Civilians may enter Army event on Salisbury Plain for the first time

One of the largest military training areas in Britain is to host a “unique” one-day event, where sections for UK armed forces and emergency service personnel will run alongside civilian sections for the first time.

The Army ODE has been rejuvenated this year and is now open to all competitors, offering both junior and senior civilians the chance to compete.

The event will take place at Larkhill on Salisbury Plain on 27 July and there will be classes suitable for all levels of ability from a 70cm restricted novice up to an open class run over the 105cm British Eventing (BE) track.

The move comes as army equestrian sport has been expanding this year, with an army eventing team being added to the established army showjumping and dressage teams.

“Equestrian sports have become increasingly popular across the military with more service personnel learning to ride than ever.  Sport is a key component of service life; fostering physical courage, respect for others, discipline and physical fitness – equitation is a fantastic way to promote this,” said Major Fran Sykes, one of the event’s organisers.

“The Army Equitation Association (AEA) has members involved in a range of disciplines including tent pegging, racing and endurance. This is the first year that the army has senior teams in the major three disciplines of dressage, showjumping and eventing who compete at national level in the UK.”

The Larkhill event will be run by the AEA, the governing body for equestrian sport in the army. Their remit is to promote, enable and encourage involvement in equine sport by all ranks, at all levels.

“The Army ODE has been revitalised this year as a key component of our development pathway; something for everyone whether they are trying the sport for the first time or out and about at BE100 level,” Major Sykes said.

“Crucially, by including civilian competitors for the first time, we see this as an opportunity to show off our wonderful training area at Salisbury Plain and allow service personnel to learn from others in a friendly environment.”

Although there is a long history of the army hosting an ODE, this will be the first time the event has been run formally under the AEA banner and opened up to civilian competitors.

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“We hope that it will prove popular; allowing unaffiliated riders the opportunity to ride over a BE cross country course (excluding the restricted novice) and enjoy some army hospitality.  The military runs a plethora of competitions throughout the year and this is one of the only ones open to civilians,” she added.

Riders in uniform have an established history in the world of eventing, with the Kings Troop’s Sergeant Reuben ‘Ben’ Jones finishing eighth in Tokyo back in 1964, before going on to claim a team gold four years later in Mexico. At Tokyo 2020 the army will be represented by Major (Ret’d) Dickie Waygood, Team GBR’s eventing performance manager.

Entries are now being taken online via Equo Events.

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