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France rates chances in WEG endurance contest

Endurance riders enjoy a canter on the beach as they prepare for competition on Thursday.

Endurance riders enjoy a canter on the beach as they prepare for competition on Thursday.

The home team of France is among the favourites for the 160km endurance competition at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, and its riders took to the sandy Kairon beach on Monday as they work to peak their horses for Thursday’s contest.

The race will start from Sartilly and will feature five loops, which is slightly different for a modern race. For French team rider Jean-Philippe Frances, having five instead of six loops will add some extra excitement.

“For a 160km race, we typically do six loops so being out on the course for longer periods than usual will require riders to be more patient before attempting a breakaway. This also adds to the technical aspect of the contest as the horses will have to cover a greater distance in order to complete each loop,” he says.

The different types of surfaces will also pose a challenge on this particularly technical course, said French national coach Bénédicte Emond-Bon. “The horses will run on the beach, pavement, fields, private paths, granite, grass, etc. Riders will have to be extremely focused and this has given the farriers a headache,” she said.

But Emond-Bon also acknowledged that her team has several points in its favour. “The fact that we’ll be competing on home soil will give us extra motivation and the team has several horses with big event experience. The youngest is an eight-year-old but ridden by Jean-Philippe, who is a very experienced rider. So I believe that we’ll be in the medal hunt even though the competition will be fierce and the primary objective is to make sure all the horses finish the race.”

Endurance is the French team’s second-biggest event in terms of the number of competitors and the large crowds that are expected to turn out for the event will give the team a real boost.

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