As the sun broke through the early morning mist hanging over the Rocca di Papa parkland, horses quietly made their way down the hill from the stabling area in single file. Ready to be presented for the first inspection, each one in a bridle being led by their drivers and handlers, their coats gleamed with good health. All the anticipation of an exhilarating FEI World Championship became a reality.

It was a slick operation as the squads came forward in their nations, and the 37 athletes presented their five match-fit horses to a Ground Jury member and vet. A total of 185 horses had to be inspected and passed as fit to compete. With two sand lanes in operation, lined with flowers, those watching as the horses stood then trotted up and down could appreciate the range of breeds and types which will compete in the three disciplines over the next four days.

The process for the vet and judge to make the assessment was a quick and efficient one, and the decision was relayed back to the announcer. With the drivers smartly dressed and the horses plaited and preened, they created a piece of theatre, a fitting prelude for the days ahead.

Only one of the Dutch squad horses didn’t pass with flying colours, so it was put into the holding area for a few moments before the decision was taken that it will be presented again tomorrow.

After the morning’s inspections, by lunchtime the national team members were confirmed as well as the running order for the two days of dressage on Thursday and Friday. With six definite entries each, Germany, The Netherlands and Hungary had to confirm their team and individual selections, as did France who came with a squad of four. A team can have two or three members, so Australia was already poised with two athletes ‒ reigning World Champion Boyd Exell and his compatriot Tor Ven Den Berge, as were Belgium with three ‒ Glen Geerts, Dries Degrieck and Tom Stokmans.

There were no surprises as the team selections were revealed. For The Netherlands, there are Dutch superstars, father and son Ijsbrand and Bram Chardon, and Koos de Ronde, who between them have such depth of experience at world level they will be the team to beat.

Challenging them will be the German team of long-term competitor Georg von Stein, plus the on-form Mareike Harm and Michael Brauchle. The Hungarian drivers are always in the mix, with their tremendous Driving heritage and former World Champion Zoltán Lázár is joined by the multi-medal winning father and son József Dobrovitz and József Dobrovitz Jr. France have confirmed that May’s Test Event winner Anthony Horde will be joined by Sebastien Vincent and Benjamin Aillaud. (Ed. note: Canada does not have any entries in this Championship.)

The Dressage starts at 10.00 am Thursday, September 22 with Dirk Gerkens driving for Germany as an individual. FEI TV will be broadcasting all the action live so don’t miss a moment of this exciting event!

The competition schedule is:

Dressage on September 22 & 23
Marathon on September 24
Cones on September 25

For more information on the FEI World Championships 2022 in Pratoni del Vivaro (ITA), click here.