The Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games 2014 endurance ride starts today, Thursday Aug. 28, in Normandy, France. The 160-kilometer ride takes place in Sartilly, just over 100 kilometers from the main Games venue in Caen. You can view the competition here.
The 2014 Games introduces a higher minimum speed, this year set at 15 kph, set to ensure that all horses competing are fit enough to deal with the distance and tough questions asked on track. And for the first time at Championship level, the track is made up of only five loops rather than the more traditional six-loop format.
The competition is being held over one of the most technical courses in history. Loop 1, La Lucerne is 37.9 km long and stretches to the north of the venue. Loop 2, Avranches is 35.8 km long, and includes the stunning bay with the incredible backdrop of Mont Saint-Michel.
Champeaux, the third loop, is 32.8 km long and covers ground to the west of the venue. The penultimate loop, Jullouville, is 33.1km long while the final loop, Dragey, is the shortest at just 20.4 km long, stretching out to the south-west of the venue.
Medal expectations are high for the home. France took team gold in Jerez de la Frontera (ESP) in 2002 as well as Aachen (GER) in 2006. The French also scooped team silver in 2010 in Kentucky (USA).
Included on the French team is Jean Philippe Frances has, since 1997, who has represented his country at Championship level no less than 10 times.
There is also keen interest in the UAE (United Arab Emirates), Germany, Spain and Oman, who have dominated the top spots over recent years.
Both the United States - who narrowly missed out on a team medal in the 2012 World Championships at Euston Park (GBR) - and New Zealand have a high chance of bringing home a medal.
Individually, the status of favorite equine is held by the incredibly talented 15-year-old mare, Yamamah (previously named Kurrajong Concorde and bred by FEI Award Winner Meg Wade of Australia), who is on the team for UAE. The 12-year-old mare Easy Fontnoire, part of the silver medal French team in Kentucky, is also a favorite. She will be ridden by Saudi athlete Tarek Taher.
Among the American contenders is young rider Kelsey Russell (USA), who finished fifth in the same Championships aboard Endurance-legend Valerie Kanavy's My Wild Irish Gold. Russell pilot the talented bay Anglo-Arab.
The youngest entry is 14-year-old Constanza Laliscia (ITA). The oldest is Rouslan Gekiev from Russia, who will turn 73 in three weeks.
Adapted from FEI Press Release by Berry Pattison.