Russell Marchant welcomes 22 nations during European Championships Opening Ceremony


Russell Marchant, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of Hartpury and Chairman of the Organising Committee delivered a welcome speech to 22 nations at the start of the FEI Dressage and Eventing European Championships 2022. Here's the speech in full:

Dear friends,

Welcome to Hartpury 2022 – the FEI Dressage and Eventing European Championships for Young Riders and Juniors.

Having originally planned to host this event in 2020 and ultimately having to cancel due to the Covid-19 pandemic, today has been a long time coming, and I couldn't be happier to welcome you to Great Britain, to Gloucestershire, and to Hartpury.

I'd like to start by thanking the FEI, British Equestrian, British Dressage and British Eventing, organisations that have trusted us with these championships and given us the honour of representing our country on the international stage.

I want to thank our entire organising committee for their tireless work in the years, months and weeks building up to these championships. The work involved in organising such an event is monumental and the hard work and enthusiasm of our team never fails to impress and inspire.

Since we were awarded these championships, we've invested further in our facilities. Most notably, we've added a new 60m x 30m covered outdoor arena and round pen, complete with an Andrews Bowen ProWax surface to match with the existing surfaces already on site. Andrews Bowen are Show Sponsors of the Young Rider Eventing Championship this week, while Commscope Ruckus are Show Sponsor of the Junior Dressage Championship. They join several much-valued sponsors and corporate partners who have been so generous in their support of the event, and I cannot overstate our gratitude for their support.

And now to the athletes.

You've arrived here having overcome so many challenges during the last few years, living through great uncertainty. But now your moment has come: the moment you've been training for and looking forward to – the moment we have all been looking forward to.

Each and every one of you are about to write a new chapter in Hartpury's story and for that, I thank you. Your achievements will be remembered and celebrated for years to come. Whatever the outcome of your endeavours during the competition, we hope you'll always remember your time here fondly.

It won't come as a surprise, that both Hartpury University and Hartpury College place such an emphasis on the importance of opportunities for our young people. Of all the championships, those for Young Riders and Juniors are in many ways the most important and exciting. After all, you are the senior European, World and Olympic champions of the future. You are the coaches, support teams, chef d'equipes, judges, officials, and parents of the future - that will inspire generations to come and ensure the longevity of equestrian sport. I feel with the talent here in front of me, the sport is in good hands.

And now to the horse, who has no understanding of languages, borders, or political differences, and who brings us all together here today and unites us through a shared passion.

Our commitment to horse welfare is unwavering. We believe the horse must always come first – our equals in the most unique sporting partnership. This special bond between horse and human is something we must continue to protect and improve, and we all have an important part to play.

Through the work of our academics, students, and industry links, Hartpury University places great emphasis on promoting ethical equitation practices and positive relationships through advanced practice and ever-evolving research.

Later this summer, we'll host the International Society for Equitation Science Conference, and we've introduced a brand-new master’s degree - an MSc Equitation Science, that aims to further improve the lives of horses in sport through research, knowledge exchange and education.

At Hartpury, sport is part of our DNA. From rugby to football, netball to equestrian, our 11 Sports Academies have produced hundreds of elite athletes that have gone on to compete at the highest level.

Sport has a remarkable way of giving valuable life lessons.

In our fragile world, where division, conflict and mistrust are seemingly commonplace, sport allows us to show that: yes, it is possible to be fierce rivals, while at the same time living peacefully together and respecting each other, as you all will demonstrate during the next seven days.

I convey my best wishes to each nation and each athlete as you strive to reach the heights of your ambitions in the spirit of goodwill and fair play.

The stage is set. I invite you to bring the action, drama and emotion that only sport can evoke. Try your best, make new friends, create lifelong memories, but above all enjoy every minute.

It gives me great pleasure to officially declare these Championships, OPEN! Thank you and good luck.