April 10, 2008


EFA NSW Chair David Lawrence at the launch of The Return of the Horse.
© Phil Carrick

Australia's largest equestrian event since the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games kicks off next week, and with it organisers hope for an exhilirating competition to celebrate the eradication of equine influenza in the country.

The Return of the Horse will run for 12 days, and feature more than 880 riders and 1000 horses in the key disciplines of showjumping, eventing and dressage at the world-class Sydney International Equestrian Centre, Horsley Park.

It will also include the last Olympic qualifying/selection events to be held in Australia - the Bates Sydney International Three-Day Event, the ISS EFA Australian Showjumping Championships and the Sydney CDI 3 Star Dressage Event.

Olympic hopefuls, including Shane Rose (NSW), Heath Ryan (NSW), Rachael Sanna (NSW), Vicki Roycroft (NSW) Megan Jones (SA), Wendy Schaeffer (SA), and Sonja Johnson (WA), will be vying for the hotly contested berths to represent Australia at the Beijing Olympics.

"Following the devastating Equine Influenza crisis and with just over 110 days to go till the Beijing Olympics, this will be one exhilarating competition," says Rose Read, event director.

"With multiple gold medals in eventing, Australian equestrian competition really does cut it on the global stage, and having such an elite list of equestrians competing at The Return of the Horse confirms the international quality of the Sydney International Equestrian Centre.

"The cross country course, arenas and stables are truly world class and are equal to or if not better than most world-leading events like Badminton and Kentucky."

In particular, The Return of Horse has attracted record entries for the Sydney International Three-Day Event CCI*** class, the Dressage Grand Prix as well as the Interschools Championships.

An exciting field of horse and rider combinations from around Australia will be competing for the top places, joined by riders from Canada, Japan, Indonesia and New Zealand.

The youngest competitor is five years of age, and the oldest over 60. More than 400 volunteers and staff will be on hand to ensure a smoothly run competition over the 12 days.

The Return of the Horse will also give Australia's up and coming young riders a chance to hone their equestrian skills at the EFA NSW / Mitavite Interschools Championships as they prepare for the National Championships.

"Rarely do all equestrian competition disciplines come together in one major event," says Ms Read. "We're celebrating the eradication of EI and I encourage everyone to come along to see the horses and cheer for the riders of all ages and abilities."