Caledon, Ontario—July 17
The U.S. Eventing Team came to the Pan American Games with one goal—to win. While they don’t need to win to gain Olympic qualification (third place behind Canada and Brazil who are already qualified will suffice), that hasn’t changed their mindsets.
“We have a job either way,” said Lauren Kieffer. “It doesn’t make a difference what we’re trying to get done. We came here on a mission, and Olympic qualification is part, but we would come on the same mission if we were already qualified.”
The team is off to a great start, leading the standings on a score of 133.0, just fractions ahead of Canada, who sit on 133.7, boosted by Kathryn Robinson and Let It Bee’s second-placed score of 39.8. Brazil brought a very strong team, and they’re currently in third on 136.7, helped by individual leader Ruy Fonseca and Tom Bombadill Too’s score of 38.9.
Marilyn Little is the highest placed U.S. rider in third with RF Scandalous, a mare who’s been practically undefeated at the two-star level this spring.
They scored a 40.3 with an accurate and fluid ride. The weather was damp and wet, and there were few spectators today, but it didn’t matter to “Kitty.”
“You can feel a little base out there with that music!” Little said of the background music. “It’s not often that we practice to techno. She’s European, so she was definitely feeling it! With the wind, it was plenty [of atmosphere].
“She was really wonderful; I was really pleased,” she added. “These aren’t the best conditions for her. She’s really sensitive and a high-energy horse, and it’s quite an electric atmosphere in there, and I was thrilled she was as attentive as she was. She put in a really great effort.”
Last to go for the day, Boyd Martin and Pancho Villa slotted into fifth on 44.3.
“He’s a bit of a spook, and he gave me a terrible warm up,” he said. “There’s a lot of horses and a lot of umbrellas and raincoats, which he doesn’t like the look of, so the warm-up was less than ideal, but we got in there, and he took a deep breath and did a pretty good test. When you’re riding for a team, it’s important you don’t have one big bum out, and I’d say the American team, all four of us are in the 40s. Individual is great, but it’s more about the team this weekend and having no train wrecks in the dressage means we’re in the hunt.”
Phillip Dutton went early in the morning and thought his test was marked a bit harshly, with one judge giving him a 64 percent and one a 71 percent, but he was pleased with Fernhill Fugitive, who completed the Rolex Kentucky CCI**** this spring. They’re currently tied for eighth on 48.4 with teammate Lauren Kieffer on Meadowbrook’s Scarlett.
“I was really pleased with the way the horse went. A little atmosphere in there, but he was obedient and couldn’t have done much better I don’t think.”
Kieffer had a mistake in her counter-canter loop when her mare tried to change, but otherwise she was pleased. “I was thrilled with her,” she said. “She’s a young horse and really handled the atmosphere well. I was a bit caught off guard by the swap in counter-canter. I thought she’d score a little better; she felt really good in her trot work, but everyone is getting scored by the same people today.”
Ruy Fonseca and Tom Bombadill Too. Photo by Lisa Slade.
Fonseca, who’s based in England, brought his two-time Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games mount to help his team get a good result, which will result in more funding for the team in the future.
“He was quite relaxed and had a nice fluid test without rushing,” he said. “Those tests, when you have an experienced horse, they can anticipate a few things, and it’s more of a, ‘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 much of the difference on the pace. You need to be accurate too.”
The 15-year-old gelding only started eventing when he was 9.
“He was a livery horse in my yard,” Fonseca said. “There was a tiny little girl who was riding him for fun. He had been there for nine months, and I was mucking out and looking after him and never paying attention because he was a client’s horse. The father asked me what I thought about him. The girl was just hacking the horse. I got on him for the first time when he was 9, and I thought, ‘This horse can move!’ In one year, he went to Luhmühlen and to the WEG in Kentucky in 2010. It was quite a lot for me to do in a short space of time, but now I think he’s mature. He’s 15 now and hasn’t run much. To me, he feels like a 12-year-old, and he’s been very sound.”
Kathryn Robinson and Let It Bee. Photo by Lisa Slade.
Robinson is making her first appearance on a Canadian team. She was born and raised in England, but her mother is Canadian. “Bee” has been to a four-star before, so it was no surprise his test scored as well as it did.
“It was a bit of a blur. But he was so good!” she said. “I couldn’t fault him. He’s a horse of a lifetime really.”
Robinson bought the 14-year-old gelding when he was 7. “He hadn’t done anything, so we’ve been learning together, which has been lovely. He’s taken me to my first four-star, his first four-star, this is our first team competition, which is a great honor to be here,” she said.
Team USA’s Thoughts On The Cross-Country Course
Photo by Lisa Slade.
“It’s a good course. I think it’s not that big for the horses we’re on, but there’s a lot of tiny little traps out there that I think you could have a silly mistake on, so I think you’ve got to concentrate the whole way around and not sort of go into with with the mindset that this is only a two-star, because it is a championship course, and I think it will take a lot of the horses because of the humps and bumps and twists and turns, which I think are tiring. My guy is a pretty blood horse, so I think he’ll be fine.”
Photo by Lisa Slade.
“There’s plenty to do out there. I don’t think this is going to be a dressage competition. It is a two-star, but we all know you can make a two-star incredibly difficult. There’s plenty of terrain that’s going to be twisting and turning, and I think you’ll see some tired enough horses given that terrain. The water jumps are beautifully presented, but they’re substantial. There are a lot of ditches, so if you have a ditchy horse, you might not be getting much sleep tonight! Kitty’s quite a courageous and brave horse, but at the same time it has my full and undivided attention. We’ll be riding down to them with our heart in our hands!”
Photo by Lindsay Berreth.
“Nobody knows how the course is going to ride because it hasn’t been ridden. But it looks like, with the amount of ground they have, it’s a flowing course. The difficult questions are spaced out. I think there will be some pressure on to make time and still make sure you’re accurate to jumps that count.
The American horses are used to running in heat. Hopefully that’s not going to affect them too much. It’s a pretty seasoned group we have.
I wouldn’t say I like [being the trailblazer for the team], but someone’s gotta do it. Being early in the day will suit my horse rather than running in the heat. There’s no TV coverage tomorrow, so it’ll be an advantage to the team to have someone experienced go out first and relay back face-to-face what it’s like.
We’ll have lookers all out on the course, and cell phones calling back, trying to get as much information that way as we can.”
Photo by Lindsay Berreth.
“I think it’s a beautifully done course. The technicality stays up the whole way through. You can’t get sleepy on any part of it. It doesn’t let up at the end or anything like that. The last combination will be tough if your horse is a bit tired but nothing trappy or anything like that out there.”
Cross-country starts on Saturday at 11 a.m.