With the dust settled on dressage day at the Pan American Games here in Caledon, Ontario, the U.S. holds the lead in the team standings on a score of 130.0, followed by Canada in second on 130.7 and Brazil in third on 136.7. Ruy Fonseca and Tom Bombadill Too lead the individual standings for Brazil on 38.9, with Kathryn Robinson and Let It Bee in second for Canada on 39.8 and Marilyn Little and RF Scandalous sitting in third as the highest-placed U.S. pair on 40.3.
British-based Ruy and “Tommy,” a 15-year-old Holsteiner gelding he owns with Renata Costa, have a habit of rising to the occasion when it really counts. They delivered the best dressage test of their career last year at the World Equestrian Games in Normandy, and today they bested their score from the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara by 12 points.
“He was quite relaxed, and I think I had a nice fluid test without rushing,” Ruy said. “With these tests and having a more experienced horse, they anticipate a few things, and it’s more of how do you present the test and try to be elegant and flowing? I don’t think it’s a test that you can show as much of a difference on the paces, but you need to be accurate.”
The buzzing atmosphere in the stadium at Caledon Pan Am Equestrian Park proved to be the undoing for many horses today, but Tommy was totally unfazed. If anything, Ruy said, an atmosphere like the one the horse saw today peps him up. “To be honest, I think he grows. He feels a bit plain outside, and when he goes inside, he livens up a bit.”
Kathryn Robinson made a big statement in her Canadian team debut aboard Let It Bee, her 14-year-old Westphalian gelding with whom she was named to last year’s WEG team only to be removed due to a paperwork snafu. She said dressage hasn’t always been the strongest phase for Bee — more affectionately known as Bibbles — but hard work over a long period of time has paid off.
“He used to get quite tense in there, which is why I walked in (the stadium), and when the crowd started to clap, I just stayed in walk,” she said. “He also sticks out his tongue. I always worry about that when he gets tense. Now, with experience and time and just getting out and doing it, our partnership has grown stronger.”
Marilyn Little is leading the way for Team USA after dressage with RF Scandalous, a 10-year-old Oldenburg mare owned by Raylyn Farms and Phoebe and Michael Manders. Between the chilly rain and the eye-popping atmosphere, it certainly wasn’t “Kitty’s” favorite type of day, but she held it together beautifully on an afternoon when it really mattered.
“She’s really sensitive and a very high energy horse, and it was quite an electric atmosphere in there, so I was thrilled that she was as attentive as she was, and she put in a great effort,” Marilyn said. “I’ve been working really hard on the centerlines and the halts. On a day like this when there’s a lot of pressure, you don’t want to go for it too much.”
Defending individual gold medalists Jessica Phoenix and Pavarotti are sitting in fourth place on 42.1, and she said after the test that she was thrilled with the 13-year-old Westphalian gelding’s performance. “Pavarotti was amazing,” she said. “It’s so incredible to be here at a home Games and have a horse perform like that,” she said. “I can honestly say he enjoys it just as much now as he did four years ago.”
Boyd Martin and Pancho Villa round out the top five on a score of 44.3, which they delivered as the last pair to go knowing they needed a score of at least 44.9 to take the team lead. No pressure, right? But Boyd and the 12-year-old Selle Francais gelding owned by the Pancho Villa Syndicate nailed it despite the fact that “Pancho” wasn’t very happy in the conditions.
“He’s a bit of a spooky horse,” Boyd said. “There were a lot of umbrellas and rain coats (in warm up) that he didn’t like the look of, so that was less than ideal, but he got in the ring and did a pretty good test. … You have to ride the horse you have in there. I felt like in the extended walk he was about to jog, so I really had to be conservative.”
At the conclusion of dressage, all four of Team USA’s riders are in the top 10: Marilyn Little and RF Scandalous in third on 40.3, Boyd Martin and Pancho Villa in fifth on 44.3, and Phillip Dutton and Fernhill Fugitive and Lauren Kieffer and Meadowbrook’s Scarlett in equal eighth on 48.4. Click here to read comments from Phillip and Lauren in the lunchtime report.
Canada has three riders in the top 10: Kathryn Robinson and Let It Bee in second on 39.8, Jessica Phoenix and Pavarotti in fourth on 42.1, and Colleen Loach and Qorry Blue d’Argouges in 10th on 51.8. Waylon Roberts and Bill Owen had a tough time in the little white box this morning when the horse was quite tense, scoring 65.1 for 33rd place. Click here to read Colleen’s comments from this morning.
Brazil has a second rider in the top 10 in Carlos Paro and Calcourt Landline, who led during the lunch break on a score of 45.6 and sit in seventh place at the end of dressage. And I have to give a huge shoutout to Carlos Lobos and Ranco of Chile, who are breaking up the U.S.-Canada-Brazil monopoly at the top of the leaderboard thanks to scoring 45.3 to sit in sixth place.
I wish I could talk about every rider at these Pan American Games. This is the biggest competition many of them have ever competed in, and it’s a huge honor for them to get this far. I tried to mention as many as I could in my live updates thread, so scroll through there to learn a bit more about the riders from other countries.
Cross country starts at 11 a.m. tomorrow, and temperatures are expected to hit the 90s — a very different day from the cold and rain we’ve had today. I’ve gathered comments on the course from the Team USA and Canada riders, so stay tuned for those quotes coming your way next. In the meantime, you can check out a fence-by-fence preview of Wayne Copping’s cross country course here.