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Global Equine - Blog
 

Blog


Oct 13, 2014


World Equestrian Games - Normandy




While the Normandy World Equestrian Games (WEG) are done and dusted, the memories of this event will stay with me for a lifetime! Sharing the whole WEG experience with Amy Graham and the Haras Du Ry team has to go down as yet another highlight in my European equestrian adventure! 
 
Normandy became the centre of all things equine for much of August and September and Haras Du Ry was full of visitors, mainly Aussies, ready to soak up all the thrill and excitement of international equestrian competition. For me, any shortcomings in the organisation of the event were well and truly overshadowed by the amazing performances of so many top horse and rider combinations across the disciplines.
 
Stadium D’Ornano with the stands full for the cross country jumping phase.
Stadium D’Ornano with the stands full for the cross country jumping phase.
 
Being part of the team at Amy Graham’s Haras Du Ry was the perfect opportunity for me to get behind the scenes at WEG and gain an insight into the world of top class show jumpers – and what a thrill it all was. While many Aussies back home have followed Amy’s progress, I have been fortunate enough to be part of her stable and experience firsthand the highs, lows, excitement and demands of her WEG campaign. Amy constantly amazes me with her dedication, determination and talent – show jumping is a sport that demands so much of horse, rider and their whole support network of family, grooms, coaches and more. Just to have gained selection on the Australian WEG team was in itself a huge achievement!
 
Amy preparing to jump on the first day.
Amy preparing to jump on the first day.
 
As part of her WEG preparation, Amy headed off to the Australian team camp in Holland at Edwina Alexander’s base, Stal Tops in Valkenswaard, Holland, while Bella stayed home at Haras Du Ry. I feel so very privileged to be able to flat work this super stallion when Amy is away – he’s a power house and a very special horse indeed!
 
Next came a warm-up show at Auvers, not far from our base at Haras Du Ry. Bella, Amy’s WEG horse, was one of five horses on the truck and the show was an opportunity for Amy to work with her internationally renowned coach, Kate Monahan. For me, not only was Auvers an outing for my horse Gordon and I as well as another clients horse, but also a chance to listen in on the coaching sessions and gain a few valuable tips on my own riding. 
 
The warm up arena at Auvers CSI.
The warm up arena at Auvers CSI.
 
Our HDR groom, Ionuts, was to stay with Bella in the WEG complex but I was fortunate enough to be able to walk in the opening ceremony as Ionuts was away for the opening and I took his place. What an amazing thrill that was! Lining up with the teams of equestrian athletes and their grooms was so exciting and the moment our team entered the D’Ornano stadium the noise of the 20,000 strong crowd was something very special indeed! Then came the opening spectacular which included a hi-tech lightshow, more than 100 horses and a display by popular French horseman Lorenzo. There were also speeches from FEI president Princess Haya and President of the games organising committee Laurent Beauvais. 
 
Walking in the opening ceremony.
Walking in the opening ceremony. 
Photo credit: Sporthorsesonpics
 
While the showjumping was the main attraction for me, I joined others from Haras Du Ry to watch the freestyle dressage and later the cross country at the beautiful Haras Du Pin. Watching Charlotte Dujardin’s sensational and breathtaking performance on Valegro to score a massive 92.161% was most definitely a highlight. Her test was set to music from the film How to Train your Dragon and it suits Valegro down to the ground. I truly believe that horse would turn himself inside out for her – it was brilliant to watch.
 
The divine Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro.
The divine Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro.
 
The eventing presented a little more of a logistical problem with huge crowds, traffic gridlock and parking nightmares! However after leaving the car and running about 8 km to the course it was worth it. The course was set in the grounds of the impressive National Stud, Haras du Pin with the main chateau overlooking it. Founded in 1715 by the Sun King, Louis XIV, is also known as the 'Equestrian Versailles'. The cross country course was well designed but the crowds made viewing difficult at times. All in all it was a pity that such a spectacular location was spoilt by the lack of organisation and management of facilities and crowds. With no phone reception, keeping in touch with our group was a challenge in itself! Despite the problems the eventing really did showcase some incredible riders and bold horses and the wins were well deserved.
 
Some of the action from the event.
 Some of the action from the event.
 
On the Saturday prior to the start of the jumping, Bella took his spot in the WEG stable complex. The security was very strict; security ID and accreditation for horses and one groom per horse. Parking was extremely limited so the truck had to be brought back to HDR. The stables were large but the artificial grass seemed to confuse a lot of horses! The Australian riders, along with team vet and chef d’equipe (team manager) set up base in the riders hotel in Caen.
 
Bella in his box with Norman the WEG mascot.
Bella in his box with Norman the WEG mascot.
 
On Sunday there was an opportunity for the team to ride in the stadium and on Monday the teams were able to jump a practice course there. Of course there was much discussion on tactics and ride order with Amy finally nominated to ride second.
 
Edwina and Ego Van Orti.
Edwina and Ego Van Orti.
 
The first competition on Tuesday was the speed class and the start list included so many of the top names in world class show jumping, as expected, and there in the list was Amy Graham and Bella Baloubet!  With the scores accumulating for individual placings the strategy for most riders seemed to be aiming for a safe clear round.  Amy’s round was clear and put her well up in the field and fastest clear of the Australian riders.  The star of the speed class was the 19 year old  Bertram Allen from Ireland riding 10 year old grey mare , Molly Malone.  With nothing to lose Allen zipped around the course, taking tight turns and pulled off an impressive clear round in the fastest time.
 
19 year old Bertram Allen from Ireland.
19 year old Bertram Allen from Ireland.
 
Amy walking the course with coach Kate Monahan.
Amy walking the course with coach Kate Monahan.
 
Wednesday saw the start of the team competition.  While Amy and Bella had 2 rails down and a foot in the water, Edwina went clear with time faults and Jamie had one rail.  Unfortunately only 8 teams went through to the next round on Thursday so our Aussies were out of contention although Jamie and Edwina qualified for the next round as individuals. What a long, hard event this turned out to be! The demands on horse and rider to perform well from day one and be consistent day after day really put the pressure on. The rest day on Friday must have been so welcome!  
 
Jamie Kermond and Quite Cassini with the Aussie support crew in the background.
Jamie Kermond and Quite Cassini with the Aussie support crew in the background.
 
On Saturday the top 30 individual riders vied for a place in the ‘Final 4’ on Sunday. The top four riders ride their horses over a course that is shorter and lower than the ones they have been jumping all week (maximum height 1.55m). Then they all switch horses and ride each others' mounts over the same course.  Each rider has only a three-minute session and two jumps to get to know each horse before they jump the course. The warm up arena where they familiarise themselves with their opponents’ horses was inside the stadium itself – so interesting to watch each rider saddle up and quickly get a feel for a strange horse!
 
The warm up and groom areas for the final four.
The warm up and groom areas for the final four. 
 
So the final four were: Netherlands' Jeroen Dubbeldam , the French favourite, Patrice Delaveau, Beezie Madden ( USA) and Rolf-Goran Bengtsson of Sweden. The tension was high and as each rider began their rounds you could have heard a pin drop in the stadium.  Dubbeldam was the only rider in the competition to be fault-free over four rounds, while Patrice Delaveau was pushed into silver medal position by a single time fault... so close!  Beezie Madden picked up bronze after some really nailbiting competition! These four riders surely show the value of experience, hours in the saddle and riding many different horses.  I’ve certainly learnt that experience really does count in the world of show jumping!
 
Winners!
Winners!
 
For Amy at only 29 competing at the World Equestrian Games has been an unbelievable accomplishment and a true honour to represent her country in such a prestigious competition.  She is more motivated than ever and I can honestly say that I too am more motivated and driven than ever to improve my riding!






 
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