Test Events WEG 2014

July - The French grandeur is historically world-wide renowned. And the first French edition of the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games seems to confirm this traditional trend. From the 23rd to the 26th of June the D’Ornano Stadium in Caen hosted a four-day test event organized by the Normandie 2014 Organising Committee, dedicated to dressage and show jumping.

Listed as official competitions on the national and international calendar with a CDI3* and a CSI2*, the decision to stage the tests on weekdays was taken in order not to overlap other events as the one which took place in Rotterdam in the same weekend. Dressage riders would have then performed on Monday with the Grand Prix and on Tuesday with the Freestyle, while showjumpers would have had their test on Wednesday and Thursday. Australia, Canada, South Africa, Israel, Colombia, Chile, Palestine, Japan, Korea, USA and Venezuela were the countries represented, as well as Europe, which was present too, and Carl Hester, Nathalie Zu Sayn Wittgenstein and Patrice Delaveau were some of the stars showing on the arena.

After three summer sunshine days accompanied by the positive feedback of all the riders, the weather conditions changed. A torrential rain, during the final jumping test event, allowed the organisers and the athletes to see how the footing in both the competition and training arenas would perform in tough conditions. “It was actually a good thing to have the rain and we learned a lot about the management of the footing, which was very important”, declared Laurent Cellier, Sports Director in the Committee. Due to the heavy thunderstorm the competition was suspended for forty minutes, permitting to the drainage system to do its work. The Ground Jury then restarted the class with 13 riders left of 44 to jump in the first round, and 18 couples qualified in the jump-off.

The French rider Delaveau, who jumped before and after the break, made the boss with his mare Ornella Mail HDC, winning the Grand Prix, after the second place in the previous 1,40 meter speed class aboard Quenndal de Lojou HDC. “The main arena was not so good for the first three or four riders after the rain, but then it was absolutely fine – he declared – For me there was no difference between the first round and the jump-off”. One of the young talent selected for the Riders Academy program dominated too: Bertram Allen gaining in fact the 1,40 on Wild Thing L, ahead of Delaveau, and the second position behind him on Wrangler II in the Gp: “The ground held up really well and horses weren’t slipping at all – said the Irish rider – The results were consistent through the class”.

“The Jumping test event has been a great success – commented John Roche, FEI Jumping Director – Both the infrastructure and the venue have been prepared to the highest standard and will create a wonderful setting for the World Equestrian Games”. Having spectators filling the tribunes gave in fact a clear idea of what the event will look like, in a region where the equestrian sports’ popularity reaches the top demonstrating how Normandy is indeed an equine heartland.

French chef d’equipe, Philippe Guerdat, was satisfied too with both facilities and stables, close to the arena, even if a lot of things must still be accomplished: “When we have a good footing, good facilities and a great stable – he said – we have everything we asked for”.

At the end of the four days the national federations expressed their positive impressions and feedback on footing, facilities and general organization, even if the work is still in progress and the Organising Committee promised to upgrade and finalize some details for the big day in Caen.

Barbara Leoni