by Fran Jurga, Special to The Jurga Report, EquiSearch.com;
Posted 1 November 2008
Stash the Wellies. Forget the umbrella. Don't even bother checking the weather. The world's next big eventing showdown has been guaranteed perfect footing and a shadowless course...because it will be held indoors on November 30 at Millennium Stadium, in Cardiff, Wales.
The highly condensed format is designed to broaden the appeal of the sport, while providing a showcase competition for eventing's top riders. The sport will be rolled out as a series of international competitions in major sporting locations around the world.
Spectators will be able to watch all three phases of an event in one day, from one seat. Expert commentaries will explain what's going on and exactly how many points ahead or behind each competitor is.
Many of the world's top international riders have entered The Express--just check the entries:
Great Britain: Tina Cook, Mary King, William Fox-Pitt, Lucy Wiegersma, Oliver Townend
Australia: Clayton Fredericks, Lucinda Fredericks
New Zealand: Mark Todd, Andrew Nicholson, Caroline Powell
China: Alex Hua Tian
Belgium: Karin Donckers
Germany: Dirk Schrade, Bettina Hoy
France: Nicolas Touzaint, Rodolphe Scherer
Italy: Vittoria Panizzon
Sweden: Linda Algotsso
USA: Philip Dutton, Buck Davidson
It sounds like a repeat of the Olympics! (My money's on Touzaint.)
Part of the lure is, no doubt, the (approx) US$200,000 in prize money to the winner, plus the sheer challenge of being part of an experimental re-configuring of a traditional sport.
The dressage will be to music, the first I've known of in eventing, and the judges will include Broadway impresario Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, who will judge the artistic aspects of the ride. The riders then go on to a traditional indoor show jumping test, and then the arena will be transformed by some sort of landscaping miracle into a cross-country course. After the last show jump is completed, a ?pit-stop' tack change enables horse and rider to prepare for the final phase.
Popular British riding clothes company Musto is designing outfits for the riders especially for this single event, right down to (gulp) an adaptation of a show jumping jacket, made of Gore-Tex.
But what will the horses think? and will the riders bring their top horses? Will the top horses in traditional eventing excel in the arena form of the sport or will we see a new type emerge as the ideal indoor horse? The pressures of the Olympics and the eventing World Cup have made for a long, long season for the top horses.
The huge stadium offers great opportunities for lighting, sound, and special effects. Here's a quote from one of the organizers: "When the lights go up, the hairs on the back on your neck will stand on end. People will know from the outset that this is not traditional eventing." They noted that healthy and safety inspections are part of the planning process.
British Eventing, the organizing body of the sport in Great Britain, is behind this event along with entrepreneurial producers. The event will be broadcast internationally (a term that rarely includes North America).
Here's what Australian Olympians Lucinda and Clayton Fredericks have to say about Express Eventing; note that Lucinda says she will rider the super-mare, Headley Britannia, at the indoor.
Stay tuned for more news about Express Eventing!