Mill Spring, NC – The Canadian Show Jumping Team rode to a provisional standing of 12th following the first round of team competition on Sept. 19, 2018 at the FEI World Equestrian Games™ Tryon 2018 (WEG) in Mill Spring, NC.
Veterans, Mario Deslauriers of New York, NY and Eric Lamaze of Wellington, FL were joined by up-and-comers, Kara Chad of Millarville, AB and Erynn Ballard of Tottenham, ON, and together they earned a team total of 11.89.
The opening day of show jumping also represented the first individual competition, and was held as a speed class with faults converted to added time. As per championship scoring, times were then converted into points with the fastest individual being awarded a perfect score of zero, and penalties applied to represent the difference in time between the leading athlete and each of the horse-rider combinations in the large field of 124.
Switzerland has a provisional hold on the top of the leaderboard with a team score of 2.64 penalties. The Netherlands is nipping at their heels in second on 4.35, while Brazil is currently third with 6.42. Individually, Switzerland’s Steve Guerdat has the individual lead aboard Bianca.
Leading the team on day one was 2008 Olympic Champion, Lamaze, aboard Chacco Kid (Chacco Blue x Come On), a 12-year-old Oldenburg gelding owned by the Chacco Kid Group. Although Lamaze, 51, is competing in his seventh consecutive WEG, Tryon marks the first major games for Chacco Kid. Together they tackled the technical track set by FEI 4* Jumping Course Designer, Alan Wade of Ireland, which featured 14 jumps and 17 efforts and asked riders to choose between options at two spots on course.
“The course was brilliant, and my round started very well,” said Lamaze, who was working on a fast and clear round until a heartbreaker rail at the very last fence on course. “I jumped the first two just as I wanted, and I’m very happy with the double and the liverpool. Chacco Kid never looks at anything, but he looked at (the second-to-last fence), which completely took me by surprise, and we just lost a little bit of scope to get across the last oxer.”
Individually, Lamaze is holding 27th place on a score of 3.01 penalties. Looking forward to the second round of team competition, he said, “The next round is a different round altogether. This was a speed round, but for the next one you go back to a normal format for show jumping. Anything can happen, and we’ll fight all the way and see what happens.”
Ballard, who celebrated her 38th birthday on Sept. 13, made her major games debut as the pathfinder for the team, heading out on course aboard Darko’s Promise, a 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding owned by Ilan Ferder. Like Lamaze, she set a fast pace, but lowered one rail in a combination early in the round to add on four seconds and close out the day in 33rd on 3.40 penalties.
“I made a mistake at 3a, but I did the rest of my job and I stayed fast, so it’s a good score for me and a great way to start for the team,” said Ballard, who has only been riding Darko’s Promise since May 2018, but has already achieved impressive results, including a top three finish at the CSI 5* Spruce Meadows ‘Pan American’ Tournament in Calgary, AB in July. “I think it’s unusual to get a horse in May and come to a championship in September, but it’s also a little bit my style, so it’s not unusual for me. I have great faith in this horse. He wants to do it, I want to do it, so I wouldn’t wish to be on any other horse right now.”
Speaking to her experience so far at her debut WEG, Ballard said, “I feel very good about this. I’ve been to Tryon before, so I feel like I’m in my comfort zone, and I’m lucky that my first championship is in North America. I feel good about my horse, I feel good about my team, so it’s very exciting.”
Chad, 22, also had an impressive major games debut, contributing a score of 5.48 to the Canadian team. Riding Carona (Untouchable x Silverstone), an 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare owned by Lamaze’s Torrey Pines Stable, she too had just one rail down at the ‘b’ element of a double combination at fence 11 that proved to fall from the cups often throughout the day.
“I was a bit more conservative than I wanted to be, but I think that comes with nerves a little bit, since it’s my first championship,” explained Chad, who despite her young age has already racked up team experience, leading Canada to victory in her debut nations cup in Coapexpan, MEX in 2014, and travelling to the 2016 Rio Olympics as the reserve rider. “I thought my horse jumped amazing, I just needed to power up a little more coming into (the double at fence 11). Riding is a huge mental sport, but my horse is unbelievable and I can trust her 100 per cent.”
Chad also spoke to how grateful she is for the team around her at her inaugural games, stating, “I’ve been working and riding for Eric Lamaze for two years now. He’s given me unbelievable opportunities and I have him to thank for being here. We have a great Canadian team here, and also my home team, Team Torrey Pines, so I am feeling supported from all ends.”
As a two-time Canadian Olympian and the current record holder for the youngest rider to win the FEI World Cup Final at 19, Deslauriers, now 53, is no stranger to major games. However, WEG 2018 does represent a new chapter for the Bromont, QC native, who has lived in New York for many years with his wife and daughter, and spent eight years riding for the United States before returning to the Canadian Show Jumping Team in 2017.
Deslauriers came to WEG 2018 with Bardolina 2 (Clarimo x Landos), a Holsteiner mare owned by Wishing Well Farm LLC with proven talent, yet minimal experience on the world stage at just nine years of age. Unfortunately, Deslauriers had an unlucky jump 13 after Bardolina 2 had a moment of greenness in the ring, resulting in the need for a circle that counted as a refusal, followed by a rail at the final jump for a total of 8.47 penalties.
“She got away from me a little bit at the end of the course with her big stride,” explained Deslauriers, who has been partnered with Bardolina 2 for two years with much success, including a big win in the $385,000 Pan American Cup, presented by Rolex at CSI 5* Spruce Meadows this past July. “She’s green, but I think there is a big future in this horse. She did the rest of today’s course so easily, she just needs to get experience. She is definitely a prospect for Tokyo.”
The Canadian Show Jumping Team will return to the U.S. Trust Arena on Sept. 20 for the second team competition, which will see all 25 teams compete. From there, the top 10 teams and 60 best-placed individuals will move forward to the Team Final on Sept. 21. The individual medals will be decided on Sept. 23 with a two-round showdown. The top 25 will compete in Round A, with only 12 invited forward to Round B.
In addition to jumping, Canada will also have athletes competing in vaulting on Sept. 20.