Austria’s Harald Ambros dons his finest lederhosen. Photo by Tilly Berendt.
Talk about the whirlwind of the eventing season: after the last two weeks of five-star double-headers at Kentucky and Badminton, we’ve nipped straight down to Italy for the test event for the Pratoni World Championships this September. Though the Championships will be a long-format competition as usual, with CCI5* dressage and showjumping and a ‘four-and-a-half star’ cross-country, this week’s test event is a CCIO4*-S, and is being used to fine-tune the infrastructure, the course, and the set-up ahead of the real deal in a few months. With 12 nations competing, plus further national representatives here on the ground, it’s certainly being taken very seriously, and it’s offering us all a unique opportunity to get to know this beautiful, hilly venue.
I’m not going to be covering this week’s competition in quite the same in-depth manner you’re used to, though rest assured, there’ll be plenty of updates from the event itself, which is also a Nations Cup leg and the Italian National Championships. Instead, my aim on the ground here in Italy is to get a sense of what we can all expect come September: the terrain, the theme of the course design, the measures in place to deal with the (considerable) heat, how different nations are preparing, and how you can make the most of your trip as a spectator. I’ll also be chatting to some up-and-coming riders from a variety of nations so we can follow along with their own respective journeys to — hopefully — their big WEG call-up in a few months’ time. But despite that, I couldn’t resist going to this afternoon’s horse inspection, which is held in a bit of a basin between the schooling arenas and the main arena. The verdict so far? It’s very, very hot, and there are a lot of seriously fresh horses here — but they’ll need to be, because this venue is all about the hills.