Dressage, the first equestrian discipline of the 2011 Pan American Games, begins Sunday, October 16, at the Guadalajara Country Club. The four American dressage horses were presented this morning to the Ground Jury and looked spectacular in the Mexican sunshine. All were accepted without incident. The U.S. has drawn sixth out of the 12 teams vying for Team medals. They will ride the Prix St. Georges test in the following order (unconfirmed times):
1. Cesar Parra and Grandioso (9:12 am)
2. Marisa Festerling and Big Tyme (11:18 am)
3. Heather Blitz and Paragon (2:36 pm)
4. Steffen Peters and Weltino's Magic (5:00 pm)
Riding for the first time as an American, Colombian ex-patriate Cesar Parra (Whitehouse Station, NJ) is first up for the American team riding Michael and Sarah Davis' Grandioso. Fourth in the 2003 Pan American Games for Colombia, Parra is also a licensed dentist. The 2010 National Champion at the Intermediaire I level at the Collecting Gaits Farm/USEF Dressage Festival of Champions, he has had considerable national success so far as an American.
Marisa Festerling (Moorpark, CA) is representing the U.S. for the first time. She is riding her own Big Tyme, a 10-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding in their debut. The U.S. representative at the 2006 FEI World Breeding Championships, Big Tyme has lived up to his name as he has matured.
Heather Blitz (Wellington, FL) and her extravagant mover Paragon bat third for the American team. The 8-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding stands at 18 hands and not only is he the youngest horse on the dressage team; but he is by far the tallest. They were reserves champions at the 2011 National Intermediaire I Championships but this is their first team appearance.
"This is absolutely the time of my life," Blitz said. "I knew it would be exciting and fun but I didn't know it would be this exciting and fun. I am really happy with how my horse is going. I couldn't be happier with that. I also couldn't be happier with how the other horses are going. It's all good."
Olympian Steffen Peters (San Diego, CA) anchors the effort - most recently he won two Individual Bronze medals at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games on Ravel. He has Jen and Bruce Hlavacek's Weltino's Magic in Mexico. He won the USEF Selection Trial in September with the 9-year-old Westphalian gelding.
Peters said, "I love the facility, I love the footing... to be honest I didn't expect it to be this perfect. But it just turned out absolutely outstanding. I had the chance to watch all the horses in training camp and everybody got better and better and I think it's going to be a very, very exciting show. We have a hell of a team and I can't wait for tomorrow to come around."