The Canadian Show Jumping Team closed out the Team Final in 10th place at the FEI World Equestrian Games ™ Tryon 2018 (WEG) in Mill Spring, NC on Sept. 21, 2018.
After a hard-fought qualification on Sept. 20 to earn a spot in the Team Final, Canadian Show Jumping Team members, Erynn Ballard of Tottenham, ON, Kara Chad of Millarville, AB, Mario Deslauriers of New York, NY and Eric Lamaze of Wellington, FL earned a team total of 65.89 penalties across three tough rounds of competition against a starting field of 25 teams.
Following the third round, the United States and Sweden were tied for the lead on 20.59 penalties, resulting in a jump-off. In a nail-biting finale that saw both teams stay on an equality of faults, the United States won gold for their home crowd after the combined time of their four jump-off rounds proved faster than Sweden. Germany took the bronze position on the podium with a score of 22.09.
The word of the week for the jumping tracks set by FEI 4* Course Designer, Alan Wade of Ireland was ‘technical’ with athletes praising the courses for being worthy of a world championship. The Team Final was no exception, with 14 jumps brought up to 17 efforts through double and triple combinations. One of the trickiest components of the course proved to be a skinny Longines plank vertical placed directly after the triple combination, and set at a distance that asked riders to choose between five short or four long strides.
Deslauriers, 53, was Canada’s top performer of the day aboard his up-and-coming partner, Bardolina 2 (Clarimo x Landos), a Holsteiner mare owned by Wishing Well Farm LLC. At just nine years old, Bardolina 2 is among the youngest horses in the jumping competition, and her greenness was evident in the first two rounds. However, in the Team Final, Deslauriers was able to wrap up WEG 2018 on a high note.
Like many other riders throughout the day, Deslauriers only lowered the infamous Longines plank. He added one time fault for going slightly over the time allowed of 82 seconds for a total of five faults.
“I’m feeling very good about that round,” said Deslauriers, a two-time Canadian Olympian with roots in Bromont, QC who still holds the record as the youngest rider to win the FEI World Cup Final at 19 years old. “I’m very proud of Bardolina. She held her composure today and she just loped around in there. She has improved every day. We have one major games done now, and for the next one I think she’ll be really ready.”
A long-time resident of New York with his wife and daughter, Deslauriers spent eight years competing for the stars and stripes before rejoining the Canadian Show Jumping Team in 2017. Speaking to his return, he commented, “It feels good to be back home riding for Canada. I’ve been living in the States for many years, but I’m Canadian, and always a Canadian at heart.”
Chad, 22, put in a solid performance, keeping it to eight faults aboard Carona (Untouchable x Silverstone), an 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare owned by Lamaze’s Torrey Pines Stable.
“My horse has been incredible throughout the whole championship,” said Chad, who is competing in her inaugural games, but contributed the best score to the team during the second round of team competition. “Both rails today are on me, my horse wanted a clear round and I’m thrilled with her.”
Chad capped off her first WEG experience as Canada’s highest-placed individual in 40th out of 124 starters on a total score of 18.48.
Ballard, 38, was also competing at her first major games, taking on the role of pathfinder for Canada throughout the week with her partner of less than six months, Darko’s Promise, a 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding owned by Ilan Ferder.
Having posted strong scores for Canada in the first two rounds of team competition under Ballard’s expert guidance, the heat and intensity caught up to Darko’s Promise in the Final, resulting in a score of 20 penalties.
“The courses have been big and hard, and it’s a new horse at this level,” said Ballard, who made her Canadian Equestrian Team debut in 2006 when she helped Canada win the BMO Nations Cup at Spruce Meadows in Calgary, AB for the first time in the event’s long history. “I think he got tired emotionally and physically. You walk in the ring with everyone cheering and it’s a big atmosphere, so that’s new for him. Of course, you want better, but three days in this heat is a lot and I’m not disappointed in him.”
Following the performances of the first three team members, Canada was sitting in 10th place on a cumulative, three-round score of 65.89 penalties. Although teams of four athletes have the benefit of dropping their highest score in each round, the margin between Canada and the ninth-place French team meant that the performance of anchor rider, Lamaze, 50, could not improve the team’s placing. Therefore, it was decided he would forego the final round and save his up-and-coming partner, Chacco Kid, for another day.
“He’s not a horse that has ever done a championship and he’s still lacking a bit of experience,” Lamaze said of the 12-year-old Oldenburg gelding (Chacco Blue x Come On), owned by the Chacco Kid Group. “He’s usually a super blooded horse, but he was feeling the heat a little bit. I didn’t come here for the individual, I came for the team, and I tried to do the best I could.”
During the first two rounds of team competition, Lamaze, the 2008 Olympic Champion who was competing at his seventh consecutive WEG, contributed strong performances for the team, and put Canada’s fastest time on the board in the initial speed phase.
With their inaugural major games now in the record books, Chad and Ballard weighed in on their experience as part of the Canadian Show Jumping Team.
“Everyone is very supportive of each other,” said Ballard. “We walk the courses together, and in the warm-up, everyone is there watching. I’d say there is definitely good team spirit and a lot of support.”
Chad added, “I think Team Canada is known for their camaraderie and our ability to work together as a team.”