For Ireland, the 2017 FEI Nations’ Cup season will be the first step of many on the long road to team qualification at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.

With a new show jumping High Performance Committee under the chairmanship of the highly experienced Gerry Mullins, and a new Chef d’Equipe about to appointed, all eyes will be focused on the next few months as the first of the Nations’ Cups gets underway.

With promising new combinations coming up through the ranks, and a particularly strong representation at the top tier of the sport, it could be said that Ireland has never been better equipped to plan ahead for the ultimate goal of the Olympics.

And, just days ahead of the Nations’ Cup double-bill that will open the 108th season at Al Ain (UAE) and Ocala (USA) there is already a crackle of excitement.

This is going to be a record-breaking season, with competitors from 50 nations stretching right around the globe competing in four separate qualifying leagues.

There will be a total of 19 qualifiers in 19 countries, and the aim from the outset is to make it to the Final in Barcelona (ESP) in September.

However, many riders have already achieved more than they ever dreamed of before that comes around each year, having grasped the very essence of this superlative team contest that is all about bringing honour and glory to your country in a spirit of friendship, respect and sportsmanship.

Facts and Figures:

•The FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping series celebrates 108 years of team competition in 2017.

•The forthcoming season comprises 19 qualifiers in as many countries.

•A total of 50 nations will compete in the qualifying rounds.

•The defending FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping champions are Team Germany.

•Qualifying events will take place in Europe Division 1 & Europe Division 2, North America and the Middle East. Qualification of teams from South America, Africa and Asia/Australasia will be established through the Longines Rankings.

•There will be eight qualifying legs in Europe Division 1 and seven in Europe Division 2, three in North America and a single event in the Middle East.

•The FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping Final will once again take place at the Real Club de Polo in Barcelona (ESP), venue for the Jumping events during the Barcelona Olympic Games in 1992.

•A total of 18 teams, plus the home team if not qualified, will compete at the Final which will take place from 29 September to 1 October 2017.

•A total of 10 nations will compete at the season-opener which takes place in Al Ain (UAE) on Thursday 16 February 2017. Only Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates will be competing for qualifying points at this event.

•A total of seven nations will compete at the second leg which takes place the following day, Friday 17 February 2017, in Ocala (USA).  Only Canada, El Salvador, Mexico and USA will be competing for qualifying points at this event.

•The eight teams qualified for Europe Division 1 this season are France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

•Watchmakers, Longines, are the official timekeepers for the FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping series.

See details of Ireland’s first Nations’ Cup squads of 2017 here.

We Live Horse will keep you up to date with results, reports, photos and links to livestreams throughout the 2017 season.

Jack Burns