The Canadian Eventing Team closed out the eventing portion of the FEI World Equestrian Games™ Tryon 2018 (WEG) in Mill Spring, NC on Sept. 17, 2018 by holding on to their 11th place standing following the final show jumping phase.
Great Britain claimed gold on a team total of 88.80 penalties, with Ireland in the silver medal position on 93.0, and France securing bronze with 99.80. Rosalind Canter of Great Britain took individual gold on a score of 24.60 penalties aboard Allstar B. Ireland’s Padraig McCarthy earned silver with Mr. Chunky (27.20), while Ingrid Klimke (GER), the leader following cross-country, settled for bronze on 27.30 after having the very last rail down on the show jumping course with SAP Hale Bob OLD.
The Canadian Eventing Team, comprised of Lisa Marie Fergusson of Langley, BC, Colleen Loach of Dunham, QC, Selena O’Hanlon of Kingston, ON and Jessica Phoenix of Cannington, ON, first took over 11th place after three clear jumping performances in the cross-country phase on Sept. 15.
Following an unexpected day off due to heavy rains in the Tryon area on Sept. 16, Fergusson, Loach and O’Hanlon returned to competition in the U.S. Trust Arena. Unfortunately, Phoenix’s WEG 2018 experience ended during the cross-country phase after a fall in the latter half of the course. Although a fall from the horse results in automatic elimination, neither Phoenix, 34, nor Pavarotti (Pavarotti van de Helle x Foxiland), her 16-year-old Westphalian gelding, sustained any injuries.
The task at hand in the show jumping phase was to complete 13 jumps and 16 efforts – set by FEI 4* Jumping Course Designer, Alan Wade of Ireland – within the time allowed of 89 seconds. Anchor rider, O’Hanlon, 37, led the Canadian team as the top-placed individual through all three phases and ultimately finished 27th aboard her veteran partner, Foxwood High (“Woody”), a 15-year-old Canadian Sport Horse gelding sired by Rio Bronco W and owned by John and Judy Rumble. In show jumping, she was the only Canuck to leave all the poles in the cups, adding just three time penalties for a final score of 41.70 penalties.
“It’s too bad about the three time faults, but I’ll take it,” said O’Hanlon, who was attending her third consecutive WEG, having helped the Canadian Eventing team to a silver medal in 2010. “I tried my best to get the time, but I really went in there to go clear (jumping). There were one or two verticals where I really had to take a chance and sit Woody on his butt, because those are our nemesis, and it paid off.”
O’Hanlon also called on Foxwood High at WEG 2014. She spoke to the progression of their partnership over the years, stating, “He’s just gotten stronger with time and age. I started riding him when he was about seven, and I think he needed to work on muscling up the right areas. Each year he gets quicker to fit up, and I think we’ve got a handle on what to do for his fitness. We have learned how often to jump to keep him fresh, and that sort of thing.”
“Also, when the dressage gets better, everything improves,” said O’Hanlon, who has been working with Canadian Olympic dressage athlete, Christilot Boylen, for the past few years to sharpen her dressage performances. She has also worked with Jonathon Millar, son of 10-time Canadian Olympian Ian Millar, to fine tune her show jumping.
Fergusson, 36, closed out her inaugural major games for the Canadian Equestrian Team in 40th place on a score of 56.60 penalties with Honor Me, her 12-year-old Welsh Sport Horse gelding, sired by Brynarian Brenin. Her performance over the three days of competition was highlighted by a strong cross-country effort and just two jumps lowered at some of the trickiest parts of the show jumping course – a vertical off a broken line at fence eight, and the penultimate triple combination, where she lowered the ‘b’ element.
“I knew show jumping wouldn’t necessary be Honor Me’s strongest phase, but I thought he jumped well; he was really good and I’m really pleased with him,” said Fergusson, who leapt an impressive 40 spots up the leaderboard between the initial dressage phase and her final show jumping performance. “Eventing is always a work in progress. He’s really great at cross-country, now we just have to tweak the other two phases a bit.”
Speaking to her inaugural WEG experience, Fergusson continued, “It’s been amazing. You never get to go to a horse show and not worry about anything but riding like you get to do on a team. It’s so fantastic, we have an amazing team of girls here this week, so it’s been so much fun.”
Loach, 35, wrapped up her third consecutive major games (having also represented Canada at the 2015 Pan American Games and the 2016 Rio Olympics) in 47th place on a final score of 60.40 penalties with Qorry Blue d’Argouges, a 14-year-old Selle Français gelding sired by Mr. Blue and owned by fellow Canadian Olympian, Peter Barry.
“He’s such a good jumper, I just lost my rhythm,” said Loach of her show jumping round. “From a horse-and-rider standpoint, I think we’ve had a great experience here and everything’s been great. The course was great, the stables are great, I really have no complaints.”
A veteran rider for the Canadian Eventing Team, two-time Olympian, Bennett-Awad, 41, piloted Jollybo to her first major championship, finishing in 50th place on a final score of 63.50.
“She got a little nervous in there. She is still young at this level,” said Bennett-Awad of Jollybo (Jumbo x Danzig Connection), a 14-year-old British Sport Horse mare she co-owns with the Jollybo Syndicate LLC. “Everything is a learning experience. She handled the dressage well, and she didn’t put a foot wrong cross-country. With the show jumping, we just need to practice; that’s her hardest phase. She is brave and bold, she just needs a little more mileage in the show jumping, but we’ll get it.”
Speaking to the Canadian Eventing Team and their time at WEG 2018, O’Hanlon concluded, “The team has been super. I’ve been on teams with most of the riders, and Lisa Marie was a great addition. They all have quite young horses for the future. I am excited for the Pan American Games and Tokyo.”
With the eventing portion now complete, the next Canadian Equestrian Team disciplines to get underway at WEG 2018 will be para-dressage and vaulting on Sept. 18. Show jumping will be added to the mix starting Sept. 19. For the full schedule, live results and more info visit https://tryon2018.com.