Comments from some of the leading riders before the cross-country the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Normandy, designed by France’s Pierre Michelet.
Mark Todd NZL: “It might be a lucky draw going early with these sorts of conditions. It’s a big track, it’s long, it’s hilly, and it is wet so I don’t think it is going to be a dressage competition.
“The course is already wet, by the end of 80 odd horses, it is going to be pretty cut up and not very nice I think. It may end up being a lucky thing to be early.
“It’s a fabulous venue but unfortunately I think the French didn’t really think through what would happen if it rained. It is a shame for everyone that it has turned out so wet but it is part of our sport and it is all about how you cope with it. I think for the spectators and everyone else it is not so pleasant sloshing through the mud and the cars are having to get towed in and out of carparks but for us it is fine.”
Predications for a medal: “As a team we have a very strong team, on paper us and the Germans would have to be one of the favourites but with these weather and ground conditions you can pretty much throw the form book out the window. As Badminton showed us this spring, anything is possible and I think everyone is in with a chance. It’s not going to be a dressage competition, it levels out the playing field.”
When asked how many world championships he has done now, Todd confessed to not actually knowing. “My first one was in 1978 [in Lexington, where a tough cross-country course caused numerous falls and the hot and humid weather took its toll]so that’s quite a while ago. It was completely different in every way imaginable.
“This is a fabulous venue. It is just a shame the weather has turned out so wet.”
Michael Jung GER: “I think it is a very tough cross country because of the hills and because of the grounds. Lot of big fences and technical in the beginning, from the beginning to the end so you have to concentrate for the whole course. I think it is a very tough four star. My horse is a very good one so I hope we have a good start for the German team, so clear round.
“I just walked the course yesterday one time just to look at everything, next time we are more focused and concentrating to the distances and the lines. ”
William Fox Pitt GBR: “It’s a good track with plenty to jump. It’s quite hilly and with the soft ground it’s going to be a serious test. We tend to get all these conditions in England and so it should be good for us here, but the effect of the course will be cumulative and may be hard to gauge.”
Jonathan Paget NZL: “It’s a big track but if you ride it the way Pierre Michelet asks you to, that will help you because it’s forward and attacking.”
Cedric Lyard FRA: “My horse is a good galloper and a good cross-country horse. I will try and do my best for the team but you can never be sure how things will turn out.”
Tina Cook GBR: “The course is a true championship one with plenty of questions. It walks very big and Pierre Michelet has done a good job of creating rider frightener fences, it will be a real test and challenge for everybody. It definitely won’t be a dressage competition. De Novo News is a good horse across country and is very scopey so I am looking forward to the challenge.”
Dag Albert SWE: “It’s big enough, it’s technical and it’s very forward striding. The ground also needs to dry up. It felt very soft underfoot when I walked it, but, having said that, my horse will be fit enough for a test made harder by the conditions.”
Tim Price NZL: “It is a beast of a thing,” Price said of the course, “but I am looking forward to tackling it. It is a pretty strong test out there and conditions will play their part. He has used the terrain incredibly well and it will be a real test.”
He has no qualms that his horse, the Dutch-bred Wesko, will give his all on the cross country. “He just loves to gallop and loves cross country in every way. We haven’t had a competition yet where he hasn’t been coming through the finishing flags strongly – he is so willing and loves his job.”