Written by Nicole Lootsma.
What a weekend – the sun wasn’t the only thing scorching as Canada’s dressage team brought the heat to Pan Ams!
On July 11th & 12th Caledon Equestrian Park was the proud host of the 2015 Pan American Games team dressage competition. Competitors represented 10 different countries competing for a team medal, with Argentina, Canada, Mexico and the United States bringing teams made of both small and large tour riders – a new requirement for Olympic eligibility introduced at this year’s games.
Canada had an incredible team made up of Belinda Trussel & Megan Lane on the big tour and Chris Von Martels and Brittany Fraser for the small tour. It was apparent that both the horses and riders could sense the energy from their home crowd and boy, did they ever deliver!
The American team also came to Toronto with the hopes of securing their Olympic seat in Rio and were represented by the renowned Steffen Peters and Laura Graves on the big tour and Sabine Schut-Kery and Kimberly Herslow on the small tour.
Each of the Canadian and American pairs delivered scores over 70% with many above 75%. Although the Canadians did not make it easy, the Americans came out on top of the team competition with a difference of a mere 1.14 points, earning themselves the gold medal and a team at the 2016 Olympic Games.
The crowds returned on Tuesday, July 14th for the individual finals made up of Intermediare I and Grand Prix Special freestyles – and what a treat it was!
Freestyles are the highlight for most riders and spectators alike – giving the athletes a chance to showcase their strengths and personalities set to music.
Twenty-one riders returned on Tuesday to compete in the freestyle class and each performance was captivating and truly entertaining to witness. Several of the Brazilian riders encouraged the crowd to clap along and cheer throughout the freestyle test which was a welcomed deviation from traditional dressage. It was so much fun to be engaged in the rides, and it was great to see the riders loosen up and have fun with their horses and the music.
Both Canada and the U.S. advanced three riders to the individual freestyle event on Tuesday and to say they rose to the occasion would be an understatement. The energy in the stadium was tangible, and the horses and riders obviously fed off of it as they delivered some of the most technically brilliant and artistically fluid tests I have ever seen.
I think many will agree when I say the true highlight of the freestyle competition was Chris Von Martels and Zilverstar. I have never seen a horse look so light, elegant, and technically precise as the pair were truly dancing together from the moment they entered the arena. Throughout the entire test the audience was so silent in anticipation you could hear a pin drop, but the moment Chris stopped to salute the home, the crowd erupted in applause and cheers. Chris’ freestyle earned him a well-deserved 79.5% which was enough to keep him in the top spot for the day until the U.S. presented their final freestyles by Laura and Steffen, earning a 79.8% and 80%, respectively, which was just enough to inch Chris out of the lead. Chris finished off the day bringing home a bronze medal for Canada. We could not be more proud of him and Zilverstar as well as all of our amazing Canadian athletes!
A huge thanks goes out to the volunteers and organizers of the 2015 Pan Am Games. The event was impeccably well run and all involved deserve to be commended.
Being able to attend such a top class dressage event so close to home was a really special opportunity and one that I will never forget. It was surreal to witness legends like Laura, Belinda, and Steffen but also a real treat to get a taste of young up-and-coming talent including Chris, Brittany, and Megan. The Canadian team members have certainly proved themselves as a force to be reckoned with, and I can’t wait to see what the future has in store for these special horses and riders.
Watching the medal ceremonies was such a thrill, and it was so special to be able to feel such pride for the Canadian riders as we cheered them around their victory lap!
Congratulations again to all of the competitors along with their wonderful support teams that helped to make these dreams a reality.