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C’est la vie – Normandy… How much worth is the World Championship?

It is not that bad here any longer in the second week of the World Equestrian Games in Normandy. And yet some riders preferred to return home before the jumping of the best 30 riders or at least not to continue to ride here. Among those riders were Ludger Beerbaum and Christian Ahlmann, but also Kent Farrington and Yann Candele.”Ahlmann and Beerbaum-where are you?” That’s what fans had written on a poster which they were lifting into the air in the stadium. These were German fans hoping to see their four heroes once again in the show-jumping course. Otto Becker, the federal coach, had an answer to this question: “Beerbaum is here. Ahlmann has returned home.“ Whereas Beerbaum really was in a desperate situation, Ahlmann, who was occupying the tenth place, would have the best chance to still qualify for the final since all riders were very close to each other. Scoring a clear round, he would have achieved the fifth place already after the first round. ”Giving the horses a break“, this was the official statement. But he didn’t add the words “for Calgary”. Christian Ahlmann is going to approach the Rolex Grand Slam after his victory at the Grand Prix of Aachen. If he won in Calgary, his account would be credited an additional 1.5 million euro as reward. There is no denying the fact that sums like this are a big incentive.

 “Calgary was only one of several aspects“, Otto Becker explained. „The team was important for him. This was the main objective which he had always emphasized. But for us, too, this is an unfavorable situation. Otherwise we are often criticized for doing too much. There have been many contributions which justify this decision in favor of the horses. And yet, normally we don’t start to give our horses a rest during a World Championship. We are not happy. And yet I support his decision as the riders support ours as well. For this reason I ask for people’s comprehension to a certain extent. If they don’t comprehend, I don’t know what to do either. I can live with this criticism even if I prefer living without it.”

What made Christian Ahlmann dispense with a further start apart from the chance in Calgary was the World Championship mode itself. The latter has been criticized repeatedly. It is not only the change of the horses which is considered problematic, but also the numerous rounds which the horses will have completed in the end. Maybe they should think about the structure. Should the telegenic change of the horses remain a part of the World Championship? Whereas yesterday at the press meeting three of the four finalists welcomed the change, one rider criticized it. What would the situation look like if there was a voting among the riders far away from the media? If every rider was allowed to tick off “in favor of horse change“or “against horse change“? The outcome would be clear.  Of course, the audience is important and therefore also attractive sports. But in the long run do you really win one fan more by offering a top four final?

If you really have to worry about the athletes’ participation at the World Equestrian Games, remains an unanswered question. Marcus Ehning’s demand for more money (“You can get more money at every Nations Cup. I would like to see an appropriate payment”) is legitimate. And yet the decisions of the riders who withdrew here in Normandy are individual ones. If Christian Ahlmann had really known that he might score two more clear rounds and if his horse had been able to deal with the horse change without any problems, he would not have returned home in advance. At this championship there were numerous points which finally led to this decision.

And yet it is great that a young rider like Darrah Kenny says that it is incredible to be a participant of the World Championship. The same applies to Steve Guerdat, the Olympic winner, who emphasizes that he lives for championships like this.