The Inaugural Cross Country Horse Riding Competition at Digana
For the first time in history, the Sri Lanka Equestrian Association (SLEA) has drawn all plans to conduct the country's inaugural Cross Country Horse Riding Competition at the picturesque Victoria Golf and Country Resort in Digana, Kandy on October 1.
"Since 2003, the SLEA has conducted beach endurance competitions of 40km and 20km and in total we could boast of having hosted closer to 20 other events in total. This particular discipline -Equestrian -- is a world famous horse riding competition though it is not that popular in Sri Lanka. It's a beautiful sport where coordination and timing of the rider and the horse come to work together. The opportunity will be open for local riders to prove their capabilities on Eventing, Showjumping and Endurance," Premadasa stated.
The competitors will have to overcome 10 jumps, covering two and a half kilometres, in under 15 minutes through an extremely long hurdles race. As an introductory to this technique in horse riding, the SLEA will keep open 25 slots for the competition. By now, the SLEA has already received 15 entries, includ- ing a few Indians and Japanese riders, who are residing in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lankan amateur rider, Rashmin Tirimanne de Silva will also be among the participants. Rashmin, a University student, recently retur ned after a Showjumping training and competition programme in France was facilitated by the SLEA. There he was placed first in two of the four competitions he represented, coming fifth and 29th in the other two. Rashmin's achievement took place in July under the tutelage of elite professional coaches and the SLEA. Premadasa stated that Rashmin's achievement was a proud moment for Sri Lanka, where he was able to achieve the best overall result out of the other participants at the clinic, which included riders from Honduras, Indonesia and Australia. Premadasa went on to say that at the upcoming event in Digana, Kandy, Rashmin will come out as one of the favourites to clinch the main title.
"Though local competitions are a lackluster when it comes to numbers, Sri Lankan riders have been regular participants at events in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates. So far over 100 locals have represented Sri Lanka there, taking part in endurance races beginning from 40km to 200km, as well as other disciplines. In Sri Lanka alone, there is a large number of horse riders and an annual event will create a great opportunity for them," he added.
The SLEA initiation of the event was presented to the officials of Victoria Gold and Country Resort, where it was treated as a top potential sporting event by the hosts. The Victoria Gold and Country Resort readily joined in as the venue sponsor to make SLEA's plan of an annual competition, a reality. However, the competition course has been designed in such a way, totally preserving the beauty and glamour of the venue's picturesque Golf course. The vast open space of the Golf club with its hills and bends will serve as the perfect setting to view horses tackling the jumps and terrain at a full gallop.
"We will not be using the fairway, only the rough area will be used for the Cross Country Competition, as planned and designed by Helmut Hendrichs. The event will mainly have horses, but since the number in Sri Lanka is not so big, there will also be a category for the ponies. On a beautiful course, with 10 jumps and sand pits and competing against the time, the rider and horse with the best timing will become the winner. We will carefully analyse the whole event and will plan to elevate this event into the next level annually. I'm sure the event will be as glamorous as we imagine," predicted Premadasa.
The intended competition is expected to give a wholly different interpretation to the exposure of horse riding in exposure in Sri Lanka, where it is monopolised mainly by horse racing. The SLEA has conducted several national dressage and Showjumping shows in the past and with the event to be held on October 1, the SLEA hopes to broaden the interest in Equestrian sport.
"Equestrian has many disciplines, ranging from the more graceful competitions - Dressage and Vaulting; to the more grueling and technical events such as Eventing, Endurance and Showjumping. Cross Country ranks high up in the latter grouping. This sport can be a discipline in itself or part of the three phases of Eventing. In short it involves rider and horses covering a preplanned course over natural terrain. It has several jumps that need to be cleared within a specified time limit. Cross Country is extremely testing, mentally and physically for both the horse and the rider as it requires endurance to finish the course as well as technicality to clear the jumps. It is also one of the most exciting equestrian events to observe."
Several well known individuals in the horse racing arena will come in as officials-in-charge on the day of the competition. Among them are Helmut Hendrichs, Nisitha Rupasinghe and Chandran Ratnam, who will be the judges of the event with Thiloshini Dassanayake officiating as the Chief Steward. Hendrichs is also the course designer. Two more Additional Stewards, namely Nihara Jayatilleke and David Bolling and the Technical Delegates Nikhil Punna and Sanjeevani Seneviratne will complete the list of event officials. Dr. Neville Silva, Dr. Varaji and Dr. Nishananda will be the veterinarians on site and the Ministry of Sports will send in their anti-doping official for the event, which will set off at 9.00am on October 1.
With the Victoria Golf and Country Resort coming aboard as the venue sponsor, Expolanka Freight and Mina Baba join in as the logistics sponsor. Abans, Sporting Times, Sporting Star and the Premadasa Riding School are the supporting partners of the event.