The sun came out for the opening ceremony of the Aachen 2006 World Equestrian Games on Sunday 20 August.

After days of squally rain, which miraculously stopped in time for the ceremony, it was a testament to Germany and Aachen’s dedication to the horse that so many spectators turned out to watch this event, opened by FEI president Princess Haya.

Balloons released to mark the opening of the 2006 World Equestrian Games. Picture Trevor Meeks

Some 40,000 spectators packed the stands of Aachen’s main stadium to watch a colourful, diverse display of horsemanship and celebration of the seven equestrian disciplines of the games.

“For the next two weeks, the eyes of the world will be on this unique occasion, in this unique setting and I know we will all be inspired by the quality of the competition we will experience,” said Princess Haya in her opening speech. “The FEI World Equestrian Games is like no other championships in the horse world. All the disciplines are different but we are united by the horse.”

In a dramatic opening sequence, a herd of 32 mares and foals were let loose in the stadium, and cantered around the perimeter, to ripples of applause. Another herd – this time of 500 children – then ran on and combined to form the WEG logo – a horse head, which was displayed on giant screens for spectators.

After depicting a brief history of the World Equestrian Games, with riders from each country represented in traditional dress, and a history of Aachen, the ceremony started to find its rhythm.

Accompanied by music from a live orchestra, arranged by Dutch composers Cees Slings and Victor Kerkhof, a magnificent quadrille of 64 bay and black horses from the German State studs, riders in traditional dress of blue, red, black and green livery, captivated the crowd.

The audience clapped as the stallions performed in time to Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” and Prince’s “1999”.

Germany’s up-and-coming riders presented the seven disciplines, and were joined, to huge cheers, by the World Champions, and Aachen’s “daughter”, Nadine Capellmann, to a rendition of Madonna’s “Material Girl”.

The grand finale, the parade of nations, stirred huge emotion as the audience clapped, cheered and waved flags from around the world. Balloons were let loose and streamers fired into the crowd as Aachen’s fountains were ignited by a rider playing Charles the Great.
The brief respite in the bad weather was not due to continue to day one of competition – the endurance. All the British team horses had passed the vet check on Sunday morning, ready for the 6am start on Monday.