Torrential rain during the final Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games jumping test event gave organisers and athletes the best possible opportunity to see how the footing at d’Ornano Stadium in Caen would perform in tough conditions.
The competition was put on hold for just under 40 minutes during the thunderstorm and immediately afterwards to allow the drainage system to do its work. The Ground Jury then restarted the action with 13 left to jump in the first round, and 18 horses went through to a timed jump-off.
French star Patrice Delaveau, who won the feature class with Ornella Mail HDC and jumped both before and after the downpour, was impressed with how well the arena surfaces performed. “The main arena was not so good for the first three or four riders after the rain, but then it was absolutely fine,” he said. “For me there was no difference between the first round and the jump-off, it was perfect.”
Irish rider Bertram Allen, who picked up a win, two seconds and a third in the four competitions, also felt that the weather conditions had not affected the footing. “The ground held up really well and horses weren’t slipping at all,” he said. “The results were consistent through the class.”
After three days of glorious sunshine for the dressage and the first day of jumping, with positive feedback from all the riders about the footing, the organisers welcomed the opportunity to test the arena surfaces under less optimal conditions.
“It was a real test today, with incredibly heavy rain,” said Organising Committee Sports Director Laurent Cellier. “It was actually a good thing to have the rain and we learned a lot about the management of the footing, which was very important. Now we know how to maintain the best quality footing for the horses and for the competition.
“At the end of today’s second competition we had a debriefing with the National Federations and got their feedback about the footing, stabling and general organisation of the event. The feedback is really good, and the Organising Committee will be working from now until the Games to upgrade some details and finalise preparations for riders, horses, spectators, media and all the participants at the big party in Caen.”
The two dressage days earlier in the week and Thursday’s umping action were not open to the public, but in order to test crowd flow, the general public were able to download invitations to Wednesday’s two competitions. Enthusiastic spectators flocked to the venue, keen to watch some action in what will be the main venue for the Games which start on August 23.
FEI Jumping Director John Roche also declared the test events a success. “Both the infrastructure and the venue have been prepared to the highest standard and will create a wonderful setting for the World Equestrian Games. It was very encouraging to see so many spectators in the stadium yesterday and it created a really super atmosphere.
“We’re very much looking forward to seeing the specially designed fences that will be used at the Games. The designs look fantastic and have a real Normandy flavour, but the fences won’t be unveiled until Games time. There’s no doubt that everybody is doing their absolute best to make sure that the Games will be the very best,” Roche said.
FEs Games and Championships Department Director Tim Hadaway, who has been working with the Organising Committee since his appointment just over a year ago, said the week had been “incredibly useful, productive and positive”.
“Yes there’s work to do, but we’ve all seen that the venue here in d’Ornano is in very good shape. Now it’s time to keep our heads down and put those finishing touches to the preparations, so that we can deliver what I believe will be one of the best ever FEI World Equestrian Games.”