This article appears in the program book for the FEI World Cup Finals, produced by Omaha Magazine in March 2017.
The FEI World CupTM has seen many show jumping legends claim its title, some more than once. Any discussion of show jumping legends must include the four riders who each have claimed the FEI World CupTM title three times.
The first, Austria’s Hugo Simon, also won the inaugural trophy in 1979. He went on to win in 1997 and 1998, riding his Hanoverian gelding, E.T. FRH, both times. Simon was born on Aug. 3, 1942, and participated in six Olympic Games between 1972 and 1996. He won a silver medal at age 49 in the team event at the 1992 Olympics on the horse Apricot D. Four years later, at age 53, he came in fourth in the individual event at the 1996 Olympics after a jump-off involving seven riders competing for two medals. He is considered the oldest winner of a show jumping Grand Prix, having won the Grand Prix of Ebreichsdorf in May 2011. Although Simon rode many horses to the winner’s circle, it is with the show jumping great E.T. that he is best known.
Rodrigo Pessoa of Brazil holds a special place in the series, having been the only rider to win three consecutive titles (1998, 1999, and 2000) on the same horse, Baloubet du Rouet. That feat alone entitles the stallion to his own biographical review. Born in 1989, Baloubet du Rouet, a Selle Francais, won many of the greatest international show jumping competitions, including two Olympic events. His success began early, when he won the 7-year-old stallion test at Fontainebleau while being ridden on the French circuit by Nelson Pessoa, Rodrigo’s father. He became most competitive, however, in his partnership with Rodrigo. Baloubet du Rouet retired from competition in 2006 and from breeding in 2010, and currently lives in Portugal. He continues to exert extraordinary influence in the sport through numerous offspring who compete on the international stage. Rodrigo Pessoa was born on Nov. 29, 1972. He won an Olympic gold medal in individual jumping and has won 70 Grand Prix events. He has represented Brazil at six Olympic Games and carried Brazil’s flag at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Pessoa was one of the youngest riders to compete in the Olympics, at the age of 19 in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
Two riders representing Germany—Marcus Ehning and Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum—complete this distinguished group. Ehning won in 2003, 2006, and 2010. Michaels-Beerbaum won in 2005, 2008, and 2009. Ehning was born on April 19, 1974, and earned a Gold medal in the 2000 Olympics in team jumping. Michaels-Beerbaum is a U.S. native, born in Los Angeles on Dec. 26, 1969. She attended Princeton University and then went to Germany to train in 1991. She planned to remain for only a summer but ended up buying a training center there. She changed her citizenship to German after marrying well-known German show jumper Markus Beerbaum in 1998.
Riders such as Ian Miller, John Whitaker, and the United States’ own Joe Fargis certainly deserve a place in the firmament of top show jumpers. Miller of Canada and Whitaker of Great Britain are two-time World Cup winners. Miller, a member of the Canadian Equestrian Team, rode the same horse, the Belgian Warmblood Big Ben, to his World Cup titles. Miller also has an Olympic silver medal. Fans and colleagues have dubbed him “Captain Canada,” because of his longevity and accomplishments in the sport. He holds the record for most Olympic appearances—breaking the record when he took part in his 10th Olympic Games in London in 2012. On July 23, 2015, at the age of 68, Miller won a gold medal in the Pan American Games. Whitaker won two consecutive World Cup finals, in 1990 and 1991, on British Sport Horse gelding Milton. A member of the Show Jumping Hall of Fame in Lexington, Kentucky, Fargis won an individual and team gold at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, becoming only the second American to do so. He rode Touch of Class, a Thoroughbred mare, over 90 of 91 obstacles, an Olympic record. Four years later, Fargis added a third Olympic medal while achieving the best score in the team competition to lead the United States to the team silver medal in Seoul, South Korea.