A record 46 nations will contest the Longines FEI World Endurance Championships 2016 this Saturday at Slovakia’s Šamorín Equestrian Centre, which is currently under consideration as a replacement venue for the 2018 World Equestrian Games. Bromont (Candada) withdrew earlier this year, and the FEI has yet to make a decision about where the next WEG will be held. The other venue under consideration is in Tryon, North Carolina, USA.
A total of 136 horses will head out on the 160km track in a mass start at 6am, with five loops of 40, 35, 35, 30 and 20kms running across field and forest tracks by the River Danube, and skirting around Bratislava at the foot of the Little Carpathians mountain range.
The youngest competitor is 14-year-old Pilar Saravia from Uruguay. Currently ranked number three in the world, she won her first 3* 160km ride on home soil in July, with her second 3* 160km win in Buenos Aires just two weeks later.
Pilar and the grey mare SM Dhanderiega, her winning ride in Buenos Aires, will be flying the flag for the seven South American countries at these champs.
The United Arab Emirates claimed team gold and all three individual medals at the 2012 Championships in Euston Park in Suffolk (UK), as well as team, individual silver and bronze at WEG 2010 in Lexington, Kentucky (USA).
HH Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, who took individual gold at WEG 2014 in Normandy, team gold in 2012 and individual bronze in 2010, will lead a team of five in Šamorín, including 2010 and 2012 fellow team member Sheikh Rashid Dalmook Al Maktoum.
The Spanish endurance “armada” also looks formidable. Spain won the FEI European championships in Šamorín last year, and their team for this event includes Maria Alvarez Ponton, current world number one. Maria is famous not only for her riding, but for winning individual gold at WEG 2010 seven weeks after giving birth to her first child (and becoming the first endurance rider in history to hold both World and European titles simultaneously). Her husband and WEG 2014 gold-medal-winning teammate, Jaume Punti Dachs, is riding too, as is Alex Luque Moral, who was also on that winning team. Silvia Yebra Altimiras, 2009 European team gold medallist, and Angel Soy Coll, who finished second at the Spanish Endurance Championships in Badajoz this year, complete the Spanish side.
France, who celebrated double Olympic success in Rio with team golds in Eventing and Jumping, will be bringing their samba passion to Šamorín, led by Jean Philippe Frances. Jean Philippe led France to endurance team silver at WEG 2014, and to silver again at last October’s European Championships, where he also won individual bronze. He will again by partnered by his 10-year-old gelding Secret de Mon Coeur, who won Best Conditioned at last year’s champs.
“The world’s top endurance athletes compete at this level only every two years, at either the World Endurance Championships which coincide with the Olympic cycle, or at the FEI World Equestrian Games,” says FEI Endurance Director Manuel Bandeira de Mello.
“Endurance is the fastest growing FEI discipline and at Šamorín we have 46 out of a total of 53 countries currently involved in international Endurance competitions. We’re all looking forward to seeing these athletes showcase this incredible sport – a real test of the partnership between horse and rider, and the ability to cross all kinds of terrain.”
Longines FEI World Endurance Championships 2016 – useful links
Definite entry list: http://inside.fei.org/fei/events/championships/endurance/2016 (see “list of entries” section)
Opening Ceremony on FEI YouTube Channel: http://bit.ly/2cK3zps – 15 September, starting at 20.00 local time
Live FEI TV action on www.feitv.org – 17 September, from 05.50 local time
Live scoring: www.wech2016.com