Guadalajara, Mexico - The U.S. Eventing Team presented five horses at the First Horse Inspection of the 2011 Pan American Games and all were accepted without incident. The United States drew fourth position, but of the three countries drawn ahead only Venezuela has a complete team; therefore American Buck Davidson and Absolute Liberty will be second in the ring in Friday's dressage.
All five horses looked sharp, and the Ground Jury of Wayne Quarles (USA), Janine Rohr (ARG) and Alain James (FRA) passed them as fit and ready to contest the CCI2* level competition. Under the care of Chef d'Equipe Capt. Mark Phillips, veterinarian Dr. Brendan Furlong and farrier Stephen Teichman, the U.S. Team presented a strong and fit looking group of horses.
Listen to what Dr. Furlong had to say about the squad: http://www.usefnetwork.com/blogs/170/dr_brendan_furlong_on_the_eventing.aspx
Of the five riders only Davidson (Ocala, FL) has ridden on a team before, and he will give the four rookies a lead in their first international championship. Davidson will ride Sharon Will's homebred Thoroughbred x Oldenburg mare Absolute Liberty - a CCI3* veteran - in the pathfinder position. Davidson finished sixth in the 1999 Pan American Games on Pajama Game and rode at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. Davidson's father, Bruce, won Individual Gold at the 1995 Pan American Games with Heyday.
Hannah Sue Burnett (The Plains, VA) has had incredible success with Jacqueline Mars' homebred Harbour Pilot, an 8-year-old Irish Sport Horse. They were second in the CCI2* at Bromont in June and look to continue their recent form on their first trip to Mexico.
Lynn Symansky (Middleburg, VA) rode at the 2003 Pan American Games as an Individual - she was 10th on No It Tissant - at the age of 20. She has produced Donner, an 8-year-old Thoroughbred gelding, herself and got a late call-up for the team when Jonathan Holling had to withdraw Downtown Harrison the day before the horses shipped to Mexico. Donner was the 2010 Land Rover American Eventing Champion at the Intermediate level.
"I think the best thing is not being the only new team member," said Symansky. "I love the dynamic. It is very cool to come and have everyone share that same experience with you. Everyone gets along really well and it's a very unique experience to have this many new members on a team. I've got some big shoes to fill coming here in place of Jon."
The riders got their first glimpse at the cross-country course at the Santa Sofia Country Club yesterday and were impressed with what they saw. "I'm excited," said Symansky. "I thought it would be a bit softer, maybe not as long, not as challenging. But [course designer] John [Williams] has done a great job. I'm really excited to go out there, I think we all are. There are a lot of questions out there and there's enough terrain - you have to have a horse that is fit and ready to go."
Michael Pollard (Dalton, GA) has had a busy fall; he rode at both Burghley and Boekelo and brings a third grey horse, Schoensgreen Hanni, to his first championship. Owned by his wife, Nathalie, the 8-year-old German Sport Horse mare was second at the Mandatory Outing for the Pan American Games at the Richland Park CIC2* in August.
As the lone West Coast member of the team, Shannon Lilley (Gilroy, CA) and the Lilley Group's Ballingowan Pizazz will go last for the squad. They won the Mandatory Outing at Richland Park, and the 9-year-old Irish Sport Horse has had considerable success across the country. Lilley serves as the chef d'equipe for the Area VI Young Riders Team and is enjoying her first experience on the other side of the equation.
"We have a great team, we all get along so well," said Lilley. "After all the years of doing Young Riders and knowing how different teams get along and not get along - we're so lucky. It's a real team as opposed to individuals on a team."
View photos of the cross country course here: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150367808380419.377018.94418090418&type=1
Follow the U.S. Team at the Pan American Games (photos, blogs and wall-to-wall coverage): http://www.usefnetwork.com/featured/2011PanAmGames/
Photos: Hannah Sue Burnett and Harbour Pilot (Photo: Shannon Brinkman); Shannon Lilley and Ballingowan Pizzaz (Photo: Shannon Brinkman)