The Canadian Eventing Team wrapped up the dressage phase on August 29 and is holding seventh place heading into cross country at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games 2014 in Normandy, France.
The two-day dressage phase saw a record of 91 horses representing 27 nations over two days at the incredible Le Pin National Stud venue in the Ornes region. All four of the Canadian Eventing Team riders achieved personal best dressage scores at the FEI 4* level.
After the first two Canadian riders, Peter Barry of Dunham, QC, and Jessica Phoenix of Cannington, ON took to the ring on August 28, Canada was holding eighth place. The team moved up to seventh place at the end of day two following two more strong performances by the remaining team members.
Hawley Bennett-Awad of Langley, BC went early in the day, and took over 16th place initially after completing her test aboard Gin & Juice, a 14-year-old Thoroughbred mare by Audio that Linda Paine owns in partnership with Bennett-Awad.
The test included many challenging elements, from flying lead changes to a half-pirouette to a serpentine at the canter. After a smooth, elegant performance that received many 7s from judges on individual movements, Bennett-Awad and Gin & Juice emerged with a score of 47.8 penalties to carry forward to cross country. Once all 91 horses had performed, they finished the dressage phase in 24th place individually.
“I was really, really happy with Gin & Juice,” said Bennett-Awad, who is competing in her fourth major games, and her third partnered with Gin & Juice – who was also her mount for the 2010 FEI World Equestrian Games in Kentucky, USA, where they helped bring home the Team Silver Medal. “It’s really loud when you are in the warm-up. You can hear cheering for the horse in front of you, and with my horse, that can set her off a little bit. But, she kept a lid on it today.”
Canada’s final dressage performance came from Selena O’Hanlon of Kingston, ON. Riding her 2011 Pan American Games mount, Foxwood High, an 11-year-old Canadian Sport Horse gelding by Rio Bronco W, and owned by John and Judy Rumble, she executed a precise dressage test for a score of 49.5 penalties. Once the final few riders entered the ring after O’Hanlon, she is heading into cross country in 30th place individually.
“I’m really pleased with Woody,” said O’Hanlon, who is also competing at her fourth major games. “He dealt with the atmosphere really well, and he’s been leading up to this so that he would peak at the right time and I feel like he did his very best – which is all I can ask for, really.”
Phoenix and Pavarotti (Pavarotti VD Helle x Foxiland), a 12-year-old Westphalian gelding owned by Don J. Good weren’t far behind O’Hanlon, finishing out dressage in 35th place individually. Barry and Kilrodan Abbott (Clover Brigade x Leabeg), a 15-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding heowns with Susan and Dylan Barry are currently sitting in 74th place.
The Canadian Eventing Team’s Technical Advisor, Clayton Fredericks, is pleased with the team’s performances in dressage, stating, “Dressage can always be better, but I think we’re all very pleased. We’re still a few countries away from what we want to achieve here, so it’s still work, but I’m very happy with what they’ve done so far. The attitude and morale of the team is very high.”
The cross country course is set to start on August 30 at Le Pin National Stud. Despite the possibility of compromised footing due to significant rainfall in the area this past week, the Canadian athletes are looking forward to getting out on the course, which features 42 jumping efforts spread over six kilo built over the period of two years by FEI 4* Course Designer, Pierre Michelet.
“It will be the toughest track I’ve ever done. It’s a really challenging track, and I think the footing and the hills are going to play a role in it,” explained Bennett-Awad of the course, which is over six kilometres long, and spreads across hilly terrain. “I feel very confident going out there tomorrow. I’ve been riding Gin & Juice for nine years and we have a really good relationship. There’s no other horse I’d want to be leaving the start box on. She’s my little ‘pocket rocket.'”
O’Hanlon shared Bennett-Awad’s sentiments about the level of difficulty of the course, stating, “I’m glad they took a loop out of the course because I don’t want to overdo it with Woody in terms of the footing in the hills.”
However, she too is excited for the challenge. “It’s really a course built for my horse because he has a huge stride. He likes flowing lines, whether they are straight or on a curve, and there’s no real twisty parts where I have to redirect him, so I think it will be a good course for him. I’m feeling good going into it.”
Taking the lead heading into cross country is Germany, with team rider Sandra Auffarth in first place individually with an even 35 penalty points aboard Opgun Louvo. New Zealand is in second position, while the United States Team is currently holding third.
The morning after cross country, August 31, the Eventing horses will go through a Horse Inspection at the Le Pin National Stud venue. The horses will then be loaded and transported under police escort to the D’Ornano Stadium in Caen, where the final show jumping phase will take place, as well as the Team and Individual medal ceremonies.
To review full results and get all of the latest info on the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, visit www.normandy2014.com.
Full access to information on the Canadian Equestrian Team can be found at www.equinecanada.ca/cet.
To watch live broadcasts of the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games 2014 go to the FEI TV website.
The FEI World Equestrian Games are held every four years, in the middle of the Olympic cycle. The inaugural Games were hosted in Stockholm (SWE) in 1990. Since then, the Games have been staged in The Hague (NED) in 1994, Rome (ITA) in 1998, Jerez (ESP) in 2002, Aachen (GER) in 2006, and Kentucky (USA) in 2010.