Cosmopolitan competitors ready for test event at Le Pin

     Will this man be leading after the dressage?

Twenty countries will be taking part in the CCI2* Test Event for the FEI Alltech World Equestrian Games 2014 at Haras du Pin in Normandy with 45 competitors taking part.

As the event is run at 2* level, the various countries are sending many combinations which may not be quite as well known as the more experienced partnerships but the event gives the riders, coaches, team officials and support crew a great chance to check out the lay of the land (literally), facilities and logistics of the venue. Although the outcome of the event will be interesting (let’s face it, there is not one rider listed who doesn’t dream of competing on a team at the real thing next year and a win is a win at any level) the focus is probably more on preparation and information gathering.

Prue Barrett

      Prue Barrett will be information gathering and planning for success next year

From Australia not only do we have the three riders who will be competing; Chris Burton, Andrew Hoy and Kevin McNab but they are joined by National Performance Director for Eventing, Prue Barrett, Australia’s Chef de Mission for WEG, Chris Webb and the Australian Equestrian Team’s Chief Veterinarian Graham Potts.  Shane Rose, who has just arrived in the UK with only one horse, will also be there checking things out as will Stuart Tinney and Lucinda Fredericks.

Stuart attended the 2010 WEG test event in Kentucky as an observer – that test event turned out to be high drama with tornadoes and fallout from volcanoes disrupting many travel plans. UK based Australians Sam Griffiths and Graham Potts, due to meet the rest of the Australian crew in Kentucky, were unable to make it (maybe that’s why Australia is sending three competitors this year?!). The air travel problems caused by the erupting volcano in Iceland affected many of the competitors, who tried to join their horses in Kentucky however they could - two of Great Britain's leading contenders for the Event had to take trains, planes and automobiles to reach Lexington. Oliver Townend took a train to Paris and then paid $3,000 to ride in a taxi from Paris to Madrid in order to catch a flight to Miami. William Fox-Pitt missed his train to Madrid but was able to persuade a neighbour to give him a ride in his private plane to reach Madrid in time for his U.S.-bound flight. The officials for the Event were also affected - the Ground Jury was depleted but luckily last minute replacements were found, enabling the competition to proceed. Let’s hope that this year will be much less dramatic!

     Chris and Graf Liberty at Tattersalls 2012                              Photo: Libby Law

So who is competing? The very on form Chris Burton who just won the CIC 3* at Hartpury last weekend will be riding his own Graf Liberty, a young horse who won the CCI 1* at Tattersalls and took the CIC 2* honours at Les Etoiles de Pau last year. Chris won that event on his dressage score of 40.7, ahead of Olympic champion Michael Jung and Fischer Rocana FST. Talking of Michael (who we met here at Le Pin last year), reports are  that he has an infected hand and is unable to ride at the moment so maybe he’ll drop by and see what’s happening at Le Pin instead?

Probably the most experienced rider competing this weekend will be Andrew Hoy on Cheeky Calimbo , an 11 year old gelding by Contendro that Andrew has described as “a very, very talented horse who’s a bit like a street kid’. Don’t be surprised if this pair lead the field after the dressage phase

Kevin McNab and Pieternella Barnard’s Casperelli (above) are the third combination. Casparelli was recently named on the 2016 Rio Squad and has had a good season including a win in the Intermediate at Rockingham Castle earlier this year.

From New Zealand, Badminton winner Jock Paget is riding Shady Grey, a horse previously ridden by his team mate and friend Andrew Nicholson (wouldn’t you love to be friends with Andrew – he gives them lovely horses; look at Ollie Townend and Armada) and Lucy Jackson is his team mate riding Mercury Grey

Great Britain is sending the winner of the London 2012 test event, Piggy French who will this time be riding a fairly recent addition to her team, Westwood Mariner. Piggy has had a tough couple of years, missing out on her home Olympics and more recently selection for the European Champs due to horse injury but she will be an invaluable asset for Team GB here this weekend. She is joined by young rider Gemma Tattersall who competed in the CIC 3* here last year and is one of Britain’s very promising World Class Development Programme riders (wouldn’t it be great if the Australian lottery, appropriately called Tattersalls, sponsored equestrian athletes?)

Another top young rider competing is Julia Krawjewski for Germany who is teamed with Julia Mestern riding Leo von Faelz. Julia Mestern was the 2010 German Champion riding Schorch – this combination have the distinction of being the only ones to beat Michael Jung and La Biosthetique Sam in 2010!

America only has one rider, Elisabeth Halliday-Sharp, who is based in East Sussex, and she will ride her own nine-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding, HHS Cooley.

As the host country, France has a raft of riders competing including past European and French champion Jean Lou Bigot, Ireland has Jonty Evans and Camilla Speirs, Vittoria Pannizon from Italy will be riding her very talented Merlot’s Magic and our own blogger Alfie Bleekman is riding for Holland, not to mention riders from various other European countries

In addition there are riders from Mexico, Canada, Ecuador, Brazil making this a very cosmopolitan lot and I’ll need to find out a lot more about these guys! It’s going to make for an interesting week so stay tuned as Libby Law and I put our best foot forward to bring you updates from Le Pin, starting with the first horse inspection on Thursday

Click here for the List of Competitors