Coming to the Pan Am Games the riders were goaling for both Dressage Team and Individual medals but as everyone knows, in the end anything can happen. Horses can get sick, accidents happen, mistakes are made and sometimes the whole experience can be too overwhelming for the horse, rider or both. Dealing with the pressure of any competition and especially one at this level is really what makes the difference in the end. In fact all the UDA Dressage horses and riders handled the pressure amazingly well. Very few obvious mistakes were made in the three competitions and those that did happen were so minor so as not to influence the scores. Not only did the value of these Games come from the chance to win a Pan Am medal but also the fact that the mileage gained would bode well for the future of the various competitors.
Steffen Peters was thrilled to give Weltino’s Magic a chance to deal with the pressure, travel, change in climate, stabling and all the other things that are just part of representing your country at a major event.
Heather Blitz believed that the mileage she gained with Paragon was what will make the difference as she moves on to her quest of trying out for the 2012 Olympic Games in Great Britain on a horse she’s had since it was born. This type of mileage is not something you can arrange.
For Marisa Festerling and the horse she’s had since it was four it was an amazing experience. Best of all was seeing how true Big Tyme was to his name in handling the pressure, the atmosphere and everything else as if it was any other horse show. She was in awe of how well her horse responded to the experience. When the moment arrived the U.S. riders were ready.
Although Cesar Parra had done well and placed high enough to join the final 15, only three riders are allowed to compete in this final Dressage phase from any one country. Cesar tried to hide his disappointment but his quiet words of “I just need to move on” indicated how disappointed he was not to be able to ride a Freestyle he has been working on for a long time.
Excitment Builds In The Best Freestyle Class in the History of The Pan American Games
The first rider of the 15 to go in the ring was Antonio Rivera on Naval and he kicked things off appropriately as his Freestyle song ended with the words Guadalajara loud and clear over the sound system. When Rogerio Clementino on Sargento Do Top took to the arena he did it with flair.
The Brazilian pumped his outstretched arm up and down telling the crowd it was okay to cheer. Near the end of his ride he dropped one hand and did a one-handed pirouette. Even during his ride his outstretched arm would tell the crowd to cheer him on.
Constanze Jaramillo on Wakana awed the crowd. The chestnut has these wonderful expansive extensions that she repeated several times throughout her ride. That ride earned them a score of 75.85 to give them an overall score of 73.530. However, the next rider to go in, Canada’s Tina Irwin on Winston who would up the ante just a bit finishing on a score of 77.225 which when combined with her previous total gave her a final tally of 74.034.
Going into the half hour break that would be the lead score of the day. At any other Pan Am Games both these riders would have medaled with those scores but this time around the competition from the American riders was just too strong. After the break Bronze Team member (COL) Marco Bernal would be the first to go with Farewell but a spook just in front of the judge’s stand at C at the very beginning of his ride would cost him some points. Later in his ride he had another bobble in his canter tour but overall the ride had enough quality and expression that he finished on a score of 71.950 which gave him a final total of 71.528.
There would be seven more horses to go after the break and so destiny was in the hands of those final riders and among those riders would be some impressive tests. Crystal Kroetch and Lymrix wowed the crowd when they did a pirouette into a halt. Mexico’s Bernadette Pujals and IUSA Rolex would get the greatest reception from the crowd but later at the press conference Pujals would reveal that their enthusiasm made her horse a little nervous.
Before we knew it we were watching the US riders amaze us and the crowd. Festerling and Big Tyme had a minor spook in the corner of the ring near C but the pair composed themselves quickly and moved on. Her ride was so solid and fluid to Beatles music that the arena was alive and enjoying every step of her ride. Her final score of 74.316 would give her the Bronze.
Festerling was followed by teammate Blitz and Paragon whose expressive movements are truly a site to behold. When they achieved a final total of 77.184 it put even more pressure on the final rider, Peters and Weltino’s Magic. The experience they’ve had competing in a number of Olympic Games, World Equestrian Games and World Cups has given Steffen the mileage he needed to go for the Gold and he did just that every step of the way, putting in a solid smooth performance that earned him and Magic the medal they were hoping to get.
Those of us watching were amazed to see so much talent at a Pan American Games. It was one of those times you were glad to be a part of and for all of us it will be a lasting memory we will take home with us. In the press conference later Steffen Peters said he doubted this could ever be topped and he thanked Anne Gribbons (Technical Advisor/Coach) for her diligence in supporting the efforts of the team both in preparation for entering the arena and psychologically.
He voiced a special thank you to everyone behind the scenes as well as to the owner of Magic, Jen Hlavacek, who was there with her husband Bruce. But the strongest thank you went to his wife Shannon who was home taking care of the business.
For Steffen, Marisa, Heather, Cesar and all the owners, support staff and everyone helping out behind the scenes this was truly a magical Pan American Games none of us will ever forget.