Testing the stage where the best in the world will meet in two months, a select group of fifteen Grand Prix riders competed at the World Equestrian Games test event held at the 2014 CDI Caen on 23 - 25 June 2014. Overall they were very satisfied with the French setting, although the language barrier may create some difficulties for those who don’t speak French.
“Everything was just great, arena, surface, boxes, organization. Súper," said the Spanish winner of the Grand Prix Kur Christobal Belmonte. “However, sometimes the language was a limitation because the employees only speak French, and this could be a little problem for the understanding of competitors. But, all in all, everything was fine."
Third in the Grand Prix Kur on Mistral du Coussoul and fifth in the Special with her new ride Ehrendorf, French Alizee Froment was a rider not affected by the language barrier. She felt that the Caen set up was great, but that some different things needed work in order to make everything perfect.
"The organization is really looking to do their very best, and the arena was super nice, one of the best I've had the chance to ride in with my horse," Froment commented. "Really every ground area was perfect and there was plenty of space. I actually think that we had more space to warm up than there were combinations starting. We have the competition arena, two warm up arenas, and three training arenas, plus the different spaces around."
While it was well organised, Alizee feels that a few things should be organized in a different way, but this is the reason why they have done a test event. “In two months all will be in a perfect way. I'm sure about it," Froment concluded
A little bit of an empty atmosphere for such a big and amazing stadium, Alizee added that the test event was closed to the public and was a pretty confidential competition.
Holland based Chere Burger felt that as a South African rider the Caen event was a little overwhelming. She was very impressed by the attention to detail.
"The discipline, neatness, precision, and the emphasis on the well being of the horses was something worth appreciating, said Chere. "The main arena was absolutely super, and certainly one of the best win arena surfaces I ever rode on.”
While the atmosphere this time was a little bit underwhelming, Chere is very much looking forward to taking this stage again as part of team South Africa.
“At this stage we have a South African team that is going and I can’t wait to experience the WEG atmosphere," she added.
Sixth in the Grand Prix Special, German born Palestinian Christian Bruhe felt that overall the event was very well organised with short ways from the lorry to the barn area, training rings and main stadium. Already qualified to compete at the 2014 World Equestrian Games, Bruhe called the d'Ornano stadium a great overall infrastructure for the horses.
“It's just perfect. There are spacious boxes, but we felt the shavings were too fine grained and the team catering was poor," said the critical entrepreneur Bruhe, who runs a multinational with a staff of 750 people.
Agreeing with Alizee and Christobal that the ground had very good surfaces, Christian did comment that the footing in the competition arena was slightly harder than outside, but feels that should be an easy fix. "There was absolutely plenty of space to warm-up," added.
Christian described the atmosphere as very warm, exciting, cheerful, and really like a big family celebrating the upcoming event. He did feel that the access to the main arena was a bit too restrictive for trainers and grooms, but all in all enjoyed the chance to “test ride” the world stage.
“It was a great opportunity for us to train and get to know the main arena," said Bruhe, who is coached by Finnish Grand Prix rider Henri Ruoste.
by Sarah Warne - Photos © Milan Djordjevic - Leanjo de Koster