Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games 2014 in Normandy

Peter Zachrisson/FEI

The Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games 2014 in Normandy is the ultimate series of competition for the equestrian. Since the first edition of the FEI awards in Stockholm in 1990, the World Equestrian Games have been held every four years, alternating with the Olympics in even-numbered years. Held in Normandy for the 2014 games, this major event includes the disciplines of show jumping, dressage, eventing, driving, endurance racing, vaulting, reining and for the second time ever, para-dressage. Competitors compete as teams and individuals, and there will also be displays of Horseball and Polo. The games were held for the first time outside of Euorope in 2010 in Kentucky.

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More about the Events, adapted from the official Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games 2014 in Normandy website:

Show Jumping is probably the most well-known equestrian discipline, requiring a rider and horse to jump over between 10 and 13 obstacles—which can measure as high as 1m 60—without touching them. This discipline requires the rider and horse to be in perfect harmony, as many factors such as momentum, speed, the course, and the number and length of strides taken must be combined in order to achieve a flawless performance.

Dressage is one of 3 Olympic disciplines of equestrian sports. It is often considered as the parent discipline of the other equestrian disciplines. Dressage is an art, as the quest for aesthetic movements plays a dominant role. It is a harmonious discipline, and involves not only the horse’s elegance and natural balance but also a perfect understanding of its rider. The rider/horse pair must perform a sequence of compulsory or freestyle movements,  carried out in a 60m x 20m arena. Letters are positioned around the arena to indicate where the horse must begin and finish performing the movements and the lead changes.

Eventing has military origins and was developed to test the abilities of horses intended for the armed forces. Often described as an equestrian triathlon, eventing requires both the horses and riders to be extremely versatile since the discipline brings together a jumping test, a dressage test and the most demanding of all, the cross-country test. For the cross-country test, the competitors must jump over approximately thirty natural, fixed obstacles spread out on an “all terrain” course, over a distance of more than 6,500m at an average speed of 570m/minutes.

photo: Rinaldo de Craen/FEI

Driving is one of the oldest competitive equestrian sports. It is a discipline without a rider but with a driver who drives a carriage drawn by 1, 2, 3 or 4 horses. For the World Equestrian Games, this discipline is reserved for four-horse carriages and includes three competitions spread over three days: The driven dressage test: the driver performs a test with his carriage during which the jury will evaluate the momentum the style, the regularity of the gaits but also the cleanness and the general condition of the carriage.

Endurance only became a competitive sport in the 1950s and only appeared in Europe in the 1960s. In 1982, the FEI recognised endurance as an official discipline and since then, its number of riders has continually increased. Endurance competitions take place against the clock on a 160-km route divide into loops, with veterinary checks before, during and after the competition. Every 20 kms, the rider and horse pair must stop at the “vet gate” where the horse will undergo a full vet check. The horse can only continue the competition if the vets judge it fit to do so.

Vaulting in fact owes its beginnings to military training in Ancient Greece. Its original premise was the need for balance when in battle and when one’s hands were full of weapons! Vaulting exercises include artistic mounts and dismounts, shoulder stands and handstands on the horse, carrying or lifting another vaulter, and kneeling and standing exercises. The horse is guided on a long rein by a lunger standing on the ground who ensures that a steady canter is maintained on a circle with a minimum diameter of 15 metres.

photo credit Dirk Caremans

Reining comes from the United States, is the “queen” discipline of western-style riding. It is always carried out according to a reining “pattern” (a number of predetermined movements to be performed) with a sequence of compulsory movements such as fast circles, slow circles, sliding stops and spins.

Para-Dressageis the only equestrian discipline in the Paralympic Games. In 2010, it became part of the competition program of the World Equestrian Games for the first time. Athletes are classified by type of disability to make the competition as fair as possible.

There will also be two exhibition sports at the Normandy Games. Polo and Horse-Ball will be presented at the Games. Polo is comprised of two teams of four riders play each other on a field measuring 275 metres long by 145 metres wide. Riding fast, agile and energetic horses, the players use a mallet to hit a small wooden ball, eight centimetres in diameter, up the field in a bid to score in their opposing team’s goal. After each goal, the teams change ends and the ball is thrown in at the middle of the field. View more about it here. Horse-Ball is played on a field measuring 60 to 80 metres long by 20 to 30 metres wide, called a “rug”, where the players must pick the ball up from the floor, pass it and throw it though a hoop-shaped vertical goal at a height of 3.5 m, all without their feet touching the floor. The ball is equipped with six leather handles to make it easier to grasp, and each player must make a minimum of three passes before allowed to score. View more about this fast-paced sport here.

Check here for stories, results, photos and videos from our correspondents at the Games! Kim and Allen MacMillan, and their MacMillan Photography crew, will be in Normandy for all of the event coverage.

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