FEI Eventing European Championship 2023, written by Louise Parkes
The stage is set for the FEI Eventing European Championship 2023 at the world-famous Haras du Pin in Normandy (FRA) where the action gets underway this morning and concludes next Sunday, 13 August.
It is 54 years since this Championship was last staged at this world-famous venue in the heart of French horse country, and following late individual withdrawals from Finland and Hungary there will be 56 horse-and-rider combinations from 12 countries battling it out for the Team and Individual honours over the next four days.
A Transformed Venue
The equestrian venue at Haras du Pin has been transformed over the last 18 months, with a major development project that began in January 2022 coming to a close at the end of last month.
A total of €24 million was raised with the support of the French State, European funding, the region of Normandy and the local Department and invested in brand new stabling and associated facilities along with four new competition arenas and a modern office and hospitality complex.
One of the main driving forces behind the development was Herve Morin, Minister for Defence under former French President Sarkozy who has a strong interest in horse-racing and who is keen to support equestrianism and the 60,000 jobs it provides in the region.
The President of the Ground Jury for this edition of the Championship is Judy Hancock (GBR) and the remaining Ground Jury members are Katrin Eichinger-Kniely (AUT) and Seppo Laine (FIN). Mathias Otto-Erley (GER) is Technical Delegate, Jumping Judge is Sylvie Navet (FRA) and Cross-Country course designer is Pierre Le Goupil (FRA) who has a long and close association with Haras du Pin.
His beautifully presented 29-fence track consists of 40 jumping efforts over a distance of 5,800 metres, and the optimum time for completing the course is 10 minutes 11 seconds.
There are two days of Dressage before the cross-country challenge gets underway on Saturday however, and following today’s draw the order-of-go for the Teams put Ireland first into the ring followed by Belgium, Germany, The Netherlands, Italy, Switzerland, Sweden, France, Great Britain and Austria. Individuals from Denmark and Poland will also compete.
Kick-starting the Championships
Kick-starting the 36th edition of this Championship at 10.00 this morning will be Irish 2018 World team silver medallist Sarah Ennis with Grantstown Jackson, and amongst the rest of the first tranche of riders will be Germany’s Malin Hansen-Hotopp with her 2022 Blenheim winner Carlitos Quidditch K and Stephane Landois from France with his Chatsworth 2023 winner Ride for Thais Chaman Dumontceau.
Last to go in the morning session will be Kitty King and Vendredi Biats who were on the gold-medal-winning British side at the last Championship in Avenches (SUI) two years ago. And in the afternoon her compatriot Yasmin Ingham, with take her turn between the boards with the horse with which she clinched the Individual world title last summer, Bonzai de Loir.
The Opening Ceremony celebrated the tradition of horsemanship in Normandy and the role played by Haras du Pin down the years. Special guests included Great Britain’s Capt Mark Phillips who competed at the 1969 European Championship, and American Olympic gold medallist and FEI Eventing Committee Chair David O’Connor who officially launched the Championship.
It is remarkable to see the transformation of this iconic venue…France has a strong tradition and connection with horses and I can’t think of a more fitting venue to host this FEI European Championship one year out from the Paris 2024 Olympic Games”,
Capt Phillips reflected….
I have many memories of Le Pin, some very exciting. In 1969 it was my first international Championship and it didn’t go completely according to plan. In the dressage my flag fell off the back of the horse and that was a major distraction in the ring. Then at fence five on the cross-country, it was supposed to be jumped in two steps and I did it in one! Then I fell off at a silly little fence later on the course”, said the man who, under older rules, still managed to complete in individual seventh place that year.
This year’s athletes will be hoping for a little less drama on the road to medal glory, and it all begins in the dressage arena this morning….