The second flight of eventers took to the dressage arena at TIEC this morning, trying to better Julia Krajewski of Germany and Chipmunk FRH’s astounding score of 19.9pp posted yesterday.
Canada’s third team members, Jessica Phoenix and the international veteran Pavarotti, had a pleasant, steady test marred only by a couple of over-exuberant changes of lead which earned them a score of 33.0pp and 50th spot at the end of the day.
“Pavarotti really had his game face on today,” said Phoenix, 34, of Uxbridge, ON. “He felt amazing in his trot work; I thought his walk was the best ever. He was really good in the canter work. He’s feeling pretty fit, so his changes didn’t quite come off the way we had worked through them. But other than that he couldn’t have been any better, it was a solid test.”
She remarked of the upcoming phases, “He’s in great health and he’s mentally so ready to go for it. We’re really looking forward to Saturday and Sunday. The course is absolutely stunning. The footing is perfect right now, the jumps are beautifully presented, there’s a ton of great questions out there. I think the terrain at the end of the course [which has been unofficially named ‘Heartbreak Hill’] is going to really set aside horses and how well prepped they are for this event.”
While on any given weekend Phoenix would normally have her hands full, juggling a number of horses at various levels at a horse trials, here she has just one mount on which to focus, which results in a little welcome downtime. Between training sessions she has been taking part in “stellar badminton games. Plus it’s just hilarious just how much time you can spend with one horse in a day. We get to five o’clock in the afternoon and we’re like ‘what did we do all day?’ We have a pretty awesome team ‒ it’s been really fun in the barns, great support staff.”
Phoenix’s fan entourage including her children, Jacob and Jordan, her husband, Joel, her mom, dad and her sister, as well as Pavarotti’s owner, Don Good, are all on hand in Tryon to cheer her on.
Last up for Canada, Selena O’Hanlon of Kingston, ON, rode what looked to be a lovely test, scoring 30.7pp and finishing in 37th place at the end of this phase.
O’Hanlon, 37, was a bit self-critical when she dissected the test afterwards, however. “The electricity got to him a little bit when everyone started cheering really loud and I could feel him getting a little tight and I wanted to use it to my benefit. It started off okay … the trot work was good .. .the half-pass I was really happy with, really forward, big steps, felt very even both ways … circles felt pretty good … canter work was good, but because he was a bit balled up he was anticipating the changes. As I came up centreline I needed to get him up before the last halt and as soon as I asked for the halt he put his head down like an ostrich. Not my best test, but we all know it’s not a dressage show.”
She continued, “I’m looking forward to hopefully one day getting him out of the double bridle and into a snaffle of some kind. In general he wants to be an uphill horse, but when you have a quieter bit in his mouth sometimes he can become a giraffe ‒ or a periscope.”
She admitted she was being a bit hard on herself. “I think Woody’s one of the best in the world so I am going to keep plugging away at it and I look forward to Badminton next year. He’s a really elegant horse, he’s got a heart of gold and I know him really well. Now I’m just nitpicking because I’ve had a taste of victory and I just want it all the time.”
Having access to other coaches at WEG has been an added bonus for O’Hanlon. “I did have a chance to have a lesson with Christilot [Boylen] and David [O’Connor] which is super, because my coaches all shout the same thing at me!”
Competition continues tomorrow on the winding, hilly three-star cross-country. O’Hanlon was relieved that the ground jury had decided not to shorten the track due to the large amounts of rainfall pushed by Hurricane Florence expected to arrive Saturday afternoon. “I was really disappointed to hear they were going to shorten it. We based our entire season on good cross-country courses.”
The Canadian Team of O’Hanlon, Phoenix, Colleen Loach/Qorry Blue d’Argouges (60th) and Lisa Marie Fergusson/Honor Me (80th) currently sits in 13th place, while Hawley Bennett-Awad, competing as an individual, is 50th with Jollybo. Germany leads the team standings, followed by Great Britain and the USA.