The seventh edition of the FEI World Equestrian Games starts in Normandy, France in less than two weeks, and the region is already abuzz with horses, riders, support crews and officials getting organised for kick-off.
The Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games 2014 will be the biggest in the event’s 24-year history, with a massive increase in entries and about half a million spectators expected. There will be 3000 volunteers working around the venues, along with about a thousand journalists and 300 photographers.
The Games are the World Championships for all FEI disciplines, and are staged every four years between each Summer Olympic Games. Previously each championship had been held in different locations, but, strongly supported by then FEI President Prince Philip, the concept that had been floating around for quite some time of having one major event became a reality at the first edition held in Stockholm, Sweden in 1990.
A total of 421 competitors from 37 nations took part in the six disciplines of Jumping, Dressage, Eventing, Driving, Endurance and Vaulting at the Swedish fixture which was initially intended to be a “one-off” event. But it was so successful that it was decided it should continue, and the event has firmly established itself on the calendar of world sport.
It was next staged in The Hague (NED) in 1994, Rome (ITA) in 1998, Jerez de la Frontera (ESP) in 2002, Aachen (GER) in 2006 and by the time it arrived in Lexington, Kentucky (USA) in 2010 the number of disciplines had increased to seven with the inclusion of Reining and the incorporation of Para-Dressage into the Dressage programme.
A total of 632 athletes from 58 nations took part at the last edition of the Games, but those figures will be exceeded yet again this time around as, with equestrian sport continuously expanding its reach around the globe, Normandy has attracted a 25% increase in nominated entries from which the startlists in each discipline will be finalised over the next few days.
About 1000 athletes from 74 nations are expected to compete. Twenty-seven sets of medals will be awarded.
Jumping has attracted the largest number of nations – 54 in total – while Endurance is next in line with 48. Australia, Austria, France, Great Britain, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden and the United States will be represented in every discipline, while 12 countries will make their FEI World Equestrian Games debut. They are Hong Kong, US Virgin Islands, Kazakhstan, Republic of Korea, Latvia, Morocco, Mauritius, Peru, Palestine, Romania, Thailand and Tunisia.
The deadline for definite entries is August 14 for Dressage and Para-Dressage, Eventing, Endurance and Reining and August 22 for Jumping, Driving and Vaulting.
The opening ceremony will take place on Saturday, August 23, and the action begins on Monday, August 25 when Dressage and Reining both get under way. The event finishes on Sunday, September 7 with the closing stages of Jumping and Driving.
World famous venue
The region of Normandy is world-famous for its horse-breeding and sporting connections. The rich land is ideal for raising young stock, and Normandy is home to 93,000 horses with 408 equestrian centres and two National Studs, at Le Pin and Saint-Lo.
While the city of Caen is the central location for the Games, the State-owned Haras du Pin is the venue for the dressage and cross-country phases of eventing. The largest of the 20 National Studs located in France, the 16th century estate has long been home to world-class eventing fixtures and is widely acclaimed for its beauty. Tickets for eventing are fully sold out.
When it comes to magnificent backdrops, it doesn’t get much more awesome than the venue for endurance at the bay of Mont St Michel. Located in the La Manche area, this iconic island which is located just 600 metres from the mainland is one of the most recognisable landmarks in France and welcomes three million visitors each year. The spectacular endurance course will begin at the town of Sartilly and will circle around the bay.
Caen is the venue for the remaining disciplines with the D’Ornano Stadium home to the Opening and Closing ceremonies along with dressage, jumping and the jumping phase of eventing.
Para-Dressage and driving will take place at the Prairie Racecourse in the city centre while vaulting and reining will take place at the Zenith indoor arena and exhibition centre.
The Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games 2014 will be broadcast in more than 200 territories worldwide, bringing the best of international equestrian sport to a bigger audience than ever before.