With less than a year to go until the London Olympics, just one overseas equestrian team has booked into the 60 designated Pre Games Training Camp (PGTC) centres.
Olympic organisers LOCOG asked sports facilities, including equestrian ones, to apply for PGTC status with a view to hosting visiting 2012 athletes’ training ahead of the Games.
Some equestrian centres fast-tracked facility upgrades and all proudly trumpeted their selection as training camps.
But with most leading equestrian nations hailing from Europe anyway, H&H always queried the demand for them in our sport.
Bookings are buoyant in other sports — for example, 16 sailing camps are booked in Weymouth — but China is the only National Olympic Committee (NOC) to confirm use of any “official” equestrian camp.
Alex Hua Tian — who is China’s first Olympic rider — will be moving from his current yard in Hampshire to Shardeloes in November.
“I’ve been looking for somewhere for a while with an indoor school and hydrotherapy spa so this seemed the perfect opportunity,” said Alex.
“Kate [Hort, Shardeloes manager] is a long-standing friend and I’m very much looking forward to the move.”
“Currently it’s just Alex moving here,” said Kate Hort from Shardeloes. “We’re not sure if anyone else from China will be able to qualify. He wanted his own space so he’ll have a barn with 10 boxes.”
She added that she understood why not many countries had taken up the chance of PGTCs as many riders have links in the UK and it’s easy to travel from the continent.
“We wanted to be involved but being a PGTC has been hard — there’s been no back up nor anyone helping you get a team,” said Kate.
“I went to Beijing and it was awesome and couldn’t imagine having an Olympics on our doorstep and not being a part of it. But it’s been expensive refitting. We’ve had to cover all the costs so far ourselves.”
PGTCs have had more luck with para dressage teams, with Canada booking Hartpury College in Glos for eight horses and 25 riders and support staff, and Israel going to the Quainton Stud, Bucks.
And Hartpury said it is also in discussions with another team, but would not disclose more.
See H&H issue 11 August for more on this subject.