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Eventing follows cricket's lead with fast-paced contest

August 30, 2008

William Fox-Pitt and Macchiato. © Adam Fanthorpe

A fast-paced version of eventing is hoping to emulate the success of Twenty20 cricket.

The new version, called Express Eventing, will condense traditional eventing into just half a day inside an enclosed sporting arena.

For the first time, spectators will be able to watch all three disciplines - dressage, show jumping and cross-country - from one seat, and follow the progress of every horse and rider at each stage of the competition.

Helped by expert commentaries, stadium audio visual technology and a simplified scoring system, they will know exactly what each competitor needs to do to win.

The format will be rolled out at The Express Eventing International Cup at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff on November 30.

The showcase event is being organised in association with British Eventing, the sport's governing body in Great Britain.

The highly condensed format is designed to broaden the appeal of the sport, while providing a showcase competition for top riders.

The format will then be rolled out as a series of international competitions in major sporting locations around the world.

Riders who have already signed up to take part in Express Eventing are British Olympians Mary King and William Fox-Pitt, Belgian rider Karin Donckers, New Zealand Olympian Andrew Nicholson, Australian Clayton Fredericks and German Dirk Schrade.

British equestrian icon and Beijing 2008 Bronze medallist Mary King said: "This is a fantastic way to get new people engaged in the sport and I am really pleased to be taking part. We've seen this sort of approach in other sports and I think it's going to be great for eventing."

Businessman and equestrian enthusiast John Peace and former Australian international rider Stuart Buntine are behind the new competition. They want to broaden the appeal of eventing and create a proving ground for further innovation within the sport.

Buntine said: "Eventing is a lifelong passion of mine and one that I would like more people to experience and enjoy. It's an equestrian triathlon and arguably the ultimate test of the partnership between horse and rider. But that can make it quite a challenging sport for the spectator to understand and follow.

"I believe that Express Eventing will encourage many more people to engage with the sport. Spectators will not only enjoy the very best of the world's riders at close quarters, but the stadium technology will ensure they know exactly what's going on and what each rider has to do to win.

"It will be a fast-paced, fun and dramatic day out for the whole family ... sport and entertainment at its very best."

The competition will start with a freestyle dressage programme, set to music, where horse and rider will be judged not only on the degree of difficulty, but on artistic interpretation.

Riders will then enter the combined jumping stage, a first for eventing. Once the last show jump is completed, a "pit-stop" tack change will enable horse and rider to prepare for the challenges of the cross-country course.

Mike Etherington-Smith, Sport Director at British Eventing, said: "British Eventing is delighted to support this new initiative within the sport. It is an exciting new competition for our riders and a great opportunity to introduce the sport to a wider audience."

As well as encouraging more people into eventing, Peace and Buntine are determined that Express Eventing should give greater recognition to the sport's elite riders.

The inaugural event will offer a pot of £250,000 in prize money, with an unprecedented £100,000 for the winner - the biggest cash prize on the eventing circuit.



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