The World Equestrian Games attract the finest riders and horses from the world’s most successful eventing nations. Four continents will be represented, with teams expected from 17 nations and another 10 entering one or more individuals. A total of around 95 runners are expected.
Among nations fielding highly competitive teams are the non-European “big guns” of Australia, New Zealand and America who will be going head to head with the main European contenders of France, Germany and Britain.
America is the current team titleholder, but New Zealand has dominated in the previous four runnings of the Games with two victories to Britain’s one. However British have the best record since the first World Championships back in 1966, with four team gold medals compared with the USA and New Zealand’s two apiece. France, Ireland and Canada have each been champions on just one occasion.
Reigning individual champion Jean Teulere and Espoir de la Mare from France are not alone in considering the Germans to be the ones who will take all the beating. They will certainly be hungry to make amends for their Athens debacle, when Bettina Hoy’s last-day error cost her and her compatriots both individual and team gold medals.
The German riders were in tip-top form at the only four-star event run on their home soil, at Luhmuhlen in June. Bettina on Ringwood Cockatoo finished a close runner-up to Frank Ostholt (Air Jordan 2), while fellow WEG nominated riders Dirk Schrade, Andreas Dibowski, Hinrich Romeike and Stefani Thompson all finished in the top nine. Ingrid Klimke and Sleep Late, individual bronze medallists at last year’s FEI European Championship and runners-up at Badminton this spring, will also be among the favourites.
The USA’s most deadly weapon is, once again, the combination of Kimberly Severson and the British-bred Winsome Adante, three times winner of the Rolex Kentucky event, and team bronze and individual silver medallists at the Athens Olympic Games.
However, the one that Kim, Bettina, Ingrid and the rest have to fear most is likely to be Bettina’s husband, Australian Andrew Hoy, winner at Kentucky and Badminton this year and, after a quarter of a century in the sport, riding better than ever. Andrew and his compatriots have won Olympic gold on three consecutive occasions (1992, 1996 and 2000) but the Aussies have yet to score at the FEI World Equestrian Games. This could well be the year they set the record straight.
The New Zealanders look like having it all to do this time, while the French, runners-up in the last three World Games and in the 2005 Europeans, are always difficult to assess because they tend to compete mainly on home soil. After being sidelined for the whole of last season after breaking his pelvis, 52-year-old Jean Teulere is back to full fitness. Were he to succeed in retaining the title he won in Jerez, he would be only the third rider to win two World Championships.
The British, who have reigned supreme in Europe for so many years, will also be among the favourites for a medal despite the loss of Pippa Funnell from the team, due a suspected leg problem for Primmore’s Pride. The British squad is a mix of household names and new faces.
Although lady riders have not managed to grasp the individual gold since the introduction of the FEI World Equestrian Games in 1990, three British women took the pre-Games world title; Mary Gordon-Watson (1970), Lucinda Green (1982) and Virginia Leng (1986); and the victorious British team in 1994 at The Hague was an all-female one.
Among the countries unable to field whole teams, Finland probably has the best chance of success with the highly successful Piia Pantsu, who won a bronze medal in Jerez in 2002 with Ypaja Karuso.
Samantha Albert will be Jamaica’s sole representative at WEG, while Pepo Puch fills a similar role for Croatia. For the first time ever Belarus is represented at the World Eventing Championships, their two entries being Iryna Lis and Svetlana Yevshchik.
Former individual world champions
1966 Burghley: Carlos Moratorio on Chalan (ARG)
1970 Punchestown: Mary Gordon Watson on Cornishman V (GBR)
1974 Burghley: Bruce Davidson on Irish Cap (USA)
1978 Lexington: Bruce Davidson on Might Tango (USA)
1982 Luhmühlen: Lucinda Green on Regal Realm (GBR)
1986 Gawler: Virginia Leng on Priceless (GBR)
1990 WEG Stockholm: Blyth Tait on Messiah (NZL)
1994 WEG The Hague: Vaughan Jefferis on Bounce (NZL)
1998 WEG Rome: Blyth Tait on Ready Teddy (NZL)
2002 WEG Jerez: Jean Teulère Espoir de la Mare (FRA)
Former team world champions
IRL – 1966
GBR – 1970
USA – 1974
CAN – 1978
GBR – 1982
GBR – 1986
GBR – 1994
NZL – 1998
USA – 2002