Canada Survives Brutal Cross-Country Day

Jessica Phoenix and Pavarotti. Photo by Jenni Autry. Jessica Phoenix and Pavarotti. Photo by Jenni Autry.

When Peter Barry set out on course at 10:24 a.m. local time on Kilrodan Abbott, he just wanted to make it through the finish flags. Of the six riders who’d gone before him, there were two retirements, one elimination, one 60-faulter and a sole clear round from Australia’s Sam Griffiths and his 2014 Badminton-winning mare Paulank Brockagh. No pressure, Peter.

His objective, he explained when we caught up with him after coming off course, was simply to show his team that it could be done so they could head out of the startbox with confidence. Peter and his big-hearted Irish Sport Horse gelding accomplished what they set out to do, calling upon every ounce of their partnership to pocket just 20 jumping penalties and a chunk of time.


Peter celebrates his successful go through the third water, which was the end of the road for many riders. Via FEI TV.

At the end of the day their score set them in 49th place but, as less-lucky riders before and after him came to find out, sometimes finishing is an accomplishment in and of itself.

Next out was Jessica Phoenix on Pavarotti, the alternate she subbed in when A Little Romance suffered an injury in her final gallop prior to shipping out to France. Since Jessie withdrew Pavarotti after dressage at Rolex this year, it would be his first attempt at four-star level cross-country. And while of course there are no “move-up” four-star courses, debuting as part of a team on the world stage is perhaps not the most ideal situation — especially considering the additional challenges that today’s course posted. Thankfully, Jessie and her horses have a history of rising to the occasion.

“I think for a horse’s first four-star this was a serious question,” Jessie says. “When we walked it we were thinking this is, like, a four-and-a-half or five-star event. Pavarotti is more the horse that just takes the bit and is like ‘Grrrr, let me at it’ even if it might be a little above his level. I think A Little Romance is more of a lady — she’s a little bit smarter than the boys. So I think given the conditions and the way the course rode, you know, everything happens for a reason. I’m sorry I couldn’t be here on A Little Romance but with Pavarotti as my backup, I’m a lucky, lucky girl.”

A spectator with Canadian pride! Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Canadian pride! Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Jessie and Pavarotti made short work of Pierre Michelet’s course, which she described as “beautiful.” She and Pavarotti had an opportunity to preview the lay of the land last year when they participated in the test event. “It was a forward, galloping, bold, safe … it never felt trappy and it just really rewarded good, forward, positive riding,” she says. “It was so well suited to my horse — I couldn’t have picked a better course for him.”

Thankfully Pavarotti’s fitness proved to be on par with the challenge. They finished with 33.6 time penalties, which was in line with the dozens of time penalties other riders were racking up. Still, she says she was relieved when officials cut out a one-minute loop late in the course to help compensate for the heavy, tiring footing.

“I think that 11-and-a-half minutes would have just exhausted these horses,” she says. “I think it would have been almost unattainable if they had left it in.” At one point, she says Pavarotti’s legs turned to jelly a bit, but that he caught a second wind and took off again with ears pricked.

“I could just cry, that horse is so incredible,” she says, looking a little teary-eyed as she says it. “He is mature beyond his years and, oh man, I’m just so excited for his future.”

Selena O'Hanlon

Selena O’Hanlon and Foxwood High heading to the startbox with Canadian coach Clayton Fredericks. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Jessie and Pavarotti are Team Canada’s top-placed pair heading into the show jumping. Selena O’Hanlon and Foxwood High picked up 20 jumping penalties and 39.6 time for an overnight position of 43rd. Hawley Bennett and Gin & Juice weren’t quite their usual cross-country machine selves.  A sticky moment followed by a lengthy hold on course snowballed into eventual elimination.

Only eight teams remain intact in the wake of today’s cross-country carnage, and Canada is one of them. They’ll head into show jumping placed seventh in the standings.

As Jenni pointed out yesterday, Canada has some serious WEG mojo in its court and a 2010 team silver medal to defend, and here at EN we’ll be flying our #CamericanPride flag high tomorrow at WEG eventing’s grand finale. The jog takes place here at Haras du Pin at 7 a.m. French time (that translates to an ungodly 1 a.m. EST), after which the competition will pack up shop and move to D’Ornano Stadium in Caen.

Keep it locked here for the livest updates in town, er, the world, and Go Evening!

#WEG2014: WebsiteLive Scores, Schedule & ResultsEN’s CoverageEN’s Guide to EventingFEI TVFEI TV’s YouTubeWEG FacebookEN’s InstagramFantasy Eventing@eventingnation

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