Several of the world’s best performed showjumping horses arrived in Beijing this week for the Longines Global Champions Tour of Shanghai.
Two special FedEx horse flights arrived at Shanghai-Pudong International Airport on Monday, greeted by more than 100 Chinese journalists who had waited through the night to catch the first glimpse of the horses leaving their air stables. Up to 80 horses were flown from Belgium in a FedEx MD-11 aircraft from Liege, with a stopover in Dubai before flying on to China.
The inaugural three-day CSI5* event is the first in mainland China to host world-class international horses. New rules into the import and export of “high health, high performance horses” (HHP) have paved the way for the horses to enter China, and leave again after the competition.
For many spectators vistiing the event over the next few days, this will be the first time they have seen a horse in the flesh.
This week the riders have been enjoying the sights of the city, and the historic debut of the Tour in this city has created huge excitement.
A jumping horse statue has been in residence at the Hongkong Plaza – the most popular shopping street in central Shanghai – before being moved to the show venue for the duration of the event.
A group of young artists from around Asia have painted a herd of beautiful horses in honour of the Tour. Each horse represents an Asian country and promising artists from each area painted a horse to represent their homeland. The Painted Herd will be on display throughout the event.
World No. 3 Ludger Beerbaum is hot favourite for the Grand Prix on Saturday. The four-time Olympic Gold medallist has an ongoing association with horse sport in Asia and has been training Chinese riders since 2005.
“To see the development of Chinese riders and Chinese events, and the sport in general in the last nine years, I am convinced that they will have success in future championships and Olympic Games,” Beerbaum said.
But he admits it’s tough for Chinese riders to get the experience they need if they stay in China.
“All over Europe we have thousands of shows to compete in every year, so riders have the chance to learn and improve week by week. Many top Chinese riders train in Europe because of this. For me success is about accuracy which comes with repetition. Accuracy is necessary all the time in our sport. It begins with the correct training and equipment for horse and rider, the first steps on horse back, the concentration in the class, preparing in the ring – everything.”
As well as Shanghai, the Tour also takes in events in London, Paris and Doha.
Competition gets under way on Saturday at noon local time, with the first CSI5* event. The Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix of Shanghai takes place in the Saturday afternoon and is the next stage in the 2014 LGCT Championship race. The event has a prize pool of $US2 million, with the feature LGCT Grand Prix having a prize fund of US$1.1 million. The winner will receive $US363,000.