The Canadian Dressage Team comprised of Brittany Fraser of New Glasgow, NS, Megan Lane of Collingwood, ON, Belinda Trussell of Stouffville, ON, and Chris von Martels of Ridgetown, ON, will open the equestrian competition at the 2015 Toronto Pan American Games. Dressage competition is taking place on July 11, 12, and 14 at the OLG Caledon Pan Am Equestrian Park in Caledon, ON.
Four Canadian Dressage Team horses were presented at the horse inspection held Thursday morning, July 9, and all four were accepted. First reserve, Diane Creech of Caistor Centre, ON, also presented her mount, Robbie W, owned by Doug Leatherdale, in the event that they are needed.
Fraser, 26, is making her major games debut riding All In, a 10-year-old liver chestnut Dutch Warmblood gelding (Tango x Damiro) owned by the athlete and Marc-Andre Beaulieu.
Lane, 24, will ride Caravella, her mount at last year’s Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Normandy, France. Caravella is a 14-year-old bay Dutch Warmblood mare (Contango x Riverman) owned by the athlete and her mother, Cathy Lane.
Trussell, 43, hails from nearby Stouffville, ON, and is a veteran of major games competition, having competed at the 2004 Athens Olympics as well as at three World Equestrian Games (2002, 2010, and 2014). Her mount is the experienced Anton, a 15-year-old dark bay Sachsen-Anhaltiner gelding (Antaeus x Melit) owned by Robyn Eames and Marc Trussell.
Chris von Martels, 32, is making his major games debut with Zilverstar, an 11-year-old bay Dutch Warmblood gelding sired by Rosseau.
As the Canadian Dressage Team athlete living closest to the equestrian venue, Trussell is thrilled to be competing in front of a home crowd.
“For me, this was a really important games, I wanted to make this team very badly because it was in Toronto,” said Trussell, who is competing in her first Pan Am Games. “I’ve never competed in a major games in front of Canadians; it has always been in different countries. I’m really excited to compete in front of a home crowd. I’m looking forward to entering the stadium and feeling the atmosphere of being a Canadian competing in Canada.”
As for her equine partner, Anton, Trussell said, “He’s fresh, he’s happy, and I think he’s in the best shape of his life. My own personal goal is to have personal bests in all three tests. I want to have a personal best in the Grand Prix, a personal best in the Special, and a personal best as well in the Freestyle.”
Having competed at the Caledon Equestrian Park previously, Trussell is impressed with the dramatic transformation of the venue for the Pan American Games.
“The venue looks fantastic; the organizing committee has done a great job,” said Trussell. “It feels like a top major games. I’ve been to a few, and it feels like that. All of the other countries that I’ve spoken with are really happy as well. The footing is great, the stabling is great. It’s a beautiful venue!”
For the first time, Pan American Games dressage competition will see teams composed of both grand prix and small tour combinations. Lane and Trussell will be competing at the grand prix level for Canada, which means a ‘bonus’ of 1.5 points will be added to their scores for the two tests counting towards team results, the Grand Prix and Grand Prix Special. Fraser and von Martels will be contesting the small tour.
The first phase of competition will feature the Prix St. Georges and Grand Prix tests on Saturday, July 11, followed by the Grand Prix Special and Intermediaire I on Sunday, July 12. Team medals will be awarded at the conclusion of Sunday’s competition. A total of ten teams are represented at this Pan American Games, with an additional six riders riding as individuals. The Individual Final, featuring the popular freestyles to music, will be held on Tuesday, July 14.
“I am very excited and honoured to be a part of this team,” said Alison Martin of Vancouver, BC, who is acting as the Canadian Dressage Team chef d’equipe for the first time at a major games. “Being part of the team in your home country is so special; there is an amazing energy and vibrancy that you don’t get anywhere else. As a Canadian, you feel that the energy is all for you, and you feel extremely well supported.
“The venue is amazing, and the Caledon area is so lucky to have this investment in their community to develop equestrian sport in Ontario,” continued Martin.
Of great importance to Team Canada is the fact that only one qualifying spot is available for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, Brazil. Team USA poses the greatest threat to Canada.
“Our number one goal is the team gold, so we get that one spot to go to Rio,” stressed Martin. “We have a fighting chance. Everyone is spot-on ready. We are super strong, our attitude is positive, and we are making a good run for that gold!”
Only teams with a mixed combination of grand prix and small tour riders are eligible to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. In addition to Canada and the USA, Argentina and Mexico are also fielding mixed teams. (One of the Mexican team horses, Guapo, did not pass and has been held over for re-inspection tomorrow morning)