Defending champions from the USA were firmly in control at the top of the team and individual leaderboards as the dressage phase got underway at the 2023 Pan American Games in Quilota, Chile.
Taking the CCI4* test, it was Sharon White who took the early lead with a score of 28.2 with her 11-year-old Holsteiner taking Close 3, and then her American teammate Caroline Pumaco edged out putting 26.8 on the board with her Irish-bred yearling Eight-year-old gelding HSH Blake. But leading the final group of the day onto the track, Liz Halliday and Mixmaster C trimmed another two marks off their target score to go into tomorrow’s cross country stage at the head of affairs at 24.8.
The 44-year-old California-born described her 11-year-old son as “an enthusiastic bean, he’s got a great motor and wants to keep going! It’s a pretty electric atmosphere out there. This horse has been to Kentucky and he’s definitely noticed that,” she said after She gave a really smart performance: “I had to work on keeping him relaxed.”
The duo finished third in Kentucky this year, the biggest accomplishment of the 44-year-old racer’s career. “It was his first 5*, he’s a fantastic horse, a very exciting horse for the future. We haven’t been together for a long time so it’s really nice to be here,” Halliday said.
Looking ahead to the second stage tomorrow, she described the cross country course as “a little more complex than Kentucky! I don’t think eight minutes will take much from Mix, he’s an amazing runner, 16.2 hours, not very tall but strong and solid in his body. He has a great stride.” Makes it look great with lots of push and lift!
She singled out the Knights Bank at 20AB, near the house on the 23-fence track, as a bank that could be influential. “I jumped the Irish Banks in Ireland at Millstreet, and the step at the seventh fence is also a strange thing you’ll find there. They’re very intelligent, something most of our horses haven’t seen, and they grab your attention and make you think. There’s a lot to do on this course! ” she said.
She believes she should not be underestimated.
“This is a big championship for seniors and it’s important. When you’re on a horse with almost that experience, it makes you focus a little bit more, because the jumps are a little bit smaller – it’s still a tough track and anyone who takes it for granted is going to be absolutely ridiculous! ” she said.
The route that starts in the main plaza over the Vina del Mar clock fence before moving on to the military base’s polo field and then out through open country is the focus of everyone’s attention now. Designed by Frenchman Pierre Le Goupil and built by Dominic Moore of Great Britain from Jump1, it is colourful, smart and a lot of fun. The two men have only worked together once before, at the 2023 FEI Eventing Championships at Haras du Pin in France in early August.
“We don’t talk enough about the builders who have amazing skill and creativity,” Le Goupil said. “Six months ago I didn’t know who I was going to work with, I had an idea of what the course should be technically but the details of the fences I didn’t know because it depends on the materials you have and who will do the job. The Frenchman explained: “Dominique is creative and that was An exchange of ideas between us.” The Pan American setting in Quillota is very different from Normandy.
“Here the natural materials that we normally use are not available or they are completely different. In the end though the result is great and everyone likes the way it is built and presented. Now it must satisfy the riders and spectators tomorrow, and we will let the sport do the talking! said Le Goupil.
He explained the principles he adheres to when designing fences for riders with varying levels of PanAms experience.
“The course should provide an opportunity for everyone to finish it, but it should not be too easy. We need the first, second, third and last! Safety is the priority, but too easy is never safe.
“It has to be challenging enough so they pay attention, ask enough questions so they stay focused, and we need to keep them mentally engaged and attentive the whole way through,” he said. The optimal time is 8 minutes and 3 seconds.
Course creator Dominic Moore is delighted to be working alongside Le Goupil again, in a setting so different from the French countryside. “It’s a great experience for us to win two championships on opposite sides of the world!”
“In the Europeans we had big hills and natural woods, and when we came here we wanted to do something completely different,” he explained. His building team includes Charles Matthews and John Williams who run the Jump 1 crew in Europe, Aert Vanderjoos from Maarsbergen Horse Trials in the Netherlands, Raymond Martens who builds for Eric Winter in Argentina, Eric who came to help and Hannah Matthews who is in charge of the flowers. Many of the fences have been beautifully painted by the Coddou family who live locally. The father of the family is a former commander at the military base.
Chilean fans don’t hold back when they enjoy their sport, and when competition resumes at 11.00 tomorrow morning, there will be plenty of Latin American energy and excitement in the air.
The fourth member of the American team, Sydney Elliott who is 10th with Qc Diamantaire, will be the first out again. The United States tops the team leaderboard with a score of 79.8. Canada comes in second place With 93.5, Brazil is close at 99.9 and Mexico is in fourth place with 109.2 followed by Uruguay, Chile, Argentina and Colombia in that order.
Start lists and results here
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