Australian Paralympic Equestrian team choose Sparsholt College for pre London 2012 training

Sparsholt College’s Equine Centre is celebrating the news and busily preparing for the arrival of the Australian Paralympic Equine team who have chosen to base themselves at the Winchester campus for their pre London 2012 training.

Kirby Park Irish Joy, Waikiwi, Statford Mantovani and Broadford VIC, the team’s four horses will arrive at Sparsholt College’s Equine Centre on the 9th August 2012.  Accompanied by only the Team Manager, it will be Sparsholt Equine students, lecturers and staff who will care for and settle the horses until the riders arrive the following day on the 10th.  Once on site, riders and grooms are being accommodated at The Wessex Conference Centre which is also located in the College grounds.

Australian Paralympic Equestrian Head Coach Julia Battams says: “The Australian Paralympic Equestrian Team are very excited to be staging our pre-Games training camp at Sparsholt College. We’re confident our athletes and horses will benefit from the best possible facilities in the lead up to the Games and we’re looking forward to sharing our team’s experience with the people of Winchester.”

The Equine Centre was included in the pre-games training camp information provided by LOCOG over two years ago and the College has been working with Winchester City Council to attract a team to train in the local area.

Cllr Patricia Stallard, portfolio holder for Culture, Heritage and Sport said, “We are delighted to welcome the Australian Paralympic equestrian team to the Winchester District, We are lucky to have some world class facilities in the local area and are proud to see them being utilised for such an important occasion. We hope that local people will get behind the Australian team and follow them with interest during the Paralympic Games.”

Paralympian Grace Bowman will lead the Australian equestrian team of Hannah Dodd, Joann Formosa and Rob Oakley.  Bowman previously represented Australia at Beijing 2008 whereas London 2012 is the first Paralympic Games for Dodd, Formosa and Oakley.

Since equestrian was first introduced in Atlanta 1996, Australia has won eight Paralympic Games medals – two gold, one silver and five bronze.  In London there will be eleven medals available – Individual Championship and Freestyle Tests across all five classification grades, as well as a Team Test.

Athletes will compete in three Dressage tests where they have to perform a series of pre-determined movements which differ by grade and ability: a Team Test (with three to four riders per team), an Individual Championship Test, and a Freestyle Test, for which athletes choose their own movements and music. Through the tests, horse and rider must be in harmony, and the overall picture must be of lightness and rhythm and the system of grades ensures that the tests can be judged on the skill of the rider, regardless of their disability.

Whilst training at the College the Australian team will be holding a demonstration and lecture and have requested that students be as involved as possible until they depart for Greenwich Park on 24th August, ready to compete from Thursday 30 August through to Tuesday 4 September 2012.