Wednesday, 27 August 2014, 4:50 pm
Press Release: Equestrian Sports New Zealand
New Zealand's endurance riders will have a world-famous back-drop for their 160km race at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in France on Thursday (France time).
One of the five loops of the race, takes competitors past Mont Saint-Michel, one of France's most iconic landmarks and a world heritage site.
Lining up for New Zealand in the one day marathon are mother and daughter Andrea and Georgia Smith (Mangaweka), Alison Higgins (Nelson), who makes her second WEG team, Braden Cameron (Wellington) and Susie Latta (Otago).
The Smiths are the first such combination to represent the sport at an equestrian championship together, and at 17 years old, Georgia is believed to be the youngest ever.
Andrea Smith rode the test event at the Sartilly venue last year, gathering vital intel for the team.
“It is not going to be a straight foot race in Normandy, which is great for teams like us,” says endurance chef d'equipe Tony Parsons (Taupo). “It’s going to require a lot of mental toughness.”
There was plenty of rain when the team arrived at the endurance stables on Monday, but that didn't bother Parsons.
“This is endurance riding,” he says. “It rains . . . we just get on with it.”
He says the horses have all travelled extremely well and the few weeks the team has had at their Brittany base has been hugely beneficial to them all.
“We're in as good a shape as we could be,” he says. “Anything can happen on the day, and we are well prepared for that.”
The 160 km race will be run over five loops, instead of the usual six, at Sartilly – which is situated just over 100 kms from the main games venue in Caen. It has attracted 173 entries from 47 nations
The Smiths are not the only family combination in the event – six other teams boast similar connections.
The race starts at 7am on Thursday (France time) and horses will be checked by vets at the end of each loop. Organisers say it is one of the most technical courses in recent championship history. Loop one, La Lucerne, is 37.9km long and stretches to the north of the venue. Loop two, Avranches, is 35.8km long, and includes the stunning bay with the incredible backdrop of Mont Saint-Michel. Champeaux, the third loop, is 32.8km long and covers ground to the west of the venue. The penultimate loop, Jullouville, is 33.1km long while the final loop, Dragey, is the shortest at just 20.4km long, stretching out to the south-west of the venue.
The age span of entrants is impressive, with 72-year-old Rouslan Gekiev (Russia) the oldest and 14-year-old Constanza Laliscia (Italy) the youngest.
Organisers are expecting the endurance event to be one of the closet contests in years, and no-one is discounting New Zealand.
The Fact Box
• The Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games run from August 23 – September 7 in France.
• New Zealand will be represented by teams in endurance (Aug 28), eventing (Aug 28-31) and vaulting (Sept 2-5), and individuals in para-dressage (Aug 25-29) and showjumping (Sept 2-7).
• WEG is held every four years in different locations.
• A record 76 countries are expected to take part, making it the world’s largest equestrian sport event which includes 1000 competitors.
• More than 500,000 people are expected to attend over the two weeks.
• For more information, head to www..normandy2014.com .
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