Eleven nations and eight teams are competing in Dressage for medals in the 2023 Pan American Games in Chile. To add to the excitement, the final two Olympic team qualifying spots are on the line with seven countries vying for them including Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Mexico.

First in the ring for Canada was the country’s lone Small Tour rider, Beatrice Boucher and Summerwood’s Limei. This was Boucher’s first time on Canada’s senior team, having competed on the 2018 Young Rider’s team and three previous Junior teams. She took her first Major Games experience in stride, telling herself, “It’s just another box of sand. Same letters, same sand, same booths. I went inside and took a deep breath and said, ‘Let’s do it.’”

The pair had a lovely fault-free test with nice walk and canter elements, earning a score of 71.147 and ending the day in 11th position.

“I thought I would have had a little bit more, but I’m just happy I’m over 70 for her first one,” said Boucher of her test score. “The 70s is like seven everywhere, which is what we need for a team. We just need to be consistent.”

Her mount, Summerwood’s Lemei, is a 10-year-old chestnut mare by Londonderry and was bred in Quebec at the Delys Farm by Lynda Tetreault, the aunt of teammate Mathilde Blais Tetrault. Boucher rode her as a four-, five- and six-year-old before she was sold to Monica Van Glahn of the USA. After a two-year break, Glahn asked Boucher to ride her again in 2021.

“I’m so happy, she’s an amazing horse,” Boucher said of their reunion. “I always told the owner that she was special, and her heart is just amazing, and here we are!

“She is so consistent, she’ll never let me down. Whatever the atmosphere she is so good and concentrated. She trusts me so much.”

The Big Tour riders continued on in the afternoon with Camille Carier Bergeron and Sound of Silence 4. This is also the first senior team appearance for Bergeron who has also been on four Canadian teams at the Junior level and NAYC. The pair had a challenging start when “SOS” spooked at a flag heading into the ring and the gelding’s tongue went over his bit, leading to an overall score of 67.565 and final rank of 20th (note that Grand Prix scores have 3% added on top of their actual total score as a coefficient.)

Bergeron explained that the lack of connection caused challenges in her test, including some ones and twos for her piaffe and transition, though the rest of the test was nice.

“You lose your contact so you have to really ride from your seat, so that is what I tried to do. It worked for some part, obviously in the piaffe it was a bit of a problem, “ explained Bergeron of the situation. “There were some highlights and some downs; it was not our best test but I’m still happy with how he did and how he tried to stay with me although that happened in the chute. He came back to me afterwards.”

The goal for tomorrow will be to keep the gelding calm and give him extra support in the chute.

Mathilde Blais Tetreault and her partner Fedor also made their senior team debut in their first year riding at the Grand Prix level. The pair had some mistakes in two of the three flying change lines which earned several fours, but otherwise the test was good, earning sevens across the board for General Impression and an overall score of 70.391, finishing in 12th.

“It’s something we all dream about as kids to be here and actually make it and do pretty good even though I had a couple of mistakes I’m really happy,” said Blais Tetreault afterward.

Her family purchased Fedor as a five-year-old and, with the help of coach and Canadian team veteran Brittany Fraser-Beaulieu, Blais Tetreault trained him to Grand Prix.

“To be here together and to have done everything on my own, I’m pretty proud.”

The Tetrault family has had a strong influence on the team with three of the four riders – all but Beatrice Boucher – having trained at their farm in Quebec.

“My mother is pretty much at the root of everybody’s success here today, in a sense. She’s the one who started the program with Albrecht Heidemann 20 years ago in Quebec. Naima, Camille, myself, not Beatrice, they all trained at my farm years ago with Albrecht as Juniors and Young Riders and now we are all here on the same team.”

At just 26 years old, Naima Laliberte with Statesman was the team’s most experienced rider, earning 72.739 and ranked 9th overall. The pair had trouble in the one-tempis, earning fours and fives in an otherwise clean test.

“It was really fun in there. My horse tried his best so I can’t ask for more, but unfortunately, we had a couple of mistakes which is also a double coefficient, so very costly,” Laliberte explained. “The one-tempis are very tricky with him. I’ve had more mistakes than done it clear so it’s always the goal to go clean in those one-tempis. [Horses] have their weaknesses and their strengths and that’s one of his weaknesses, so we try.”

Having been part of the gold medal-winning team in Peru, Laliberte has since gained international miles training and competing in Europe for the last year and a half with coach and Spanish Olympic rider Jordi Domingo.

“Four years ago I was the rookie at the Pan American Games in Lima. Coming back four years later, I’m the anchor, which is pretty cool. We’ve done a lot together since then.”

Canada finished the day in third with 211.277 points behind the USA in the lead with 221.578 and Brazil second with 218.152. The day’s top score of 76.478 went to Brazilian Joao Victor Marcari and Feel Good VO and who had a mistake-free test that earned eights across the board for their extended trot. Sarah Tubman and First Apple were right behind, scoring 76.065 even though they had difficulty in the rein-back.

Competition resumes tomorrow with the Intermediate I and Grand Prix Special.

Results here.