A behind the scenes glimpse at what it takes to send and support the Canadian Equestrian Team on the road to a major games.

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Canadian, Please!

Today I had a conference call with the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC), discussing our cargo plans in getting our team horses and equipment to London and back again. And of course, the ever important negotiation of funding!

Huge props to the COC who are always terrific to work with, and really do everything they can to help our athletes and support teams taking part in the Olympic and Pan American Games.
It’s a huge job coordinating the efforts of the entire Canadian Team, across all sports, and an even bigger job trying to make Accreditations work so that the teams have the support they need for optimal performance at the Games.

The IOC’s formula when handing out Accreditations to National Olympic Committees is based on the formula of 1 support team Accred per competing athlete.
That formula works well when dealing with sports like soccer or waterpolo (where you can have upwards of 12-15 competing athletes).
It’s not so good for Equestrian once you factor in the team coach, chef d’equipe, team vet and grooms!!

While major games like the Olympics and Pan American Games really raise your patriotism, and makes you feel VERY proud to wear and represent the maple leaf, it also makes you realize the level of importance the Canadian government places on amateur sport compared to other countries.

Don’t get me wrong, I am absolutely thrilled with the tremendous strides that have been made over the past few years with the financial support from theĀ  Canadian government and also with initiatives from Own the Podium…..that has played a SIGNIFICANT role in the success of our athletes. We’re just still lagging behind other comparable developed countries and I hope that the momentum keeps building. Without sustained financial support, it’s next to impossible for our disciplines to continue the programs they have built let alone improve upon them. And without continued & growing programs, our success at the international level will be more down to luck & circumstances rather than based on a solid foundation offering opportunities to as many athletes as possible. Just take a look at this recent post by 2010 WEG Silver Medalist mom Trish Bosch on the finances required to pursue your athletic dreams on the international stage.

Ok, enough on that. I could keep talking for quite a while on that topic! Instead I’ll leave you with this fun video. After the latest “Borat/Kazakhstan” anthem gaffe that happened recently, it would be hilarious if this song was played instead of Oh, Canada. :)

Canadian Dressage Athletes Climbing the Leaderboard

Diane Creech and Devon L

Ok – I’m making a commitment to post at least once a week here leading up to the Games, and during the Games I will be making daily posts. If I make the commitment in writing, then I’m making myself accountable! :)

Lots of activity happening during the past few weeks, but in terms of organizing and also with our declared athletes.

I’ll focus this post on our Dressage Team.

The CDI 3* Loxhatchee-International Horse Sport Champions Cup was held March 22-25 in West Palm Beach, Florida (full results here), and a number of Canadian Olympic dressage hopefuls where showing off their finest in front of the judges.

Big congrats to Diane Creech and Devon L (owned by Doug Leatherdale)!
Diane scored her 4th Olympic qualifying score and now sits in 3rd place in the leaderboard standings (behind Ashley Holzer & Pop Art, and Jaqueline Brooks & D Niro).
Diane was also just named the Dressage Canada Red Scarf Equestrian Athlete of the Month for February thanks to her consistent scores with Devon L and Hallmark (also owned by Doug Leatherdale)
Go Diane!

The next big competition takes place this weekend at the Global Dressage Festival 5* in Wellington, Florida.
Watch for David Marcus, Joni Lynn Peters, Gary Vander Ploeg, Evi Strasser, Jaqueline Brooks, Victoria Winter and Ashley Holzer – hopefully I haven’t missed anyone!

Also on deck this weekend is the CDI3* Festival of the Horse taking place in California.

I know we have some Canadian athletes competing here as well, but sadly the website doesn’t provide class lists or day sheets, so I’m not sure who will be there.

Good luck to everyone in their competitive pursuits this weekend!

Day 1 of Jumping Competition – Canada in 5th

Today was the first day of show jumping competition with the Round 1 of Team and Individual.

The course itself is quite beautiful, with some very Mexican-inspired jumps including an homage to the Day of the Dead (which happens Nov. 2) and of course Tequila.

It’s a steep learning curve for me understanding how the points are calculated during the various rounds of competition. Today was based on speed, with each rail being first converted to 4 seconds added to your time. Then at the end, a formula is applied which converts everyone’s time to penalty points. The leader is award 0 points, and 2nd, 3rd, 4th etc. are then given penalty points. And this gets carried with each rider throughout the remainder of the competition. So even though Eric Lamaze (our top placed Canadian) currently sits in 11th position, the reality is that less than 1 rail separates him from the current leader. And with 4 more rounds of jumping to go before all is said and done on Saturday, it’s still very much anyone’s game.

Same is true for Canada’s current 5th place team standing. Less than 9 points separate the top 5 teams….and judging by the rounds I saw today, there were very few horse/rider combinations who looked truly comfortable on the course. So tomorrow should prove to be interesting! The final 3 medal countries may look quite different than what today’s standings are showing…and Canada is still very much in the medal hunt.

Here are some pics from today’s activities. Unfortunately I didn’t make it to the Country Club in time to catch Jill’s ride as Tina & I had to make a trip to the Village. Check out Ingate Ringmaster Extraordinaire Pedro’s outfit for today…makes me wonder what he has up his sleeve for tomorrow’s team medal finals!

Team Results

Individual Results

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And then there was one…

We’re now more than halfway through the Games, and only the Showjumpers left to strut their stuff and go for the Gold.

It was an early morning out at Club Hipica, where the Eventing team was busy packing up and loading the trailers to catch their flight. It’s amazing the number of trunks that fit into that 1 gooseneck trailer! By 8:30am, the convoy of horse trailers was on the road en route to the airport.

Once there, things moved very quickly getting the equipment and horses onto the plane. It still blows my mind how trusting horses really are, as they calmly walked from the horse trailer up the ramp into the plane where the stalls were then built around them.

2 hours later, they were taxiing down the runway and off to Florida.
I got word later in the day from Team Manager Fleur Tipton who said that they landed safely in West Palm Beach.

After leaving the airport, I then rushed to the Country Club just in time for the Jumper horse inspection. All 4 of our horses passed the jog. Tuesday will be a training session where each rider will get 90 seconds in the main arena to jump any jumps they like. Wednesday will be the first phase of both individual and team competition. Thursday will host a two round competition, after which the Team medals will be awarded. The individual medal round will then happen on Saturday.

While I was at the airport seeing the Evening horses and team off, Tina was doing “team clothing” duty and making trips back and forth to the Athletes’ Village in order to exchange some of our Jumper team’s clothing. But the afternoon was a bit calmer, and we were able to enjoy a lovely lunch at the Country Club (overlooking the fairway) with most of the Jumper team, including Mark Laskin (assistant chef d’equipe) who arrived last night.

One of the more humorous moments that happened today was when I first returned to the Country Club and was stopped from entering the stables because I had the wrong colour wristband. Seems I still had the Dressage blue wristband, but the organizers had now changed it to brown. So off to the Stewards’ office I went, but was told they couldn’t give me a wristband because I wasn’t on “the list”. I tried to explain that I’m the Team Leader, so definitely need access to the stables. The answer was “You need to ask your chef d’equipe to put you on the list.”…and pointed to Torchy Millar’s name on the list.

I have to admit, I was chuckling to myself when I replied “You don’t understand….I’m HIS boss!”.
That did the trick, and a brown wristband was immediately put on my wrist.

The Mexican Equestrian Federation is graciously hosting a welcome reception tonight, and just about all of our team members have gone out to attend the festivities.

Tomorrow should be a fairly quiet day as it’s a training day…and I’m very hopeful that Tina and I will be able to finally visit the historic part of Guadalajara…and maybe even go sightseeing on Thursday!

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Gold and Silver for Eventing!!!

The last few days have been almost a complete blur, and sadly the blogging has been sorely lacking. I’ll do my best to catch up on the last few days, but right now I want to talk about today.

I have to say I have found it a challenge dealing with 2 separate venues which are about 40 mins – 1 hour from each other, depending on the traffic. When I am at one, it feels like I am neglecting the other.

Today got off to a somewhat dubious start when I ran out of shampoo to wash my hair (while in the shower), and found out first hand the disadvantages of a hotel having the shower gel and mouthwash be the exact same colour. I was wondering why the shower gel was extremely runny when I poured some on myself in the shower…then the minty smell hit me :-)
It could have been much worse…..I could have been standing at the sink after brushing my teeth with a mouthful of bubbles.

Tina and I started our work day with a quick visit to the Country Club to check on the Jumpers. All is good there, with Team Vet Sylvie Surprenant saying that the horses actually are feeling a bit frisky during their light schooling sessions. All systems go! Tomorrow is the Jumper jog at noon, and I’m hoping to make it back from the airport in time (Eventing horses head home tomorrow am)

We then made our way out to Club Hipica for Eventing’s stadium round, with EC President Mike Gallagher, EC CEO Akaash Maharaj, 2015 Equestrian venue owner Craig Collins and his colleague Jimmy Weir, to cheer on Canada.

It was a gorgeous day for a horse show, and our Canadians did us proud! They rode away with Team Silver, with James Atkinson, Rebecca Howard and Jessica Phoenix all going through to the final individual round.

It was a much trickier course for this round, with riders having to make some aggressive turns within a short time frame. Our guys looked incredible!! And it was a real nail biter when Jessica came in as the last to ride. But if she was feeling any kind of pressure, it sure didn’t show. She layed down a clean round to grab the Gold with Hannah Sue Burnett grabbing Silver and Buck Davidson winning Bronze.

What was even nicer than seeing Jessica’s huge smile was seeing how excited and proud her horse owner Don Good was.

I was very honored to be invited to Eventing’s celebratory dinner tonight. There must have been at least 40 people there….a huge long table outside by the pool. Team Coach David O’Connor gave quite a passionate speech, thanking the riders, grooms, owners, and all of the support team who make everything possible.

Chef d’Equipe Graeme Thom also gave a great speech, and it really struck me just what a great team Eventing really has which I firmly believe is a huge contributing factor to the consistent success over the past few years. I absolutely can’t wait for them to take London by storm next year!

But the dinner highlight had to be the entire team jumping into the pool fully clothed….including DOC himself. Now that’s what I call team spirit. And no…sadly I did not have my camera with me.

It’s another early morning tomorrow. I’ll be heading out to Club Hipica to be there while Eventing loads up the equipment and horses for the trip to the airport. It will be yet another plane ride back home full of Gold, Silver and Bronze medals between Canada and our American friends.

I really wish I could figure out how to add captions to the photos….and I can’t believe my batteries ran out just when Jessica was about to ride her gold medal round!!!.

Don’t forget to check out Tina’s blog for more photos
http://dunkiddin.tumblr.com/

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