Jessica Phoenix has become the only Canadian eventer to start in over 100 CCI 4* S events, making her one of 17 eventers in the world to achieve this benchmark. She did so with her beloved Pavarotti this past weekend at the inaugural CCI4*-S at Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event. It was a special moment for Jessica, and so fitting to have shared it with Pavarotti, with whom she has won five medals over three consecutive Pan Am Games, including individual Gold and Team Silver in Guadalajara, Mexico (2011); Individual Silver and Team Bronze in Toronto (2015); and Team Bronze in Lima, Peru (2019).
Jessica said of the achievement, “It was a total surprise to learn of this milestone! It’s a huge honor to be recognized among the top riders in the sport who have achieved this record — of course, it wouldn’t be possible without the incredible horses I’m able to ride and the owners that support me.”
Jessica finished 8th with Bogue Sound, Pavarotti, as well as Bogue Sound and Wabbit – her two other mounts – both off-the-track Thoroughbred accruing only time faults on the wet terrain.
“Wabbit was my most inexperienced horse there and after walking the cross-country course we knew it was going to be a very tough challenge,” says Jessica. “It asked every question it could possibly ask. To have Wabbit go out as trailblazer in terrible weather and make the course look like a gymnastics exercise was thrilling. Bogue Sound is born to do cross country. He was phenomenal all the way around and he’s a Kentucky Thoroughbred, so he has always loved competing at the Kentucky Horse Park. As the weather grew worse and the footing deteriorated, I was thankful that Pavarotti was my last ride of the day because it felt like a 5* through and through. He is so reliable and an absolute professional on the course.”
With the ongoing pandemic, Jessica chose to stay in Canada for the winter season and trained indoors at her family farm near Cannington, ON, in her new ReitenRight Arena. This meant that she was not able to compete at the weekly horse trails in the south as other riders do during the harsh Canadian winters. Phoenix’s three Top 11 finishes make this year’s event even more remarkable: She placed 8th on Bogue Sound, 10th on Wabbit and 11th on Pavarotti.
Said Jessica of her horses’ overall performance: “To prepare the horses at home in Canada instead of my usual training in Florida, and to have Kentucky as my first event of the season was a huge ask. To have all three of them finish in the top 11 was amazing. It was what I hoped for and confirmed that my training in Canada was ample. It’s a relief to discover that you can prepare for an event of that stature at home during a pandemic and know that you can hold your own on the world stage. As one of the last runs leading up to the Tokyo Olympics, I’m happy with where my horses are at in their training and they are being set up to peak for Tokyo.”
So how did she do it? Without question, it’s thanks to her amazing team at home, including partners, owners and sponsors who allow her to focus on a diligent training routine.
“I have incredible sponsors who not only stuck by me during these challenging times, but they also stepped up. We’re so grateful for all of our sponsors, owners and staff. It’s been a challenging year and everyone rose to the occasion and kept pressing forward. I’m thrilled with our team!”
One can learn more about Jessica and her remarkable journey in RISE: The Jessica Phoenix Story (ISBN: 978-0-9688438-1-9) by Julie Fitz-Gerald.