TEN MINUTES WITH....TOWNEND - 08 April 2011
Badminton and Burghley winner, Oliver Townend won Express Eventing in 2008. In 2010, he saw the event from arena side when he commentated on the spectacle.
This year the compact thrill a minute version of eventing is to be rolled out nationally. The Express Eventing Series 2011 will see dressage to music, cross country and showjumping being completed in one arena. The series is to be integrated within five prestigious and established annual shows throughout the country, and Oliver Townend was one of the first to sign up to take part.
Our reporter Louise Elliott took ten minutes with Oliver to discuss his hopes for the 2011 Series, spreading the word of equestrian sport and the new format.
LOUISE ELLIOTT: What does Express Eventing mean to you?
OLIVER TOWNEND: Of course, Express Eventing has been incredibly important for me. The prize money for winning Express Eventing in 2008 was significant and has really helped me, but it is clearly about much more than that.
Express Eventing is a very important concept for all equestrians. We shouldn’t think of ourselves as ‘compartmentalised’ – as eventers and non-eventers, showjumpers etcetera, but instead we should think of ourselves as equestrians. Express Eventing is a great format for equestrians and has the potential to do for my sport what Twenty20 has done for cricket.
LE: How do you think Express Eventing can help to promote your sport?
OT: Express Eventing - by being exciting and action-packed - is bringing our sport to a wider audience. That is important. And, while it may be too much of a stretch to say that it will be responsible for getting children in council houses to ride and compete, if it can reach out to new people in new ways, well then that is great for the sport.
If it does for eventing what Twenty20 has done for cricket, then that can only be good for the sport.
LE: Is becoming the Twenty20 of eventing necessarily a good thing?
OT: Express Eventing is a very serious competition. It requires skill as well as significant hardwork and preparation. It is built upon the core foundations of three-day eventing – and has been developed and fine-tuned over the years on feedback from the riders. It is a very exciting initiative.
LE: What about the Express Eventing Series 2011? What do you think of the concept of being integrated into established and prestigious annual shows?
OT: I really think this is the way to go. This is the way to raise the profile of Express Eventing and to showcase it to traditional audiences, but it is also the way to reach out to new audiences – and to get new people interested in equestrianism.
The competition creates a huge amount of excitement and a highly-charged atmosphere. With dressage to music, cross country and showjumping all taking place in one arena, spectactors really do absorb the excitement.
Rolling out in four Qualifiers across the country and then culminating at the Final at the Horse of the Year Show means that new people are going to get the chance to enjoy the sport.
LE: Are you planning to compete in the Express Eventing Series 2011?
OT: Yes, absolutely. This year is different as you have to apply to compete – it’s not invitational. But that’s now done.
I am really looking forward to competing in the Express Eventing Series 2011. I plan to compete at the Qualifier at Bolesworth, and, of course, I would like to ride at the Final at the Horse of the Year Show in Birmingham in October.
LE: Which horse are you planning to ride in the Express Eventing Qualifier in Bolesworth?
OT: I have a number of young horses I am training for Express Eventing. I will choose the best horse in the best condition I have at the time.
LE: Which other events are you planning to compete in?
OT: A better question is where am I not competing? I have a full schedule this year, with the current emphasis being working towards the two key events this Spring which are Badminton and Kentucky.
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