World Games Starts With Dressage Riders Grumbling Over Footing

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World No. 1 Charlotte Dujardin on Valegro working in the WEG competition arena. © 2014 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
World No. 1 Charlotte Dujardin on Valegro working in the WEG competition arena. © 2014 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

CAEN, France, Aug. 24, 2014–The FEI Alltech World Equestrian Games on Monday kicks off two weeks of international horse sport championships with some of the top dressage riders grumbling about the competition footing that many said was probably fine for jumpers but too hard and unforgiving for dressage.

Dressage is the first of the three Olympic disciplines–eventing and jumping are the other two–to start in the World Games that are held once every four years since being created in 1990.

These world championships are of eight disciplines, several miles apart, that have attracted more than 300,000 paying visitors from around the world.

The first day of the Grand Prix starts at 0800 local time (0700 in Britain, 2 am in the Eastern U.S., 1600 Eastern Australia) with 100 horses from 31 countries competing for the Nations Cup.

Fabienne Lütkemeier on D’Agostino will be the first rider in the arena and representing Germany, the hot favorite to win gold, that drew first to go. The Netherlands is sixth to go, Canada eighth, the United States 10th, Australia 12th Denmark 14th, Great Britain 16th and Sweden 19th.

Isabell Werth on Bella Rose and Helen Langehanenberg on Damon Hill NRW, the world No. 2 pair, working in the WEG dressage arena. © 2014 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Isabell Werth on Bella Rose and Helen Langehanenberg on Damon Hill NRW, the world No. 2 pair, working in the WEG dressage arena. © 2014 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Riders aired their views about the footing on Sunday through their national chef’s d’equipe at a meeting with the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) technical delegate and the FEI footing consultant.

The footing was described as too hard and seemed designed for jumpers with none of the softer footing preferred for dressage that is dragged rather than rolled flat. The footing was built on a base of rocks over a grass soccer field. The effect was that the water would roll off the sides of the competition arena rather than filter through to a drainage system.

The forecast is for heavy rains Monday and Tuesday.

To maximize the effectiveness of the drainage, the FEI told dressage-news.com, the footing has been rolled and “we are confident that the performance of the footing remains good under this sort of preparation.

FEI footing expert Christian Bauer explained to the chefs that the surface had been rolled in order to ensure conditions remain the same across the two days of competition.

Adelinde Cornelissen on Jerich Parzival, the top ranked combination from the Netherlands. © 2014 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Adelinde Cornelissen on Jerich Parzival, the top ranked combination from the Netherlands. © 2014 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

“It was understood and well accepted by everyone,” the FEI said.

Before the Games started, the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and Labosport, France carried out functional testing of the surface after simulated heavy rain Aug. 5 and 6 with more significant rainfall overnight Aug. 5.

The FEI quoted a report produced after the testing: “if the surface is sealed and the water is allowed to run off, the effect on the functional properties due to the rain will be minimal.”

It said, “The arena has the ability to provide excellent functional properties for equestrian purposes. It has good impact firmness and if properly prepared it does not create excessive impact forces. It has good cushioning, balancing between good damping properties creating low maximal forces while still being able to adequately support the load of the horse. This is emphasized with good responsiveness–energy return. Grip is very good without being ‘too’ good and uniformity is at a very high level.”