French riders have expressed their disappointment after the French Equestrian Federation (FFE) announced it would be sending no dressage competitors to September’s World Equestrian Games in Tryon, USA.

Earlier this month the FFE submitted eight nominated dressage athletes to the FEI:

  • Alexandre Ayache (Zo What)
  • Morgan Barbançon Mestre (Sir Donnerhall II OLD)
  • Marie Emilie Bretenoux (Quartz Of Jazz)
  • Barbara Clement Klinger (Dirbini)
  • Bertrand Liegard (Star Wars)
  • Arnaud Serre (Ultrablue De Massa)
  • Anne Sophie Serre (Vistoso De Massa)
  • Pierre Volla (Badinda Altena)

However, their leading combination, Pierre and the 12-year-old Tolando mare Badinda Altena, withdrew themselves from contention, and the FFE has since decided that they will not be sending a team, or any individuals.

The FFE revealed that at the start of the year, French riders in contention for selection were set a minimum target score of 70% at WEG, in order to “rank honourably in the nations standings and attempt to win the qualification of France for the next Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games”.

“Following the withdrawal of the only couple having already obtained this 70% and no other couple having reached this score in the grand prix event in the past three months, the necessary conditions are not met to constitute a group capable of reaching the average required,” read a statement. “Given this, and despite the unprecedented efforts made by all in favour of dressage, the French Equestrian Federation will not engage dressage riders at the Tryon World Equestrian Games.”

Pierre, who led the French team to Nations Cup victory at Hickstead CDI3* in July, revealed that financial reasons are behind his decision to withdraw from selection, and that his chestnut mare — whom he bought as a youngster destined for slaughter — is up for sale.

“Badinda is in her best form and she proved it at the Nations Cup at Hickstead. So it’s not a reason for health or sport that made me make this hard choice. The dream of the Games is great and present for everyone, but the harsh economic reality of high-level sport… is pushing us to take some paths,” said Pierre, who scored 72.67% for his grand prix victory at Hickstead, and also topped the freestyle with 76.33%.

“For several months, I’ve been looking for financial support to keep this sublime mare. But in France, no one is willing to invest in a dressage horse like Bomba [Badinda Altena]. Without support, without patrons, without sponsors, the high level is very complicated. In France, we are mostly owners of our horses and also professionals in the horse world, which is more rare in other nations.

“Badinda is proposed for sale… if I wish to stay at high level and continue in this beautiful profession, the only patron I found is myself.”

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Other members of the French squad have spoken out about their disappointment in the FFE’s decision.

“I am very disappointed after all the work and commitment my team and myself did, but sadly due to certain circumstances and one of the horses of the team being sold, the FFE came to the decision of not sending a team to the WEG. We have to accept their decision,” said Morgan Barbançon Mestre.

Morgan switched sporting nationalities to ride for France in April this year, having previously represented Spain. She and the 12-year-old Sandro Hit stallion Sir Donnerhall II OLD have scored plus-70% in grand prix tests, but since switching to ride for France their grand prix best has been 69.7%.

Without France, 32 nations are expected to be represented in dressage at WEG, with 15 teams competing for the first six qualification spots for Tokyo 2020.

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