Canadian team gunning to win Pan Am Games

Clayton Fredericks, Canadian Eventing Team coach

“It’s important for Canada to win team Gold,” said Clayton Fredericks, Canada’s team coach. “We’ll be absolutely pulling out all stops to win the Gold medal, despite the fact that we have an Olympic team spot. If it doesn’t happen for us, I wouldn’t want to be accused of not putting all of our assets together. The primary objective is that we put our most competitive team forward. Everything is within our grasp.”

Despite the announcement today from the FEI that Canada has qualified a team to send to the Olympics because of the French team disqualification at the 2014 WEG, it does not change the goal of the Canadian Eventing Team at the 2015 Pan American Games, in Toronto, Ontario.

The Americans are without a team qualification for the 2016 Rio Olympics as they failed to finish a team at the WEG. Brazil automatically gets a team qualification as they are the host nation. The Americans are desperate for the only team qualification that will be awarded to the highest placed team without a qualification. But that will not prevent the Canadians from putting forth their best pairs to take top honours on home soil. At the 2011 Pan Am Games, Canada’s Jessica Phoenix and Pavarotti rode away with the individual Gold medal. The team placed second taking the Silver medal.  But with the games in Canada this year, Clayton is aiming for team Gold and individual Gold.

“The fact that the Pan American Games are in Canada, the event itself takes on added significance and we are heading there to win team Gold and individual medals,” said Clayton. “The Canadian team possesses enough depth that it should be a strong contender to come out on top. An emphasis on consistency and identifying the riders that have the desire to succeed will also be key variables.”

The recent results of Canadian riders competing at the Ocala Horse Properties International Festival of Eventing in the CCI** gives Canada a few reasons to be excited. Many riders turned in outstanding efforts and Canada had with four combinations in the top 10.

  • Kyle Carter and FR’s Trust Fund scored 44.3 placing 3rd
  • Karl Slezak and Fernhill Dutch Design scored 46.9 placing   5th
  • Jessica Phoenix and Abbey GS scored 47.8 placing 8th
  • Lesley Grant-Law and What Law scored 48.6 placing 10th

If the Ocala Horse Trials had been a team competition, the Canadians would have earned top honors. “I’m very pleased with the performances,” said Clayton. “There are always some that don’t perform as well as we hope. Some performed much better than our expectations.”

Waylon Roberts on Bill Owen just won the CIC2* at the Fairhill International horse trials finishing on his dressage score of 39.5. The Canadians are stepping up with some impressive results and Clayton knows the potential to come out on top at the Pan Am Games is there.

The Canadian program has some talented riders but is still lacking horsepower. Most of the top riders only have one four-star horse and some of these horses are on the downside of their careers.

“The Canadian team should be competitive for years to come, with many of the younger riders demonstrating promise and potential,” said Clayton. “However, a number of factors will go into determining any future success and most important is the quality of their horses. Every rider has to form a team around themselves, whether it’s horses, trainers, families or a benefactor. Some of our riders understand that for us to be competitive on an international scale, we have to have horses capable of competing at the top level. If we don’t invest in our horsepower, we’re going to be competing on broomsticks and it’s just not going to happen. We’re trying to produce top class eventing horses.”

Barn depth will be a critical component to Canada’s success. Clayton believes that the horse breed is not as important as finding the right horse. “Thoroughbreds are bred to gallop but Warmbloods can be trained to gallop,” said Clayton. “A Thoroughbred has an advantage because they’ve been galloping from a young age. If you look at a lot of the Warmblood horses, they may never really get out of a hand canter, until they are five or six years old. It does take them time to learn that they can go to the bottom of themselves, can be absolutely exhausted, are able to survive and keep coming through. I know that from experience.”

“The most important and desirable qualities in a horse are its movement and rideability,” said Clayton. “If the horse has a big, elastic stride, jumps very easily and has rideability, the rider and horse should be a formidable combination during competition. In today’s sport, you have to have a mover and a jumper. When we talk about a mover, they have to be good galloping as well.”

The team’s attitude and how they handle the pressure mentally will also be a factor. A number of games will be played long before the first rider/horse combination enters the dressage ring, said Clayton.

Clayton is no stranger to individual and team medals. He won individual silver at the 2006 Aachen WEGs and team silver at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing while representing his native Australia. However, he prefers not being the favorite going into the competition.

“We draw from a lot smaller pool than some of the other countries,” said Clayton. “We are minimally funded. We always end up in that underdog position. I’d rather be in that position, so that when we do well, everyone is absolutely ecstatic, rather than being in the position of being expected to do well and always being disappointed.”

The Pan American Games are the ideal prerequisite for the Olympic Games, but Clayton does have some concerns regarding the dressage scoring as a judge from Canada will not be among those officiating. Will there be a bias toward the competition? There has been a tendency at previous competitions that would suggest a predisposition toward favorable scores for certain countries based on the nationality of judges. Clayton hopes that the playing field will be level.

 

You might also enjoy these Eventing Connect features:

Today’s SCOOP

How Francis Whittington brought down corner in 20 frames

Rolex cross-country knocks out 35 percent of the field

Price equals Jung and Fox-Pitt is nipping at their heels

Carol and Francis – Fernhill brand dominates Rolex field – Eventing Super Couple series

Rolex Kentucky course walk preview

Canada gets Olympic qualification – Maxime Livio and French team

Building a Program – David O’Connor sets sights on future success

We are hiring writers! We will pay for your talent so apply today.

Rolex 2015 series

The world’s top 30 Under 30 series

Scroll for more top stories on Eventing Connect