Sunday, May. 26, 2024

U.S. Pan American Dressage Team Ready To Start Competition

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Lima, Peru—July 27 

The three U.S. dressage representatives prepared for tomorrow’s start of competition at the Pan American Games with a ring familiarization session in the main competition arena. All three riders—Nora Batchelder with Faro SQF, Jennifer Baumert with Handsome and Sarah Lockman with First Apple—reported that their horses arrived in Peru ready to go.

“My horse travelled really well,” said Batchelder, Williston, Florida. “He had actually never flown before because he was born and raised in Florida. We’ve travelled around the country to compete but never been on a plane. He did a really good job. The grooms and vets did a great job taking care of him. He settled in here really well.”

“The venue is amazing,” she continued. “They’re happy in the stalls and the footing is really good. I’m happy with how the competition arena looks, the way they’ve set up. I think it’s got a nice international feel to it with the signs and plants. I think the horses were pretty comfortable in there.”

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The U.S. team of (from left) Nora Batchelder, Sarah Lockman, Jennifer Baumert and Chef d’Equipe Debbie McDonald are ready for the competition to begin. Mollie Bailey Photo

Baumert agreed that the venue seems to suit Handsome.

“He has been feeling wonderful,” said Baumert, Wellington, Florida. “He felt great in the familiarization. It was really fun to be able to ride in the ring as it’s going to be going forward. I agree with Nora, I think the atmosphere is great. You can definitely tell something special is happing but it’s not too overwhelming.”

The venue—a military equitation school—is situated in the city of Lima. It’s winter here and the temperature is maxing out in the mid-60s, which Lockman, Wildomar, California, pointed out is wonderful for the horses. (“We sweat out a lot of calories [training] in Florida,” she joked.)

As far as horses, there are three real characters representing Team USA. Batchelder described Faro SQF, an 11-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Fidertanz 2—Ms Rose, Rotspot) as a real ham.

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“He loves to hang out with people and his favorite things are to have you scratch under his chin and to have his butt scratched,” she said. “If you’re done scratching his chin he’ll turn around. Some horses you’d think oh he’s going to kick me, but no he’s just presenting his butt to be scratched. He’s really cute.”

Handsome, a 14-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Hochadel—Wyona K, Weltmeyer), on the other hand, is more of an introvert.

“He’s not super fond of new people right away, but with people he knows he’s quite a ham,” she said. “Similar to Faro he has all the right places that he likes to get scratched and he presents them to you as well. Sometimes you get a scratch back, you get some scalp scratches. He kind of likes the scratching train, whoever’s up front will get the treatment from Handsome. He’s very sweet; he doesn’t bite. He’s really polite horse, easy to spoil because he’s not mouthy.”

First Apple, a 9-year-old Dutch Warmblood stallion (Vivaldi—Oogappel, T.C.N. Partout)—he earned his name because his apple farmer breeder names all his horses after the fruit—is a newer partner for Lockman.

“We’d definitely call him a quiet gentleman,” she said. “You definitely don’t know he’s a stallion in the barn or even under saddle, which we feel very fortunate for because it makes him a top performance horse. He definitely is a showman and sure lights up when we go around that ring.”

The United States sent an all small tour squad to the Games. Countries may send all small tour or a combination of small tour and large tour athletes. The all small tour squad means that the United States isn’t eligible to earn Olympic qualification here according to the Fédération Equestre Internationale rules, but that’s irrelevant as the team already earned an invite to Tokyo thanks to a silver medal finish at the Tryon World Equestrian Games.

The team lost a rider when Endel Ots’s Lucky Strike was injured while in transport in Miami. Despite having no drop score, Chef d’Equipe Debbie McDonald had enthusiastic predictions.

“It doesn’t change a thing for us,” said McDonald. “We’re here to do a job and I feel very confident with my girls here that they’re going to get it done.”

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That positive attitude is reflected in her coaching as well. In the evenings McDonald sends inspirational quotes to the riders. That’s especially meaningful as all three are championship rookies.

“This is really important for the U.S. because it builds up our pipeline and gets us stronger,” she said. “These are riders that I hope you see a lot in the future.”

Read more about McDonald’s thoughts on the team here.

Exactly 20 years ago McDonald brought her legendary partner Brentina to Winnipeg, Manitoba, for the Pan American Games and earned double gold, a result she’s hoping to repeat in her first championship as U.S. chef.

“Absolutely I’m hoping that’s going to be the case,” she said. “It just gave me chills saying that.

“I can tell you [the Pan American Games are] life changing,” she continued. “I had no idea coming into the Pan American Games when I went in 1999 what was going to happen after that. I think it was after that Games that I realized I was riding an international horse.”

Have questions about the Pan Am Games? We’ve got answers. Follow along with the Chronicle as we bring you stories, news and photos from the Pan American Games. Check in at coth.com and make sure you’re following us on Instagram and Facebook

Check out our July 22 issue of The Chronicle of the Horse magazine, our Pan Am preview issue, for much information about the competitors, and be sure to read the September 2 issue to get full analysis from the Games. What are you missing if you don’t subscribe?

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