Pan Ams and NAJYRC = Dressage Overload!

So dressageholics I know it’s been a while… but nonetheless there is a lot to talk about today! Just got back from the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto. Please remember the ‘Am’ in ‘Pan Ams’ stand for ‘American’ meaning the Americas meaning North and South America…. no that does not include Europe. Just sayin, cause I had to remind people of that one too many times! Therefore if you didn’t know where the country in the ring was located… it was most definitely NOT in Europe and most definitely somewhere in SOUTH America. Ok now that we have that out of the way… what a blast I had in Toronto!

Toronto speaks to my heart… and when you add in dressage it’s like I’m constantly in overload!

The OLG Caledon Horse Park is located about an hour north-west of downtown Toronto. I was horrified at the thought of hitting Toronto’s notorious traffic to Caledon but after getting over my frustration of realizing I should’ve brought my cat to meet the HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle) criteria of 3 or more ‘people’ I realized it really wasn’t that bad. So of course I did not read the additional material sent to me titled “Important Event Information” before the games, like really who does that? Anyway even without doing this everything was so well labeled I soon realized that we had to park in a local park and get bused to the event. Massive signs and orange shirted volunteers (“Oranges”) were everywhere! I swear we drove through a maze to get to the parking spot which was either in parking area A, B, C, D, or E. Oranges told us exactly which spot to park in, flagging us in like we were an airplane – seriously they had the sticks and everything. Then off to the school bus we were to head off like excited little school children on the first day of school!

The bus took us right to the entrance where we were met by many more Oranges reminding us no water bottle unless they’re sealed… because you know dressage riders have a reputation of switching water for vodka… well my anger soon turned to excitement when the Oranges showed us the “watering station” where we could refill our bottles all day long with fresh water! No it was not for the horses it was for us… I think.

It was a bit of a walk to our seats, but between the winding red brick road (ok it was really red mulch) and the friendly Oranges you couldn’t get lost. There were plenty of portapotties that somehow didn’t stink and always had toilet paper and ice cream stands just where you needed them.

First day we watched was the I1/Grand Prix Special Team Medals on Sunday – so fun to see riders that I have never seen ride before. I can’t believe I watched so many tests and did not get bored! I was disappointed to see that they didn’t post scores by movement but Tom Dvorak later informed me the FEI doesn’t allow it if the judges can see it. There were some score variations of up to 5% but for the most part the judges seemed to be in line with each other. Results are on the Official Pan Am website. Steffen Peters was the last rider to go and you could feel the anticipation in the air even after we heard the Americans celebrating their win early… only his ride wasn’t clean and a little disappointing… regardless it was amazing to see the pair compete, they are currently ranked 7th in the world! Megan Lane also put in a great performance and it was so cool to see the mare I first met as Shadow Chef at the NAJYRC several years ago. Both Megan and Caravella have come a long way! There was an awkward moment when the background music during her test was the national anthem… do I stand or what? Brittany’s All-In was all out at the end of the test and extended trot all the way out! Chris rode beautifully and Belinda was nearly flawless. The Canadians put it in some really great tests and brought home Silver which is super amazing but I couldn’t help feel a little sad that this puts them in a difficult position for the 2016 Olympics. FEI Region D – North America – is now only allowed one team, which after the Pan Am results is the US. Canadians will now compete to be part of a “composite” team.  Since we qualified one individual this weekend if we want to send a team to Rio, Canada must now qualify at least two more riders through world rankings. For more info see the FEI site here.

The Freestyles – where do we start? First they were forecasting thunderstorms all day… and it wasn’t looking good when it poured on us on our way to the venue. But the Pan Am Weather gods were with us and the rain subsided for almost every test except for a few drops at the end of Chris von Martels’ test just before Brittany Fraser. I am in love with Belinda Trussell’s music and choreography – is it my new favourite freestyle ever! It was like watching a suspense movie. You can view hers and the other freestyles on YouTube thanks to ‘Canadian EquestrianFan’. I personally thought that Chris should’ve gotten Silver, and Belinda Bronze. Nothing against Laura Graves and her beautiful horse but I thought Belinda and Anton were cleaner and Anton piaffes with such ease. Flawless, I have fallen in love with this horse and am so glad that Belinda and him were able to make this amazing comeback after his injury. I am also so impressed with Chris and Zilverstar, he’s been training hard and it’s paid off – he had a personal best score of 79.500%.

On another note, remember that super awesome stallion Rheirattack that let me take some lessons on him this past winter? Well I had to stop riding him… cause my coach’s daughter wanted to show him in FEI Juniors/Young Riders. Yeah I can live with that! And her Ontario Team just won Gold in the team event at the 2015 North American Junior and Young Riders Championships in Kentucky! Yes Rheirattack and Nina (second from the right in the photo below) strutted their stuff in the Junior ring and look what they accomplished. So excited for them and the team! Nina has been working hard all year even throughout the depths of our crazy cold winter and it paid off.

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