The In­au­gu­ral Cross Coun­try Horse Rid­ing Com­pe­ti­tion at Di­gana

Sunday Times (Sri Lanka) - - COMMENT - By Naushad Amit

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.

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