fences.

“By the end of the summer, I was very comfortable having to walk into the ring right after any of the top 10 in the world.”

Everyone knows that the Global Champions League will be immediately followed by the LGCT Grand Prix and then a possible jump-off, and while that flow of events is essentially the same as it’s always been, the rounds hold new meaning now—the pace quickening toward the culmination of the day.

Ph: Lisa Bennett.

It is a winding path we’re on, toward that singular goal every show jumping organizer holds aloft: engaging new fans around the world to grow the sport.

Has the Global Champions League opened new doors? Undoubtedly so.

But there is more to it than meets the eye.

To hear it solely from the LGCT’s internal media machine, one would think a revolutionary leap forward has been accomplished in the sport. Enthusiasm is always appreciated, but every week cannot be epic, no matter how many times you say it.

There is no straight arrow toward success, and the LGCT must be applauded for their innovation. But it will be quite some time before the GCL finds its way.

Opportunity of Means

“I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into—I didn’t expect it to be that hard, to be honest”

During the GCL’s 12th stop of the season in London this July, half a dozen of the riders gathered for a quick photo shoot. A total of 18, Under-25 riders, one per team, have filled team slots on the GCL this year. They range from accomplished international riders to younger, professional amateurs who are self-funded. They didn’t try out for their teams and some—but not all of them—were recruited for their experience.

GCL team ownership is rumored to have a price tag of 2,00,000 million Euro per squad. The “chance” that many of these riders get to be a part of a GCL team is often their reward for partial or full ownership of a team.

“So many of the riders and horses are on teams because their ‘owners’ have bought the teams and so on,” says Danielle Goldstein of the Monaco Aces.

That has meant opportunity for riders who have always had the means to compete at this level, but never the world ranking to enter a top-rated class amongst the Ahlmanns and Farringtons of the world.

Ph: Lisa Bennett

The USA’s Teddy Vlock is one of the GCL riders newest to this level. Also a member of the Monaco Aces, he hasn’t competed in a GCL class, instead taking advantage of his team status to ride in the secondary classes that take place around the feature GCL classes. For Vlock, there has been just as much value in that opportunity.

“Because they increased the size [in height] of the team events this year, I was not able to compete in any of the League competitions,” Vlock explains. “I competed in my first ever CSI5* this year in Shanghai, and it definitely was a challenging first event to walk into. I was nervous having to compete against the top riders in the world but that was the point in doing the League.

“By the end of the summer, I was very comfortable having to walk into the ring right after any of the top 10 in the world.”

With its international designation by the FEI, there indeed came a step up in the competition level on this year’s GCL circuit. The Moscow Bears’ Mathilda Karlsson was faced with the biggest course she’d ever jumped early on in the season at GCL Mexico.

“I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into—I didn’t expect it to be that hard, to be honest….

This article was published in the Fall 2017 issue of NOELLE FLOYD Magazine. To continue reading, visit this link and flip to page 44.

If you’d like to receive a hard copy of NOELLE FLOYD Magazine, visit this link. 


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