The second week of competition at the FEI World Equestrian Games™ Tryon 2018 (WEG) got underway on Sept. 18, 2018, with the Canadian Vaulting Team challenging the Individual and Squad Compulsories in Mill Spring, NC.
Team Canada in Top-10 Position After Squad Compulsory Test
The compulsory tests consisted of eight required movements, including a vault on, flag, mill, scissors, and stands. In their second-ever appearance in the WEG Squad Competition, Team Canada made a statement with an eighth-place finish earned by teammates:
Alexandra Ballance, 22, of Qualicum Beach, BC;
Jessica Bentzen, 27, of Parksville, BC;
Jaydee Fluet, 11, of Sundre, BC;
Alisa Schmidt, 32, of Chilliwack, BC;
Kate Thomas, 21, of Lantzville, BC; and,
Korynn Weber, 21, of Nelson, BC.
The squad performed on a new mount, an 11-year-old Friesian-cross gelding named Charles who is owned and lunged by Saacha DeAmborossio of Bothell, WA. Despite the challenges of performing with a horse they have only trained with since the end of August, each of the six team members successfully completed the set of compulsory movements for a total score of 6.325.
Switzerland is sitting in first place with their horse, Rayo de la Luz, on a score of 7.979. Currently in second is Team Germany with Danny Boy Old (7.794), followed by Austria and Alessio L’Amabile in third (7.355).
“I think that was one of our best compulsory runs we’ve done all season,” said Weber of Team Canada’s test. “We represented Canada at the World Championships in 2016, and now we’ve come back together with a couple of the same core members in 2018 (Ballance, Bentzen and team reserve, Averill Saunders). We feel that we’re a step up from what we presented to the world in 2016 and we’d like to show the world what Canada can be.”
Thomas added, “It’s been super awesome to be here with all of our teammates who we’ve spent the whole season with. It’s been really great to have the whole family here together doing what we love to do.”
Jessica Bentzen Sitting Just Shy of Top 15 in Individual Female Competition
A few hours later, Bentzen returned to the circle to tackle the Individual Female Compulsory on Hugo, Deborah Bentzen’s 13-year-old Belgian/Saddlebred-cross gelding, with teammate Weber in the role of lunger. Having represented the maple leaf at the 2016 FEI World Vaulting Championships in Le Mans, FRA, Bentzen’s experience resulted in a commendable score of 7.206. She sits just shy of the top 15 in 18th place moving into the Freestyle on Sept. 19.
Katharina Luschin (AUT) currently holds first place in the division, scoring 8.506 with Fairytale. Germany’s Kristina Boe and Don de la Mar are in second with a score of 8.347, and Austria also occupies third place with Daniela Fritz and Fairytale on a score of 8.294.
“Overall, I’m really happy score-wise, place-wise, and my horse was awesome,” said Bentzen. “Specifically, my weaknesses have been in my mount and flight exercises, so I’ve honestly done flights every single day for the last 12 months. It’s hard – you get them exactly where you want them at home, but to get them in the ring is a struggle, so I’m really happy with where they were today.”
Bentzen was followed on the leaderboard by Jeanine van der Sluijs, 31, of Olds, AB, with a score of 6.513. Her performance with Habakkuk, an 18-year-old American Warmblood gelding owned and lunged by Karin Schmidt of Tottenham, ON, puts van der Sluijs in an initial placing of 23rd halfway through round one of competition.
“I’m just super excited to be at WEG; it really is an honour to be able to represent Canada,” said van der Sluijs, who competed in all three divisions (Individual, Pas-de-Deux and Squad) at WEG 2014, placing 10th in the Pas-de-Deux and Squad Competitions. “I’ve only been training on Habakkuk for a few weeks, so we’re a new partnership. He had to step in for my original horse that I was planning to compete on, so I had a little bit of an adjustment to compete with him. I think we make a really good team and he did a really good job for me.”
Looking forward to the Freestyle, Bentzen added, “It’s not as scary in there as it seems when you’re standing at the edge. I think going into the Freestyle, it’s going to be really good mentally to remember that by the time you touch the handles, you’re just doing the same thing you do every day.”
Todd Griffiths Makes Fourth WEG Appearance
WEG veteran (2006, 2010 and 2014), Todd Griffiths, 38, of Magrath, AB represented Canada in the Individual Male Compulsory partnered with Lunar Eclipse, a 10-year-old American Warmblood mare (sired by Company Commander), owned and lunged by Kimberly Wellmann of Lubbock, TX. Together, they scored 6.960 for 19th place.
Currently, Germany maintains the lead with Thomas Brüsewitz and Danny Boy Old in first (8.480), and Jannik Heiland and Dark Beluga in second (8.468). France’s Lambert Leclezio and Poivre Vert round out third place with a score of 8.440.
“Compulsories have been a challenge for me this year because I have a torn rotator cuff, so I haven’t been able to train some of the exercises,” explained Griffiths, who earned top-10 finishes for Canada in the Squad Competition and Pas-de-Deux at WEG 2014. “The first half of scissors went poorly, but the rest of them I got higher scores than I usually get and my overall score is the highest I’ve gotten at a WEG. That was really exciting, to set a personal best score in what isn’t my personal best test, so I’m set up well to go into the Freestyle.”
Griffiths added, “One of the things I think was particularly special this time was my team that was with me along the way. I know no matter what, my lunger’s got my back and my horse is there for me, so that’s just awesome.”
The first round for individuals will conclude with a Freestyle on Sept. 19. From there, the top 15 will be invited forward into a second round, featuring a technical test on Sept. 20 and an additional Freestyle on Sept. 22 that will decide the individual medals. Next up for the squad will be the Nations Team Freestyle on Sept. 19 to conclude the first round. The top 15 squads will then have a second opportunity to perform custom choreography set to music during the fan-favourite Freestyle final for team medals on Sept. 22.
Canadian Equestrian Team (CET) athletes will also compete in the disciplines of jumping and para-dressage on Sept. 19. For the full schedule, live results and more info visit https://tryon2018.com.