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Crunch time for Australia's Olympic equestrians

December 7, 2007


The next two weeks could be the most crucial period in Australia's 2008 Olympic Equestrian campaign. A decision is to be made on whether to send prospective team members overseas for the six months before the Olympic Games, or whether to keep them in Australia.

The answer will depend mainly on whether already overdue biosecurity protocols will enable the movement of horses and the holding of events in the first half of next year.

A decision to move overseas would put further pressure on Australia-based riders, whose businesses and families have already been hard hit by the EI crisis since August. It would also reduce the pool of horses and riders from which a team can be selected.

"Sending our prospective team overseas to Europe, where eventing would be based in England and the jumping and dressage teams in Germany, will cost the programme in excess of $2 million. This leaves us with a shortfall of around $1.5 million from our previous budgeted figure for the programme in Australia," said High Performance and Olympic Equestrian Team Manager, Brett Mace.

The High Performance Program has been supporting local riders to stay in Australia as long as possible to prepare and qualify for the Olympic Games. This is now looking less likely due to the uncertainty and the expected severity of the restrictions that may be imposed on riders and event organisers by government authorities.

"What we need from the Government are clear guidelines for horse movements and on how to conduct events. The guidelines must be safe, of course, but must also be practicable for riders and event organisers," Mace said.

The Equestrian High Performance Program has been in limbo since the outbreak of EI, which forced the cancellation of all International and National Equestrian events in Australia at least until early next year. The outbreak has severely restricted training and qualification opportunities for many of the leading contenders for the Olympic Games.

"The time has now come for us to give our riders a definite decision on what they will be required to do, so they can get on with preparing for the Olympic Games," said National Equestrian Head Coach Wayne Roycroft.

"We gave assurances to our riders that we would make our decision at this time. We have a gold medal at risk here and we cannot compromise our preparations any longer just waiting for others to make a decision."

A series of meetings will take place over the next two weeks. The final decision is expected to be made on December 19.



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