Stadium passes WEG dressage test with flying colours

Carl Hester and Nip Tuck.
Carl Hester and Nip Tuck. © PSV Photos

The stadium that will host the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games dressage and jumping competitions has been given the thumbs up by dressage participants after the first test event this week.

Carl Hester and Nip Tuck at their final halt.
Carl Hester and Nip Tuck at their final halt. © PSV Photos

Fifteen riders from nine nations competed in Grand Prix, Grand Prix Special and Freestyle to test all areas of the organisation, including the field of play and training areas, footing, results and timing systems, as well as the back of house facilities, stabling, horse arrival and departure areas, and media services.

Carl Hester, a member of Britain’s Olympic gold medal team at London 2012, acted as foreign rider representative for dressage and also took top spot in Tuesday’s Grand Prix Special with Nip Tuck, reversing Monday’s Grand Prix placings with team mate Gareth Hughes (DV Stenkjers Nadonna). Spain’s Cristobal Belmonte won the Freestyle with Diavolo II de Laubry.

Hester was impressed with the venue set-up.

“It’s going to be brilliant,” he said. “It’s absolutely spot-on from a structural perspective. The footing is excellent and it will only improve for staying in place between now and the Games so that we can really ride to the maximum. It was definitely worth coming here and it should give the riders lots of confidence going into the Games.”

FEI Dressage Director Trond Asmyr said the stadium was “fantastic”.  “Of course as it’s a test event we will need to go through all the small details to be sure that if anything needs to be worked on or improved that it’s done, but the starting point is excellent and everyone is very much looking forward to coming back to Normandy in August.”

The Games get under way on August 23.

Nathalie zu Sayn-Wittgenstein (DEN), who finished third on both days with Fabienne, was also complimentary about the venue and organisation. “I came here with no expectations and have been really positively surprised,” she said. “The footing is really nice, the stables are good and the access is excellent. I’m very confident that things are going to work out well here.”

Games Organising Committee CEO Fabien Grobon was also pleased with the first two days of the final test event.

Freestyle Grand Prix winner Cristobal Belmonte and Diavolo II De Laubry.
Freestyle Grand Prix winner Cristobal Belmonte and Diavolo II De Laubry. © PSV Photos

“The two days went as expected, and even though we decided not to have spectators for the Dressage so that we could test other aspects, we had a great show for the horses. Now we need to stay focused for a lot more horses in the jumping and a big crowd coming tomorrow when our goal is to welcome around 24,000 spectators to the venue.

“We’ve had a lot of very positive feedback so far, but although the test events are a vital part of the process, we must remember this is only a test. What really matters is August.”

The jumping test event gets under way today, with horses from 24 nations taking part in four competitions over the next two days. Some 24,000 spectators have downloaded free tickets for the first day of the jumping events.

Test events in three disciplines – Endurance (Sartilly), Eventing (Haras du Pin/Caen) and Driving (Caen Hippodrome) – were held in August last year, and although no discipline specific test events have been held in Reining, Vaulting and Para-Equestrian, all technical aspects will have been trialled before the Games to ensure that the same level of excellence runs across all the disciplines.

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