Canada’s Olympic Criteria Causes Some Canadian Dressage Riders to Opt Out of 2008 Olympics

In the first show of the year at the Wellington Classic Dressage season Ashley Holzer and her own Pop Art rose to the top of the leader boards in the Grand Prix FEI test of choice scoring a whopping 76.250%. Those lucky enough to catch the first ride in the morning were treated to perfection in the pirouettes, and watching a totally harmonious and medal winning ride. But for Holzer, and Canada a shot at an Olympic medal for her country doesn't look likely for the 2008 Games. It is not about the anticpated climate of Hong Kong that is the issue, it is the criterea to qualify Holzer feels is unfair to her horse.

Dressage Daily's Lynndee Kemmett caught up with Holzer to set the record straight on recent reports circulating in the media concerning the Canadian participation in the Olympic Games.

Ashley Holzer, one of Canada’s leading Olympic contenders, is opting out of the 2008 Olympics based on concern that her nation’s Olympic criteria will place too much stress on her horse. In December, Canada announced that members of its 2008 Olympic team would be required to travel to Europe to compete at Rotterdam and Aachen. The horses would then go into quarantine in Europe before shipping to Hong Kong. Holzer said she’s decided competing in Europe before traveling to Hong Kong would be too much stress for Pop Art. Hence, she’s opting out of the Olympics and other Canadian riders may follow.

“I told our Canadian officials that I think it’s just too much stress on my horse. Rotterdam and Aachen are two very tough shows and to add them to the stress of Hong Kong, I just felt is too much for my horse,” Holzer said. “I can respect their decision that this is the best way to prepare the team, but I lost my best horse once before and I know how quickly things can happen. I think Poppy is the most unbelievable horse and I don’t ever want to put him in a stressful situation. He’s just at the beginning of his career.”

In October 2006, Holzer lost her Athens Olympic partner, the Selle Francaise stallion Imperioso, when he suddenly passed away at his home stable in New York, believed either from a brain aneurism or heart attack. Her current mount is the 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding Pop Art, with whom she was expected to compete in the 2008 Olympic Games in Hong Kong. Holzer and Pop Art are one of Canada’s strongest pairs, consistently scoring in the 70 percentile. At this weekend’s Wellington Classic Dressage Challenge I, the pair earned a 76 percent in Grand Prix competition.

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