One of the largest sporting events in the world this year, the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games begin today at Tryon in North Carolina, USA, subject to Hurricane Florence’s whim.
Ireland has a sixteen strong team ready to compete including full teams in show jumping, eventing and endurance along with individual competitors in dressage and reining.
The FEI World Equestrian Games are held every four years in the middle of the Olympic cycle and are expected to attract half a million spectators over two weeks of competition, with 1,000 athletes and 1,500 horses competing from over 70 countries.
First up today will be the Endurance competition, with Avril Bray, Hilda Donahue, Tom MacGuinness and Jane Moss flying the flag for Ireland, while Kildare’s Judy Reynolds also competes in the first round of the Dressage competition.
Later this evening Wicklow-born Bernard O’Sullivan will be in action in opening Reining qualifier.
The Irish Eventing team will face the first of four days of competition tomorrow, Thursday, while the Irish Show Jumping team must wait until next Wednesday for their first taste of action.
The weather may yet have an impact with Hurrican Florence surging towards the east coast.
“We already have robust contingency plans in place for use in the event of severe weather conditions and this includes sheltering plans for personnel and horses,” said FEI Secretary General Sabrina Ibanez last night.
“There are 1,288 permanent stalls onsite and all barns are built in conformance with the International Building Code to withstand winds up to 90mph (144kph), so the horses are in the safest place here on-site.”
“The International Equestrian Centre became a refuge for horses from five states ahead of Hurricane Irma in August and September last year.”
The cost of sending a competitive team to the World Games is significant and Horse Sport Ireland CEO Ronan Murphy was quick to pay tribute to the contribution of sponsors in helping to make that possible.
“As the Games begin, I want to give a special word of thanks to our Show Jumping team official sponsors, Devenish and The Underwriting Exchange, along with all our Team Ireland Equestrian sponsors GAIN, Berney Bros, Charles Owen, Darragh Equestrian, Dubarry, Horseware and TRM,” he said.
“Sending such a large team of athletes and their horses to a World Equestrian Games on another continent is a mammoth task and we could not do this without their incredible support and of course the support given to us by Sport Ireland.”
Sport Ireland announced an additional contribution of €175,000 for Horse Sport Ireland last montgh as part of the €1.5 million boost for high performance sport announced by the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport.
“I want to thank all those involved in making sure we have had the best possible preparation for these Games – our high performance committees, team managers, grooms, the athletes own support staff and families, along with all the staff at Horse Sport Ireland and of course Sport Ireland,” said newly appointed Chair of Horse Sport Ireland Joe Reynolds, father of Judy who competes in the dressage competition.
“I am sure we are set for incredibly exciting competition over the coming two weeks and I wish the very best of luck to all our Irish athletes.”
There wil be live television coverage on Eurosport and BBC throughout the games while FEI TV wiull livestream the action and also broadcast a nightly 25 minute hihlights show from North Carolina.
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