Pan American Riders Reflect on a Memorable Weekend

Members of the U.S., Canadian, Brazilian and Mexican teams graciously took a few moments to chat about their initial reactions to what was surely a weekend no one will soon forget at the Pan American Games.

Marilyn Little and RF Scandalous. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Marilyn Little and RF Scandalous. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Marilyn Little

“Nothing really compares to a day like this. It’s my first major games and this day is indescribable. It’s a very exciting for all of us. (RF Scandalous) was everything that I hoped she would be and that we know she can be. She’s a very, very special horse. She shows up for work and she loves all three days. She truly wants to be great at it. She was exceptional this weekend and I’m so proud of her.”

“David (O’Connor) has had a huge role in (RF Scandalous) getting ready — just channeling it all into the right direction so that she becomes a competitor and not just a great horse. She’s a wonderful partner. I can’t wait to see where the next few years go.”

“We came here with several goals in mind. Obviously, one was to qualify for Rio and also to represent our country to the best of our ability. I couldn’t ask for a better team. It was a wonderful experience. There was a wonderful sense of camaraderie, and I’m glad we could all do this together. At the moment I’m just really enjoying this day, and I’m really happy.”

“You think of all of the people and all of the horses behind you who made it possible. There’s a million people and a million horses and a wonderful team who has made it possible. I’m grateful for the opportunity, and I’m grateful to all of the people who made it possible — this is a team sport.”

On the pressure of being last to show jump today after Phillip Dutton had one rail down: “I tried to put (going last and Phillip’s rail) out of my mind. I enjoy going last, I enjoy the pressure.”

On what’s next for Raylyn Farms and Phoebe and Michael Manders’ RF Scandalous: “I’m really excited to move her up to the three-star level. I am looking to move her up, she is certainly ready for that. She’s had some three-star type courses, one of which was the Pan Am Prep Trials at Great Meadow, and she’s ready to move up in the fall.”

On her path from show jumping to eventing: “I had a pretty good imagination (in thinking I would be here)! In my wildest dreams, yes, I wanted to be here. When I started doing this, I wanted to get here. Six years ago, I would never have imagined that I would be sitting here. I have no idea where I’ll be in six years, but this is a very important day, and I will carry this day with me for the rest of my life.”

“Just as you have eventing horses, show jumping horses and dressage horses, at the end of the day a good horse is a good horse, and a great sport is a great sport. The feeling is very different in the preparation, but the result and your goal is the same. You train just as hard; it’s a culmination of all of the work, and regardless of whether I’ve been in show jumping or eventing, the horses work just as hard for you. The feeling is the same.”

Boyd Martin won his very first medal today. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Boyd Martin won his very first medal today. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Boyd Martin

“I’ve been in this for the last 20 years, and I’ve never got a medal. This is my first medal, and we had to fight for it pretty hard, but I’ve got to say it’s a very rewarding feeling because I’ve been trying for this for a very long time, and I’ve finally got it.”

“I think deep down I knew we would qualify for Rio just because of our world rankings, but whenever you get picked for an American team, you have to come up with your absolute personal best. I think America’s been in the dark a little bit the last couple of outings, so I’m proud to be a part of a winning team.”

“It’s comforting for me because we’ve got David O’Connor, who’s a wonderful coach and manager, and Phillip (Dutton), who I like to call the Eventing Messiah. David thinks about these sort of things 12 months of the year, and Phillip’s my mentor and coach and walks the course with me at the horse trials. It’s an easy day for me because it’s just another day at the horse show.”

“I think Team USA has the best support system with (USEF Eventing Managing Director) Joanie Morris, (veterinarian) Susan Jones, (farrier) Steve Teichman and (David O’Connor) as the coach. And then Phillip as the Eventing Jesus is the captain of the team, so it’s pretty easy to be a member of the team.”

On The Pancho Villa Syndicate’s Pancho Villa’s show jumping performance: “I’m on a very good jumper (with) Pancho Villa. He felt fresh this morning, and he warmed up good and jumped around pretty well. He’s a three-star horse, so I thought he should jump clear.”

USA! USA! USA! Photo by Jenni Autry.

Boyd Martin has dubbed Phillip Dutton the “Eventing Messiah.” Has a nice ring to it. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Phillip Dutton

“Obviously, we wanted to come here to win, and that’s what happened. It’s been a bit of a tough road for American eventing, and I think that everybody stuck to the principles of trying to get better and trying to improve the sport and get better horses and for the riders to ride better. I would like to think it’s all starting to pay off. This is one small step to where we want to go, but I think it’s really exciting.”

“It’s a credit to David (O’Connor) and to everyone else who has put their time in and for the riders that have really supported it and tried to grow the sport to try to get us back to the top of the world. David has pulled together a great support crew, and there’s a lot of good horses and riders still at home. I think it’s an exciting time for the sport. It’s fair to say we’re all a bit behind the Europeans, but also we’re catching up.”

On pulling a rail as the first out for the U.S. today with Tom Tierney and Annie Jones’ Fernhill Fugitive: “I think he was a little quiet in the air. I came down (to the second fence) in an easy six, and he didn’t hit it very hard, but it did come down, unfortunately. It was fortunate we didn’t need that (final score), but the rest of his round was good.”

Lauren Kieffer and Meadowbrook's Scarlett. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Lauren Kieffer and Meadowbrook’s Scarlett. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Lauren Kieffer

“It was great (to be on the podium for the first time) — hopefully I can keep doing it. I’ve been mentally preparing for this for awhile. It’s obviously been a dream for a long time, so I was just happy to pull it off and be up there. With Boyd and Phillip, it’s a great balance of newbies and experience. It was an honor to be up there.”

“(Meadowbrook’s Scarlett) finished on her dressage score. She put in the right test on Friday and couldn’t have been any better yesterday and couldn’t have been any better today. She was pretty excited and though that everyone was here to see her!”

On the next step for Marie Le Menestrel’s Meadowbrook’s Scarlett: “She’s going to get a nice vacation. She loves vacation, so she’ll get her shoes pulled off and hang out in the field for a month. She’s young, so I don’t want to overrun her, but she was also fired up today, so it didn’t seem like it took a lot out of her.”

On having an abundance of mares in her barn: “There’s a lot of estrogen in my barn! (Mares) have got a whole lot of fight in them when it comes down to it. They very much think for themselves and that can come to your advantage. They can kind of stay ahead of the game for you.”

U.S. Chef d’Equipe David O’Connor

“We wanted to change some things when we started — attitude and the belief, the belief from the riders, from the public and from the eventing community as a whole. To have these guys perform the way they did this weekend — it was great camaraderie. Everybody from the staff behind the scenes — grooms, vets and farriers — really showed an exceptional effort and it shows that a system like this is best built on belief and a huge respect for each other.”

On going forward to Rio: “I think our system is getting some momentum and getting some belief, and hopefully that will roll on to future candidates. We were here to do a couple of things. We were coming here to really let these guys prove what they can do. We all know they can do it; we’ve seen great performances. It was a joy to watch that.”

Jessica Phoenix. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Jessica Phoenix. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Jessica Phoenix

“For Pavarotti to go in and have the round that he did in front of our hometown crowd was amazing, and walking away with any medal was awesome. He’s a horse of a lifetime; he’s such a competitor in all three phases. He definitely knows what day is which phase, and he comes to compete every day. I’m thankful to have the ride on him.”

“I’m so thankful that I could be here on this team at the Toronto Pan Am Games. To do this in front of your hometown crowd is incredible. It’s been amazing to come and showcase our sport here and have the fans that we have and have this team of people. We’re really looking forward to (Rio).”

On bringing Don Good’s Pavarotti, who has four-star experience, to Toronto: “I think having Pavarotti at the (World Equestrian Games) last year and bringing him to the Pan American Games was the best thing we could have done for him. It just brought him to a level of relaxation. Even walking out of the arena in the dressage phase, he was just hanging out. I think it’s been a really good weekend for him, and I think it will set him up well for next year.”

On her injury at Jersey Fresh and the recovery process: “I’m really sound! I feel really well.”

Waylon Roberts and Bill Owen. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Waylon Roberts and Bill Owen. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Waylon Roberts

“I’ve come home to this venue and to this Pan Am Games, and it’s a wonderful feeling to have this support and this crowd. I think we’ve done Canada proud today.”

Daniela Moguel and Cecelia. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Daniela Moguel and Cecelia. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Daniela Moguel of Mexico, 12th place

“Cross country was wonderful. I have a super nice mare, a great coach, and I’m starting to get there. I’m very happy and very proud of my team. I just feel great; it was a beautiful finish.”

“(The hard work) was endless. Of course, there’s a lot of people behind this — a lot of time, a lot of money, a lot of effort and a lot of things that you have to put aside and just keep going. I just want to say thank you to everybody that I’m able to be here.”

“(Karen O’Connor) is the best coach in the world. There’s no one better. We can trust her with anything. She has all the experience, all the knowledge — what more could we ask for?”

Daniela Moguel and Karen O'Connor. Photo via EN's Instagram.

Daniela Moguel and Karen O’Connor. Photo via EN’s Instagram.

Team Mexico Coach Karen O’Connor

“I think that it’s been a wonderful weekend for them. Of course, (Daniela) is very high in the standings, and her whole country is behind her. Our other two riders rode beautifully, and they have had their personal bests at this level. We made mistakes yesterday, and we are learning from those mistakes.”

“You know, there is a very fine line between winning and not winning, and you’re going to see that this afternoon (in show jumping). It’s slivers of moments. As Al Pacino said, the moments are all around you. The inches are everywhere, and you just have to minimize the inches. For sure we are on a great program. I hope that it has a tremendous amount of longevity so that they will be become very competitive on the world stage very very soon.”

Jessica Phoenix and Pavarotti win individual silver, Marilyn Little wins individual gold, and Ruy Fonseca wins individual bronze. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Jessica Phoenix and Pavarotti win individual silver, Marilyn Little wins individual gold, and Ruy Fonseca wins individual bronze. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Ruy Fonseca (BRA)

“I had a very good round. After Rolex Kentucky, we had a bit of a downside in (show jumping). He got a little bit scared, and he just improved. The whole season this year, this is his second rail down. I’ve jumped about 10 competitions, and I had only two rails for the first six months, which is pretty good.”

“It was a shame to have the last fence down, but this is a beautiful sport. I need to see the video to see what I could have done better, but it’s not the time to say to myself what I could have done better. I’m very happy with the individual medal, and we’re really looking forward to Rio next year.”

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