When the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games 2014 in Normandy gallop across the French countryside from August 23 to September 7, the eight world championship events won’t be the only draw. “Don’t come to the Games just to see the horses,” says Games CEO Fabien Grobon. “Take some time to explore the region and experience things you don’t have at home. anything you could want to see or do is a short distance from the main stadium in caen. You can watch the competition in the morning, walk to the beach in the afternoon, and take the train to Paris for dinner that evening.”
Meanwhile, say Games officials, residents of Normandy are looking forward to welcoming an influx of half a million spectators from more than 60 nations. “I hope lots and lots of Americans come to Normandy and watch reining,” says Michèle Pfender of France, reining discipline manager for the alltech Fei World equestrian Games 2014. “The French people are very excited to meet the people from the United States. They imagine that all the American people will come in their fancy (cowboy) hats and beautiful boots.”
Why the allure about American fashion, when this edition of the Games will take place about two hours from Paris, the hotbed of haute couture? First, the Games are as much a cultural exchange as they are an international sporting event. and if you ask Pfender, the interest in western attire comes from the same reason that reining – a sport steeped in American tradition – has been growing exponentially in Europe and other parts of the world. Simply put: “Vive le difference!”
In Europe, where warmbloods have long reigned supreme in international sport horse competition, American breeds like Quarter Horses and Appaloosas almost always steal the stage in reining. A few Appys have added their own splash of color to previous Games. in 2010, the stallion Tattoos Dun it competed in the reining World championship, and Midnight Tango strutted his stuff in four horsemanship demonstrations. Other appaloosas added to the fanfare of the opening ceremony in Lexington.
It’s too early to tell whether any representatives of the breed will participate in Normandy, but the pace of team selections will be speeding up soon. Athletes wishing to be considered for the U.S. Reining Team must submit an application by April 7. A Reining Selection Trial will be held in two rounds of the Kentucky Reining Cup, which will be held at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington from April 24 to 27. it will take place in conjunction with the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day event, which is a Selection Trial for the U.S. Three-Day eventing squad for the Games.
For Reining, based upon final placings in the selection trial and subject to approval, the Short list/FEI Nominated Entries (a ranked list of at least six athlete/horse combinations) must be submitted to the FEI by July 21. The list will be narrowed to a team of four athlete/ horse combinations and two individual athlete/horse combinations, based on a decision by the USEF Reining High Performance committee in consultation with the chef d’equipe and the team veterinarian. Definite Entries are due August 14, about two weeks before the reining events at the Games. (The process parallels that of the other seven Games disciplines: eventing, jumping, dressage, para dressage, endurance, driving and vaulting.)
Reining: Exhibition Centre (Caen)
Considered the epicenter of the Games, the Exhibition Centre in Caen will host the Reining competition. It will also have stabling and will be the site of the Games Village, with an array of restaurants, shopping, services, sports performances and concerts. This versatile complex of nearly 80 acres sits in the heart of the town of Caen. It is being completely renovated for the Games. (Reining: August 25-30)
Jumping, Dressage, and Eventing (Stadium Jumping): D’Ornano Stadium (Caen)
Originally built and used as a soccer stadium, D’Ornano Stadium has 21,500 seats in stacked bleachers that surround the open-air arena. Every seat has an unobstructed view of the field. The horses enter the arena from a tunnel below the seating. The opening and closing ceremonies will also be held here. (Opening ceremony: August 23; Dressage: August 25-29; Eventing (jumping phase): August 31; Jumping: September 1-7; Closing Ceremony: September 7)
Eventing (Dressage and Cross-Country Phases): Haras du Pin (Le Pin/Orne area)
Le Pin National Stud (Haras du Pin) is known as “Versailles for horses.” Out in the countryside about an hour from Caen, it is the largest of France’s 20 national studs. Its more than 2,400 acres will make for an incredible cross-country course, and its Louis the IV castle will be an elegant backdrop for the new dressage arena on the main grounds. (Dressage: August 28-29; Cross-Country: Aug. 30)
Para-Dressage and Drivinga: Prairie Racecourse (Caen)
This bustling race track holds about 30 racing meets each year and has seating for 3,000. Para-dressage will be held in the infield. Extensive work has been done on the driving track, which has received expensive new sand footing. (Para-dressage: August 25-29; Driving: September 4-7)
Vaulting: Zenith Stadium (Caen)
The site of numerous concerts and conferences, Zènith Stadium has an unusual circular shape that makes its indoor arena ideal for vaulting. it has a seating capacity of 4,000. (Vaulting: September 2-5)
Endurance: Sartlly to Bay of Mont Saint-Michel
The 100-mile endurance race, which is run in one day, begins in Sartilly. It winds through varied terrain, which includes forests and fields, and out to the sand along the coastline surrounding the historic Bay of Mont Saint-Michel. (Endurance: August 28)
Two popular equestrian sports that are not Games disciplines will be demonstrated during the Games.
Polo: Deauville- La Touques Racecourse
The polo demonstration will be held in the middle of the charming seaside resort of Deauville. it will be played on the grass area inside the track. The Thoroughbred flat racing complex has covered stadium seating for 1,300 and room for thousands more on the grounds. The ornately gated complex is on a quiet side street, where most mornings you can see jockeys riding to and from workouts on the track (Polo: September 6)
Saint-Lô is in the Manche area, West of Caen. Like polo, horse-ball is an ancient sport. A combination of polo, rugby and basketball, this action-packed, aggressive game was originally played with a live duck in a basket (but in modern days uses a ball instead). (Horse-Ball: august 27-31)
More information about the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games 2014 in Normandy (including disciplines, test event re- sults, officials, tickets and lodging): www.normandy2014.com