The first week of action at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games 2014 in Normandy is about to get under way, bringing a hectic schedule of top-quality sport across five different venues.
Horse inspections took place on Sunday in Reining, Dressage and Para-Dressage following which the Kazakhstan dressage team was reduced from three to just two members rendering them ineligible for the Team competition. The Norwegian team is now down to three horse-and-rider combinations instead of four, and the total number of nations competing for team medals in Dressage now stands at 24.
Dressage will get the Games under way, and first into the arena at Stade d’Ornano at 8am on Monday morning will be German team-member Fabienne Lutkemeier riding D’Agostino FRH.
There has already been plenty of dressage drama as the super-stallion Totilas who was to spearhead the German team, and who looked set to challenge strongly for Individual glory with rider Matthias Alexander Rath on board, was withdrawn due to a last-minute injury on Wednesday leading to a late call-up for Lutkemeier. The Dutch team suffered a major blow too, with the withdrawal of both Edward Gal’s Glock’s Undercover and Danielle Heijkoop’s Kingsley Siro who are also on the injury list. Gal will still compete, riding Glock’s Voice, but the complexion of the team competition has changed with nations now possibly more evenly matched, while Great Britain’s Charlotte Dujardin’s quest for a clean sweep of Olympic, European and now World Individual medals with Valegro appears less daunting.
The Dressage Grand Prix runs over two days and the team medals will be awarded when it concludes on Tuesday evening. The three nations qualified for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games will then be known.
The Grand Prix Special takes place on Wednesday and, following a rest day on Thursday, the Freestyle brings Dressage to a close on Friday afternoon.
Para-Dressage starts at 9am on Monday and runs over the entire week at La Prairie Racecourse close to the town centre of Caen and the top three nations here qualify for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. Medal ceremonies for both Dressage and Para-Dressage will take place on Friday evening.
At the Zenith Indoor Stadium in Caen, Reining gets under way at 8.45am on Monday, with the team medals decided by Tuesday afternoon. There is a rest day in this discipline on Wednesday before the second Individual qualifier takes place on Thursday, and after another rest day on Friday the Individual Reining medals will be decided on Saturday night.
Horse inspections for Eventing and Endurance will be held on Wednesday afternoon and there will be huge excitement when competitors head out from Sartilly at 7am on Thursday morning to take on the spectacular and technical 160km Endurance course that includes a tour of the stunning bay at Mont St Michel.
While that is happening the first day of eventing dressage will be under way at Haras de Pins, with more to come on Friday at this stunning venue. Saturday’s cross-country phase is expected to draw capacity crowds, and it should also be a packed house at the d’Ornano Stadium on Sunday where medals will be distributed when the Jumping phase of Eventing concludes.