Can Canada defeat the USA at the Pan Am Games?

Ian Roberts

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In the sport of Eventing, the unexpected presents itself on a regular basis so to determine the members of the 2015 Pan Am Games teams at this point in time would be impossible. However, now that the 2015 National Canadian Eventing Team (CET) and the USA 2015 National Training Team have been published, it does provide an overview of the possible candidates.

Table explanations:

Summarized in the tables below are the Canadian and American combinations that may be under consideration with each nation’s selectors.

  • “Best CCI2* result” column: This column shows the best CCI2* result the rider and horse as a pair ever achieved. It could have been before 2014. For example, the score for Jessica Phoenix and Pavarotti is from 2011 when they won the last Pan Am Games.
  • “Best CCI result & level” column: This column shows the best CCI result that the pair ever achieved at the two-star level or above. Very few pairs have personal best scores higher than their best two-star score. The few exceptions include, Kyle Carter and Madison Park; Shandiss McDonald and Rockfield Grant Juan; Peter Barry and Kilrodan Abbott.
  • “Highest FEI level competed” column: This column includes the highest level the pair have ever competed including CCI and CIC competitions.
  • Note on four-star horses: For the USA pairs, four-star combinations are not included. The reason is that at the final session with the High Performance riders at the USEA Annual Meeting & Convention in Fort Worth, Texas, when the US team coach, David O’Connor, was asked why he wants to send the best horses this year to Aachen and not the Pan Ams in Toronto, he replied, “Because I don’t think that the best four-star horse is the horse that could be the best two-star competitor”, as published by Eventing Nation. For the Canadian pairs, four-star horses are included because there has been no statement made by the Canadian Eventing Team as to whether or not they will send four-star horses to the Pan Am Games.

Canada’s rider and horse combinations on the 2015 National Canadian Eventing Team

Canada

USA riders on the 2015 National Training List, plus each rider’s horses at the two-star level and above (the USA did not name horses to their list)

USA

Top 20 pairs based on personal best CCI2* results from the Canada and USA national team lists

TOP 20

Results alone do not determine who is chosen
Certainly, choosing teams will not be based completely on results. Selectors take many factors into consideration including experience, consistency, the venue suitability for certain pairs, rider attitude and psyche, horse health and the list goes on. These lists of riders are merely a starting point. Over the next few months there will likely be some new pairs break onto the scene as possible contenders and many pairs fall off as a result of injury, change of owners etc.

Who would you bet on?
In recent history, the USA has consistently beat Canada at the Pan Am Games. If you look at the way things are showing on paper now, Canada is certainly the underdog. For Canada to have a shot, they will need more horses scoring in the forties in dressage or just hope the USA has a bad day at the office and blows up on cross-country like they did at the 2014 World Equestrian Games.

The Canadians still have time to hone in on the pairs with the potential to shave down their dressage scores and get where they need to be. In addition, Canada has over 90 horse and rider combinations declared for the Pan Am Games. Many still need to get their CCI2* qualification to be eligible. This means there still may be some surprise contenders currently not on the CET. For example, Jessica Phoenix has five more Intermediate horses ready to qualify in the spring at a CCI2*.

What is at stake
There is a lot riding on these Pan Am Games as Canada and the USA may be battling it out for an Olympic team qualification. For the first time in the history of the games, only one Olympic team spot is up for grabs. Brazil, has already been allotted an Olympic team spot as they are the 2016 host nation.

Canada is still waiting to hear if they earned a team qualification at the 2014 World Equestrian Games. Frances’s Maxime Livio and Qalao des Mers finished fifth individually and were members of the fourth-placed French team. However,  the horse tested positive for the controlled medication Acepromazine. There has been no word from the FEI on this case since the announcement of the postiive sample on September 5, 2014. If fourth place France is eliminated, Canada will move from 7th to 6th and get an Olympic qualification.

Regardless, Canada wants to win the Pan Am Games on home soil. For Eventing in Canada, a win in Toronto could bring much needed attention and potentially sponsors and owners for the future. Maybe for Canada more training, sheer determination and a little luck can finally topple the USA and leave the stars and stripes flying a notch lower than usual on the final day.

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