2015 Toronto Pan Am Games: Dressage
Hey, it`s a Canadian blog, so you`re gonna get pix of the Canadians. All of whom were legitimately excellent, and I don`t say that lightly — all four delivered tests that were the best I`d ever seen from them, especially Belinda Trussell`s Anton, who, frankly, had the best piaffe in the Games and wuz robbed of a medal, IMHO.
Dressage at the Pan Am Games has a complicated history. The Pan Ams are qualifiers for upcoming Olympic Games, and as such are hotly contested, but for the past couple of decades at least, the level of competition has been at the Prix St. Georges/Intermediare level, not the Grand Prix level demanded at the Olympics. Which means a country may qualify for the Olympics, but will probably not be sending the horses and riders who cinched the qualification, because it takes more than a year to take a ‘small tour’ horse and have him confirmed and solid at the ‘big tour’ level.
Recognizing that the standard of dressage has improved markedly in Central and South America and the Caribbean in recent years, the Powers That Be decided for the Toronto Games that countries with the resources to do so could bring up to two Grand Prix partnerships of their four that made up a team. Riders who showed at the Grand Prix level were given more weight on their results (I think it was a coefficient of 1.5) than the Prix St. Georges horses. The US, Canada, and Argentina all managed to scare up two Grand Prix horses to send to Toronto, and Mexico and Uruguay each had one GP horse. The happy result was that spectators didn’t have to sit and watch the exact same test all day, but it did make the scoring, and the qualifications for the individual medals, confusing to say the least.
There was also considerable debate as to how many competitors from each nation were allowed to move forward to the individual round, after the US took the Team gold, Canada the silver, and Brazil the bronze. The FEI issued a bunch of contradictory statements the night before, and apparently volatile Team meetings back in the barns went into the wee hours, before it was declared that each nation could send forward only three of its four qualified riders. That meant both Canada and the US had to leave one horse in the barn despite qualifying scores. Which kind of sucked, but it did ensure that spectators got to see more individual freestyles from more countries.
Have to say, the South Americans have the best music for freestyles. The North American musical selections have all gotten to be much of a muchness, due in part, I think, to the fact that there are only two or three people writing and choreographing these things for the riders. We could use a little more soca and samba and a fair bit less of the generic-movie-soundtrack type stuff.
And here’s the afore-mentioned Puerto Rican rider, Luis Denizard, and Royal Affair, in a probably-illicit snippet from their freestyle, embracing the Leonard Bernstein:
End result: The US claimed individual gold (Steffen Peters and Legolas 92, 80.075%) and silver (Laura Graves and Verdades, 79.825%), and Canadian Chris Von Martels, who had put in a spectacular freestyle with Zilverstar, hung in for the bronze (79.50%). The other two Canucks, Belinda Trussell and Brittany Fraser, tied for fourth with 76.80%. Canada didn’t qualify for the Rio Olympics with their Team silver — there was only one spot going begging and we would have had to have won gold to get it. There are still some opportunities to qualify individuals, but it’s going to take more expensive trips to Europe to do it, so may those with the deepest pockets, win.