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Longines’ involvement
Longines is the Partner and Official Timekeeper of the prestigious HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Endurance Cup since 2010. This competition is a CEI*** (Compétition d’Endurance Internationale [International Endurance Competition]) open to horses aged seven years and over, and takes place in early January at the Dubai International Endurance City. Run over a distance of 160 km, this race starts at dawn and consists of five stages of decreasing length, and between which the horses are rested and examined by a vet to ensure they are fit to continue. On 7 January 2017, Humaid Matar Rashed Al Mazrooei won the HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Endurance Cup presented by Longines and organised by the Dubai Equestrian Club. Some of the biggest names in the world of endurance came together to compete in this international event. Following its participation in the 2012 Longines FEI World Endurance Championships at Euston Park (UK) and in its capacity as the first Top Partner of the Fédération Équestre Internationale, the Swiss watch brand also took on the roles of Title Partner, Official Timekeeper and Official Watch for the 2016 Longines FEI World Endurance Championships. At the most recent world championships, which took place from 15 to 18 September 2016 at Šamorín Equestrian Centre in Slovakia, the individual title was won by the Spaniard Jaume Punti Dachs, with Spain also riding off with the team gold. Endurance is a perfect illustration of the values championed by Longines. Authenticity, longevity, reliability and complete technical mastery are indeed the most valuable qualities that rider and horse must possess to excel in this discipline.
Gearing up for Strzegom
The best riders in Europe will descend on Poland in their bid to be crowned the FEI European Eventing Champion in August 2017. For the second time, Longines will be the Official Timekeeper of this five-day contest, which is the pinnacle of the horse trials calendar this year.
It will be the 33rd running of the FEI European Eventing Championships, a three-star contest that runs every two years and dates back to 1953. It is the second time that Longines will be the Official Timekeeper following its involvement at the UK-based 2015 Longines FEI European Eventing Championships held at Blair Castle, Scotland. Taking place in Strzegom, lower Silesia region in south-west Poland, the FEI European Eventing Championships kick off on Wednesday 16 August with the first horse inspection. This is followed by two days of dressage and then Saturday’s cross-country phase, concluding with a second horse inspection and final showjumping rounds on Sunday 20 August. Qualified nations can take up to six horses and riders, with four making up a team and the remaining two competing for individual honours only. In each team the horse and rider with the highest number of penalties becomes a discounted score because only the best three scores (i.e. lowest number of penalties) count when working out the final standings. As the host nation, Poland may field ten riders: four on its team and six individuals. Any rider representing a European country is eligible to compete in Strzegom, providing they meet the qualification criteria on the horse they intend to ride. European Championships run at three-star level and horse and rider combinations must have one qualifying result at CCI3* level, plus meet their national federation’s criteria. A qualifying result requires the combination to have jumped clear across country with no more than 30 time-faults – this equates to not exceeding the optimum time by more than 75 seconds – and have incurred a maximum of 67 dressage penalty points and four showjumps down. There is no limit on the number of teams that can compete. Every European nation can go, providing their riders have qualified. Organisers expect between 18 and 20 countries to be represented – that’s around 80 horses – in line with previous championships. Many competitors and followers of the sport of eventing will already be familiar with Strzegom and its terrain. The venue has been hosting horse trials for 15 years, running classes up to CCI3* level. Despite this experience, however, Marcin Konarski, president of the organising committee at Strzegom, recognizes that the Europeans represent a huge challenge for the team. “The championship is a completely different type of competition in relation to all international events organised in Strzegom so far,” she says. “On the one hand there will only be 80 horses, which is a small number in comparison to the 300 starting at our horse trials every year, but there will be several thousand visitors, hundreds of service staff, several hundred journalists and dozens of broadcasters and live reporters. From an organisation and logistical perspective, it is a completely different show and we have to prepare well.”

The championship will take place at Stragona Equestrian Centre, the most famous venue for horse sport in Poland covering 60 hectares and hosting more than 20 equestrian events every year.
Much investment has already been made to revamp the cross-country course and improve the infrastructure. The main arena, which will be used for the dressage and showjumping phases, is now on an all-weather surface, thus providing consistent footing for the whole field. “We started preparations in 2014, straight after the rights for organising the championships were admitted,” explains Marcin. “The first stage was replacing the surface in the main arena and warm-up areas. Then we modernized the water complex — it is now three times the size of its previous form — and added a new water fence.” Eventing fans will have to wait and see what course-designer Rüdiger Schwarz, also the man behind the Malmö Europeans track four years ago, has in store. There have been glimpses, including a new track through woodland added over the winter. “A lot of work has also been carried out to improve the ground on the cross-country route,” adds Marcin. The city of Strzegom has long been associated with breeding Silesian horses and thoroughbreds, plus it has strong horse racing roots and has acted as a training base for its national eventing squad for many years. Strzegom is also successful hunting ground for Great Britain, the country that won back-to-back Nations Cup classes here in 2015 and 2016 when fielding a line up of young horses and riders. The nation is seeking a 22nd European team gold in 2017; the most any country has ever won at this level. However, it would be foolish to overlook Germany’s chances for team gold, the nation that finished at the top of the leaderboard at the three most recent European championships (Luhmühlen, Germany, 2011; Malmö, Sweden, 2013 and Blair Castle, UK, 2015). France broke Germany’s stranglehold on gold at the Rio Olympics in 2016, and the French will be looking to break the mould again in Strzegom – bagging their first-ever European team gold in the process. In individual ranks it is hard to look past Germany’s Michael Jung. Michael’s gold medal run – two Olympics (2012 and 2016), one World (2010) and three Europeans (2011, 2013 and 2015) – has been thwarted only once. His undoing at the 2014 World Equestrian Games in Normandy was teammate Sandra Auffarth (Opgun Louvo), and both were fundamental in securing another team gold for Germany. Of course other riders will be vying for the top step of the podium and, if he is selected, Astier Nicolas, the young Frenchman who led France to Olympic glory and claimed individual silver in Rio last year, is capable of challenging Michael for gold. Whoever finishes on the podium, Strzegom is ready to rewrite the history books when it hosts the first ever FEI European Eventing Championships to take place on Polish soil – and it plans to impress. “We are aware that our town will be written in eventing history,” concludes Marcin. “We care deeply that this event will be remembered well by riders and spectators.” [Aimi Clark]
Dressage, Driving & Jumping
Longines partners multi-discipline Longines FEI European Championships for the first time in Glorious Gothenburg !
Longines will be Title Partner of the Longines FEI European Championships 2017 in Gothenburg which is set to be a ground-breaking event. Staged from 21 to 27 August, the action-packed week-long fixture will bring together 300 athletes from four different disciplines as equestrian sport takes over the Swedish city, transforming it into a massive competition venue.
Gothenburg is an event-loving city, and for a full week this summer it will be brimming over with the welcoming, happy atmosphere for which it is renowned. A long-established favourite with Jumping riders due to its long and distinguished connection with the FEI World Cup™ Jumping series dating all the way back to the inaugural Final in 1979, it will play host to athletes from thirty countries. Catering for the needs of four different equestrian disciplines concurrently is no easy task, but the City of Gothenburg and the Swedish Equestrian Federation have come together to create a superb programme of competition that does exactly that. Spread over four locations, and all within walking distance of the city centre, the action will take place in the beating heart of the town, and the streets will ring to the sound of hoofbeats as horses move seamlessly from sports stadiums to public roadways and parklands throughout this week of intense excitement. The massive Scandinavium Arena where the World Cup is usually staged will be used for stabling, with further stables located in the nearby Valhalla IP. The volunteer base will be located next to Scandinavium.
The four disciplines are Jumping, Dressage, Driving and Para-Equestrian Dressage, and both Jumping and Dressage will be held at the Ullevi Stadium, the largest outdoor arena in Sweden which was built in 1958 for the FIFA World Cup and which has hosted many more major sporting events including six World Allround Speed Skating Championships, the 1995 World Athletics Championships and the UEFA Cup Final in 2004. The multi-purpose stadium is just a short walk from the Scandinavium, and 25,000 spectators are expected to fill the stands each day during the Longines FEI European Championships 2017. The Fairground at Heden Village, just across the road from Ullevi Stadium, will be the location for both Para-Equestrian Dressage and the Dressage and Cones phases of the Driving Championships. It will also host an equestrian festival and fan zone. However perhaps one of the most exciting aspects of the entire event is the fact that the city streets will become the route of the Driving Marathon. This is bound to be a crowd stopper as teams of four horses will be driven through the heart of the town on their way to Slottsskogen City Park where the Marathon obstacles will be located. The public will be able to get really “up close and personal” on the way, to hear the harnesses jingling and the hoofbeat of the horses hooves on the streets while the teams battle it out to get the edge on their rivals. Spectators will have the opportunity to engage with the excitement from start to finish as never before. Marathon day promises some spectacularly unique photographic opportunities along with amazing sport! A total of 590 horses, 1,000 volunteers and 400 media representatives will attend the event which will have a TV audience of over 70 million people, so this is an unmissable equestrian extravaganza.
Para-Equestrian Dressage became an FEI discipline in 2006, and three years later the first FEI European Championships were staged in Kristiansand, Norway where British athletes claimed three of the five individual titles along with team gold. At the last Para-Equestrian European event in Deauville, France in 2015 the British team was on top once again, but Sophie Christiansen claimed Britain’s sole individual title this time around as Austria’s Pepo Puch, Netherlands Rixt van der Horst and Frank Hosmar and Germany’s Hannelore Brenner also took top podium placings.
The first FEI European Four-in-Hand Driving Champions was held in Budapest, Hungary in 1971 where the host nation dominated as Imre Abonyi took individual gold and also claimed the team title along with fellow-countryman Sandor Fulop. At the last European Championships in Aachen, Germany in 2015 the individual gold medal in Driving went to Germany’s Michael Brauchle, while The Netherlands’ Ijsbrand Chardon, Koos de Ronde and Theo Timmerman joined forces to top the team podium.
Copenhagen in Denmark hosted the inaugural FEI European Dressage Championship in 1963 where sixteen riders from eight nations competed. There was no team event, and individual gold and bronze went to Switzerland’s Henri Chammartin while Germany’s Harry Boldt took silver. The multiple record-breaking partnership of Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro from Great Britain will not be defending the double of individual European titles they clinched at the last two editions in Herning and Aachen as the wonderful 15-year-old gelding has now been retired. In the absence of this phenomenal pair it seems team Germany may be the ones to beat, and that a fourth individual title could be on the cards for 47-year-old Isabell Werth, the most medalled equestrian Olympian of all time. The 2015 team champions were The Netherlands Patrick van der Meer, Edward Gal, Hans-Peter Minderhoud and Diederik van Silfhout.
The FEI European Jumping Championships is the oldest of all, dating back to 1957 when the great Hans Günter Winkler from Germany reigned supreme in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. There were no team medals at the time. Dutch riders completely overwhelmed the opposition at the last European fixture in Aachen two years ago, just as they had done at the FEI World Equestrian Games™ in Normandy, France a year earlier, when Jeroen Dubbeldam helped clinch the team title before going out to add European individual gold to his resume. The history of the FEI European Championships is a long and distinguished one, and another page will be written at Gothenburg this summer, supported proudly by Longines. [Daphne Deschamps]