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Sidelines Blog from WEG #1: Let the Games Begin!

August 22, 2014 By: janwest Category: General

Darlene Arrives at WEG! Photo by Diana De Rosa

Darlene Arrives at WEG!
Photo by Diana De Rosa

This is the first of Darlene Ricker’s exclusive blog posts for Sidelines from the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games 2014 in Normandy. One of the few journalists to arrive in Caen several days before the Games open, her initial report gives our readers a unique insider’s preview of what’s in store. 

The tunnel from which the horses will enter the arena.

The tunnel from which the horses will enter the arena.

By Darlene Ricker

Photos by Darlene Ricker, unless noted otherwise

Tomorrow the curtain goes up on the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games 2014 in Normandy, in what is sure to be the most amazing Opening Ceremony in Games history. As the suspense builds, the Normandy Organizing Committee (which everyone here refers to as the “NOC”) is keeping a tight lid on the program. At tonight’s rehearsal, I will be among the few to get a preview of what’s in store. But not to be a spoiler, I’ll only be able to share with you my general impressions until after the actual ceremony.

The equestrian marching band practicing for the opening ceremony.

The equestrian marching band practicing for the opening ceremony.

However, this much I can say now: I had a chat with Games CEO Fabien Grobon, who told me there will be numerous surprises for the senses. He alluded in particular to special effects and animation, some of which will make spectators feel as though they are standing onstage with the performers, actually experiencing the action, not just observing it from the stands. “I guarantee, you have never seen anything like this!” he said. On that you can rely; I have known Fabien for five years, and he is a man of his word. Given that he was for many years in charge of marketing and entertainment for the top tennis tournament in the world – the French Open – one can’t even begin to imagine how impressive this Opening Ceremony will be.

Stabling area at main arena (D'Ornano) is the white tents at left. It is about 20 feet from the sidewalk in the center of the city of Caen. You can hear horses whinneying from the sidewalk cafes & bistros.

Stabling area at main arena (D’Ornano) is the white tents at left. It is about 20 feet from the sidewalk in the center of the city of Caen. You can hear horses whinneying from the sidewalk cafes & bistros.

Meanwhile, the city of Caen (where most of the competition venues are), along with the rest of Normandy, is revving up for a 15-day extravaganza. Yesterday, I spotted U.S. dressage chef d’equipe Robert Dover strolling around town, just outside d’Ornano Stadium, a magnificent venue that will host the Opening Ceremony and the competitions for two of the most popular disciplines (dressage and show jumping), as well as the show jumping phase of eventing. D’Ornano was originally a soccer stadium and has been completely revamped for the Games. I walked through it and was amazed – and it takes a lot to amaze me after several decades covering international equestrian events. There literally is not a bad seat in the house (no posts to obstruct your view anywhere). The spectator seating ay d’Ornano completely surrounds the arena and is stacked low, so that you feel very close to the action. What a spectacular setting!

I also checked out the stabling area (which I won’t be able to do again after the horses arrive, as FEI stabling is strictly off limits to everyone except athletes, grooms and officials; this is for security and equine health reasons). The stalls are lovely, light and airy, with fresh bales of shavings waiting to be broken open when the horses arrive. There is additional stabling just like this at each of the venues, which is a great convenience for competitors.

The Alltech Media Lounge - where Darlene will spend lots of time updating Sidelines!

The Alltech Media Lounge – where Darlene will spend lots of time updating Sidelines!

Speaking of convenience, the organizers even decided to build a temporary hotel for the three-day event competitors and their teams at Haras du Pin (the venue for the dressage and cross-country phases of eventing), so that they can be close to their horses at all times of day and night. Haras du Pin is normally an hour’s drive (without Games traffic) from d’Ornano Stadium, where the show jumping phase of eventing will be held. Eventing discipline manager Jean-Marc Varillon told me how pleased he was that the Games organizers went to such lengths to ensure the comfort, safety and convenience of the horses and riders.

That is the case across the board for each discipline in these World Championships, with every luxury a competitor could imagine being provided. After all, as Fabien puts it, “These athletes are not coming to compete; they’re coming to make a place in history.”

Let the Games begin!

The stadium - soon to be filled!

The stadium – soon to be filled!

Weber Undefeated in France Following Win in CAI-A4 Caen Test Event for 2014 WEG-Normandy

August 31, 2013 By: janwest Category: General

Ocala, FL (August 28, 2013) – Nine-time U.S. national four-in-hand champion Chester Weber remains undefeated in France following his second win there in the CAI-A4 Caen August 23-25, against a field of 12 drivers and 60 horses representing seven nations. Team Weber’s win at the CAI-A4 Caen is especially significant as the competition was the test event for the 2014 World Equestrian Games. In early June, Weber had the strongest international finish of his career when his team led all three – dressage, marathon and cones – phases of the World Cup-qualifying Saumur CAI-A4 against top whips including Dutch Team Gold medalists Ijsbrand Chardon and Theo Timmerman.

“The highlight of the show was, without a doubt, Ultra’s continued development in dressage,” said Weber, whose team began with a 34.63 winning score in the dressage phase on the opening day of competition at Caen. Team Weber has been undefeated in dressage all season.

“The marathon team worked well.  Again, we used Ultra with the intention of putting in another marathon with him and Boy W together before the National Championships. Both Splash and Para did a fantastic job in the wheel.

“I was very impressed with the facilities and the organization of the three days,” said Weber after the awards ceremony. “I enjoyed the marathon’s technical and fast path.”

 

Weber and his four-in-hand team completed all three phases with a final score of just 108.24, winning dressage, finishing second in marathon (69.65) and incurring just 3.96 additional points after cones.  Finishing a distant second (125.54) was Germany’s Ludwig Weinmayer, and third (132.76) was Georgina Hunt for Great Britain.

“The goal,” added Jean-Pierre Brisou of the WEG Organizing Committee, “was to test the teams and technical choices in full-scale on the site that will host next year’s events. For the first time in the Word Equestrian Games, we will use sand for dressage, obstacle cone driving and the marathon  in order to provide fair conditions of transition to each team. We received very good feedback from the participating federations on this choice.”

Weber added, “Three of the six marathon obstacles were going to be the same as next year and the track in the A section and between the hazards will be the same. The team was fantastic and our depth is evident based on our continuing to drive different combinations at all of the events.”

Weber’s winning team for this European tour included his own Para, Senate, Horus du Bois, Boy W and Boris W, as well as Splash and Uniek owned by Jane Clark and Ultra owned by Koos de Ronde.  The team has continued to prove the success behind Weber’s conditioning and training program by delivering a wire-to-wire win at CAIO Saumur as well as top three finishes at Beekburgen and Aachen.

“These horses,” he said, “are a very consistent group and I could not be more pleased with their success this summer.”

Caen marks the final stop on the Team Weber European tour before returning to the United States to defend and likely claim an unprecedented  tenth national championship title at the Kentucky Classic in September.

 

Follow Team Weber at www.chesterweber.com and via their link to Facebook.

Chester

Photo courtesy of Madeleine Augustsson

Driving brings this year’s test events for Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2014 in Normandy to successful close

August 26, 2013 By: janwest Category: General

Chester Weber (USA) came out on top at the Driving test event for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2014 in Normandy, the third of the FEI disciplines to be tested this month. The American driver, who made a strong start with an impressive Dressage mark of 34.63 points, finished the three days on 108.24, over 17 points clear of runner-up Ludwig Weinmayr of Germany (125.54). Great Britain’s Georgina Hunt finished third with 132.76.

 

Weber drove a team made up of three of his own horses, the seven-year-old KWPN gelding Boris W, 13-year-old KWPN gelding Boy W, and 16-year-old KWPN gelding Para, along with Jane Clark’s 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding Splash, and Koos de Ronde’s 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding Ultra.

 

A total of 12 drivers and 60 horses representing seven countries – Germany, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Spain, Uruguay, the USA and host nation France – took part in the CAI-A4 event, which was run over three days at the Caen racecourse in Calvados, France, venue for next year’s Driving competition at the Games.

 

Chester Weber (USA) en route to victory in the Driving test event for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2014 in Normandy. © F. Durand/Attelages magazine

Chester Weber (USA) en route to victory in the Driving test event for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2014 in Normandy. © F. Durand/Attelages magazine

The test event, which was supported by around 200 volunteers, received widespread praise from all the competitors.

 

“This is one amazing venue,” the winner Chester Weber said. “I’m impressed with all the work the organisers have put in it and with how horse-friendly they made it. It is positive for the sport and for the future and actually shows the way to go for other organisers.”

 

Fellow British driver Georgina Hunt fully agreed. “It was very much focused on horse welfare,” she commented.

 

The marathon footing, made of very fine red gravel, earned special praise. “The carriage rolled by itself and the horses felt very good at the end of the marathon,” Chester Weber said. “They finished in great shape and very fit and only light contact was required.”

 

Bettina de Rham, FEI Director of Driving, Vaulting, and Reining, expressed her satisfaction with the event. “Holding a test event in view of next year’s Games was essential, particularly at a venue which is new to Driving,” she said. “It has been very successful and horse-friendly which is key for any FEI event. The Organising Committee have made a great effort and I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate and thank the numerous volunteers whose contribution to today’s success is very sincerely appreciated. We have of course identified details which will need fine-tuning but the overall impression is very positive indeed,” she concluded.

 

The Driving test event, which follows successful tests in Endurance and Eventing, is the third and last to be held this year in the build-up to the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2014 in Normandy. Test events in Jumping and Dressage will be held in the main stadium at Stade d’Ornano in June 2014. No discipline specific test events will be held in Reining, Vaulting and Para-Equestrian, but all technical aspects will be trialled to ensure that the competitions in all the disciplines meet the same level of excellence.

 

The full results of the Driving test event are available here.