The USA has taken out team gold in the eventing competition at the 2015 Pan American Games, and team member Marilyn Little has won individual gold.
The US team of Phillip Dutton (Fernhill Fugitive), Lauren Kieffer (Meadowbrook’s Scarlett), Marilyn Little (RF Scandalous) and Boyd Martin (Pancho Villa) ended with a score of 133.00 to win the gold medal, Brazil held on to win silver with 140.70, and Canada took bronze with 163.00.
Individually, defending champion Jessica Phoenix (CAN) won silver, with Brazil’s Ruy Fonseca winning bronze after being in the lead up to that point.
Phoenix, who was sitting in third position individually coming into the final phase of competition, produced a clear show jumping round with Pavarotti to put the pressure on the two riders ahead of her. Little produced a clear round with RF Scandalous, but when a rail fell at the final fence for Fonseca and Tom Bombadill Too, it catapulted Little to gold with a final score of 40.30 while Phoenix moved up to claim the individual silver with 42.10. Fonseca’s rail took his score to 42.90.
Afterwards, Little said her mare was new to the sport. “I have her for only a year now and she’s only just moved up to 2-Star level with the goal of these Games in mind.” She explained that she was a regular on the US Jumping team between 1999 and 2011, and competed in several Nations Cups, but then suddenly decided to change her allegiance.
“I became interested in eventing when watching the World Equestrian Games in 2010 on TV. I thought “I’d like to do that, it looks like a lot of fun!”, so when I came back from Spruce Meadows that year I pulled one out of the barn and it has gone from there! I did my first 4-Star in 2012,” she said.
She has really enjoyed the Pan-American Games experience at Caledon Park this week. “The event has been beautifully organised and it has been an incredible experience from the standpoint of horsemanship, the thought and care they’ve put into everything for the horses has been amazing. The cross-country course was fair but challenging, it has to be difficult for the course designer catering for the developing riders as well as very seasoned competitors. It needed to be challenging for both, but safe enough too, and he really succeeded in that,” she said.
Talking about the cross-country track she said, “riding the course you had to be “in the moment” … you had to stay aware of all the plans. Cross-country is designed to force you to look at all the options and to stay ready to take them if necessary. Making it easy to quickly change your plan is the mark of a good cross-country course. Fitness played a part too yesterday, the terrain took its toll in terms of technicality and some horses got tired, but it was safe and jumpable and it was really a pleasure to ride the track.”
Despite all her experience as a jumping rider, Little said she was still feeling the heat going into the arena with so much hanging in the balance. “I knew I was under pressure, but I also knew my horse is a clear-rounder and very careful. She’s very sensitive though, and the atmosphere was electric, especially since I was following a Canadian rider (Jessica Phoenix) into the ring! I knew I had to remain calm and focused, and take it just one jump at a time and not get caught up with the magnitude of the moment!”
Home soil excitement
“I felt extremely thankful to be sitting on Pavarotti today,” Canada’s silver medalist Jessica Phoenix of her 13-year-old bay Westphalian gelding (Pavarotti van de Helle x Foxiland) owned by Don J. Good of New Hamburg, Ontario. “He was absolutely amazing and I just loved every single moment!”
At 31 Phoenix has traveled the globe as a veteran of Olympic, World Equestrian, and Pan American Games competition, and the opportunity to compete on home soil was one that she relished.
“It was so awesome to be able to do that in front of the home crowd,” said Phoenix. “To be able to do this in our backyard, with all of our family and friends around, and to have all of the Canadians cheering has just been amazing! It was one of the most amazing feelings in my life.
“I am so thankful to be here with our teammates, our coaches and our support staff that is here with us,” continued Phoenix. “My groom, Sandra Andresen, did an amazing job with Pavarotti this whole weekend. We’ve had such a good, strong team. I will certainly take away a lot of memories from this experience.”
Loach also delivered a clear show jumping round for Canada riding Qorry Blue d’Argouges, an 11-year-old grey selle francais gelding sired by Mr. Blue. In her major games debut, Loach added nothing to her dressage score of 51.80 from the opening phase of competition to finish in eighth place individually.
“My horse was amazing, he tried his heart out for me,” said Loach, 32, of the horse owned by 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games competitor, Peter Barry. “He is super generous, and a very careful jumper. I’m a lucky girl to ride him.”
Of winning a medal in her first major games appearance, Loach said, “It means a lot. It’s a dream come true. The team is great, we get along really well, and it’s been a super atmosphere. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience.”
As the youngest member of the team, Roberts moved up from 34th position following dressage to 17th with a clear performance over Saturday’s cross-country phase. On Sunday, Roberts made it all the way to the end of the course before dropping a rail at the final fence with Bill Owen, an 11-year-old bay Canadian Sport Horse gelding sired by Money Talks and owned in partnership with Kelly Plitz. With a final score of 69.10, Roberts finished 17th individually in his second Pan American Games appearance.
“To be able to come home for the Pan American Games and represent Canada on the team has been wonderful,” said Roberts, 26. “I’ve been coming to the Caledon Equestrian Park for 15 years, and it’s great to see all the familiar faces and everybody rooting for the Canadians.”
As the Canadian Show Jumping Team had moved on-site to the OLG Caledon Pan Am Equestrian Park on Saturday, 10-time Olympian Ian Millar offered to walk the show jumping course with the Canadian eventing athletes before the start of Sunday’s show jumping competition.
“We had the fortunate opportunity to walk the course with Ian Millar this morning, and it rode just the way he said it would,” said Roberts, who represented Canada in the 2002 FEI Children’s Final for Show Jumping.
Given his background in jumping, Roberts has been a frequent visitor to the Park over the years, and was impressed by its expansive renovation for the Pan Am Games. “It is going to leave a really great legacy here in Caledon and it’s going to bring a lot more young people into the sport. With the indoor arena, we are going to be able to have horse shows all year round!”
The fourth member of the Canadian Eventing Team, Robinson, 29, was eliminated during Saturday’s cross-country competition and therefore not eligible to compete in the final phase of show jumping with Let It Bee, her 14-year-old dark bay German-bred gelding. As the three best scores from the four-member team are counted towards the final score, Robinson’s teammates rallied to claim the bronze medal.
Reporting: Jennifer Ward, Louise Parkes
Results – team:
GOLD – USA 133.00: RF Scandalous (Marilyn Little) 40.30, Pancho Villa (Boyd Martin) 44.30, Fernhill Fugitive (Philip Dutton) 52.40, Meadowbrooks Scarlett (Lauren Keiffer) 48.40;
SILVER – Brazil 140.70: Tom Bombadill Too (Ruy Fonseca) 42.90, Caulcourt Landline (Carlos Parro) 45.60, Lissy Mac Wayer (Jorge Marcio Carvalho) 52.20, Land Quenotte (Henrique Plombon) 55.40;
BRONZE – Canada 163.00: Let it Bee (Kathryn Robinson) 1,000, Pavarotti (Jessica phoenix) 42.10, Qorry Blue D’Argouges (Colleen Loach) 51.80, Bill Owen (Waylon Roberts) 69.10.
GOLD – RF Scandalous (Marilyn Little) USA 40.30;
SILVER – Pavarotti (Jessica Phoenix) CAN 42.10;
BRONZE – Tom Bombadill Too (Ruy Fonseca) BRA 42.90.