Germany’s Christoph Wahler and his 13-year-old grey gelding Carjatan S will be first into the arena when Dressage gets underway tomorrow (Thursday) morning at the FEI Eventing World Championships 2022 in Pratoni del Vivaro, Rocca di Papa (ITA). There was just one withdrawal during today’s first horse inspection, Mexico’s Daniela Moguel and the mare Cecelia, so a total of 89 horse/rider combinations from 26 countries will tackle the three-phase competition that will decide both Team and Individual medals over the next four days at this much-loved Italian venue.
Germany was drawn first to go of the 16 teams, and with individual riders also interspersed, the drawn order is as follows (Teams marked with an asterisk): 1, Germany*; 2, Ireland*; 3, Canada*; 4, France*; 5, Belgium*; 6, Czech Republic; 7, Poland; 8. Spain*; 9, The Netherlands; 10, Lithuania; 11, Switzerland*; 12, Thailand; 13, Italy*; 14, Sweden*; 15, Denmark; 16, New Zealand*; 17, Hungary; 18, India; 19, USA*; 20, Japan*; 21, Great Britain*; 22, Australia*; 23, Austria*; 24, China; 25, Ecuador; 26, Brazil*.
The defending champions from Great Britain have a good draw, and Ros Canter, who won both Team and Individual gold last time around at Tryon, USA in 2018 will put the first British foot forward when entering the arena with Lordships Graffalo in the 13th starting spot tomorrow morning. Each team will field two combinations on Thursday and two more on Friday when the Dressage phase will conclude, except for Team Austria who, with just three in their side, send only Katrin Khoddam-Hazrati and Oklahoma 2 into action tomorrow afternoon while her compatriots will strut their stuff inside the boards on Friday.
Guiseppe della Chiesa’s cross-country course was opened today revealing 42 jumping efforts on his 30-fence track over a distance of 5,600 metres. The optimum time in which to get home is 9 minutes 50 seconds and as Great Britain’s Lucinda Green, 1982 World Champion and twice European Champion, pointed out after her first look at the fences, this is a track that will need to be ridden “by feel” rather than on the clock. The constant undulations, climbs and drops make it a roller-coaster from start to finish and included, this time at fence two, is Albino’s Water Trough, an obstacle that has been constantly altered and reused since first built for the 1960 Olympic Games.
Riders will walk the course several times over the next few days before the cross-country action begins on Saturday but first they will want to perform well in the Dressage arena to place themselves prominently on the leaderboard.
One young man who should be feeling confident is Switzerland’s Robin Godel who was individual winner with Grandeur de Lully CH while also helping his country to victory at the Test Event at Pratoni in May which was also the first leg of the FEI Eventing Nations Cup™ 2022 series. The Swiss were superb at this 4* NC-S event with Nadja Minder slotting into fifth individually with Toblerone while Melody Johner and Toubleu de Rueire finished eighth, and all three combinations are back in action again this week.
Their cross-country coach is Kiwi legend Andrew Nicholson who during his own spectacular career won every CCI 5* in the Northern Hemisphere and who won team gold at the 1990 World Championship in Stockholm (SWE). Nicknamed “Mr Stickability” for the number of times he defied gravity and stayed onboard his horses in tricky situations he will have advised his squad how to ride the long and steep run down the combination KEP Italia Slide which is guaranteed to be one of the favourite viewing spots for spectators early on the course.
Nicholson is an idol for individual competitor Fouaad Mirza from India who will start 19th of the 45 runners in tomorrow’s first day of Dressage and who said today that his country will soon be a force to be reckoned with in the sport of Eventing. The 30-year-old who hails from Bangalore moved to Germany in 2017 and is based with German team member Sandra Auffarth who won double-gold at the FEI World Championship in 2014.
He’s been riding the 16-year-old Seigneur Medicott for some years now and is confident that they will give a great account of themselves over the coming days. “We’ve done a lot together, we’ve been to two Championships and we know each other very well”, he said today. “Of course this is one step further, a 5* not a 4* so it will test the partnership of horses and riders and the bond between them. It’s a difficult course but we are looking forward to tackling it!”, he added.
In the past seven world championships in Eventing, the eventual winning team has been placed either first or second after Dressage. It was Team New Zealand at the 1990 Stockholm World Championships that last defied this trend by starting in fifth place after Dressage. The on-form Swiss team have never started a world championship inside the top ten after Dressage and they only time their best placing was ninth in Jerez (ESP) in 2002. But things can change and over the next few days a whole new story will be written.
The camaraderie in this special equestrian sport is something very special and some British team supporters had a nice surprise last night. Andrew Nicholson was on the same flight from London and they offered him a ride in their taxi to Frascati, the town near Pratoni which is housing most of those visiting the event. That led to a dinner invitation the group will never forget, and they will by flying both the Swiss and British flags at the FEI Eventing World Championships 2022 as a result.
It’s already memorable, so don’t miss a hoofbeat of the FEI Eventing World Championships 2022….