Two rounds of absolutely riveting competition saw Canada win the team silver medal and earn the team qualification for next year’s Olympics. The USA managed to jump up the standings from fifth yesterday to win the gold and also earn an Olympic qualification, while Brazil lost their lead to finish with the bronze. Mexico came in fourth but since Brazil had already qualified for the Olympics, they earned the third Olympic qualifying spot.

Tiffany Foster and Figor.

Tiffany Foster and Figor. (Cara Grimshaw photo)

The day started with a tight race with just eight faults separating the top five teams, but the competition got more exciting as the day progressed. At the end of the first round, just a half a fault separated Brazil and the USA, while Canada was sitting in third with Mexico and Argentina uncomfortably close behind in fourth and fifth.

Only 41 competitors and eight teams continued into the second round as the team from Ecuador had three eliminations in the first and did not continue. Teams started the second round in order of faults, which always adds to the drama.

Argentina and Mexico started the round strong with both of their first riders, Leoandro Moschini riding Abril Iconthon and Eugenio Garza Perez on Contago, posting clear rounds and ramping up the pressure for the Canadian team. First in the ring for Canada was Tiffany Foster on Figor, who delivered her second clear round of the day.

“He was amazing,” Foster enthused later. “The more he jumps, the more relaxed he gets. I’m just so proud of him and so grateful to have a horse like this to make these things fun, because they are very stressful, but he makes it fun.”

Foster was also quick to share her thanks and tremendous gratitude to Figor’s owners, Andy and Carlene Ziegler.

Mario Deslauriers and Emerson

Mario Deslauriers and Emerson. (Cara Grimshaw photo)

“They just make all this possible. You can’t do this without these kinds of horses, and you can’t have horses like this without people like them.”

The USA and Brazil followed, also answering with clear rounds from both of their first riders, McLain Ward on Contagious and Pedro Veniss on Nimrod de Muze Z.

The pressure continued to increase when the second riders for Argentina and Mexico, Damian Ancic on Santa Rosa Chabacon and Nicolas Pizarro on Pia Contra, both posted two more clear rounds. Second in for Canada was Mario Deslauriers on Emerson, an 11-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding. A surprising rail jumping into the double combination posted a four-fault score for Canada which would have to be Canada’s drop score if they were to maintain their position.

“Unfortunate rails, really. It’s tough,” a disappointed Deslauriers commented after. “The first round was also just an unusual jump for him to have down and this round, I don’t know. Maybe I needed to kick a little harder. He was jumping great both rounds. He still needs the experience. He hasn’t been to any Games yet, but it’s kind of sad because he can really jump those courses easy. So now we need two clear rounds, desperately.”

Amy Millar and Truman

Amy Millar and Truman. (Cara Grimshaw photo)

Brazil’s second rider on course was Marlon Zanotelli and Deesse de Coquerie, who had been the leader after day one, but had a refusal in the first round to post a score of 21 faults. His horse was clearly affected by the first round and after dropping several rails he opted to retire.

The USA continued with their second rider, Karl Cook on Caracole de La Roque, posting a clear round.

The pressure on Canada was helped a very little bit when the third riders for both Argentina and Mexico, Ignacio Masurin on Chaquitos PS and Federico Fernandez on Romeo, both posted eight-fault rounds. The third rider for Canada was Amy Millar riding Truman, who posted a thrilling clear round.

“I’m so happy with Truman. He really wanted to jump clean today,” said a delighted Millar after her round. “That second round I just felt looser and more concentrated and my horse felt awesome so we pulled it off. Now it’s just all done but the waiting.

“In this sport it’s a lot of a mental game, but I got it done,” added Millar who looked relaxed on course. She explained that a regime of positive thinking, breathing, music, and a lot of walking around to keep busy helps take her mind off the pressure on her performance. “Controlling the things I can, like what I eat and being on time and those kind of things. Having a really good plan.”

Following Millar’s round both the USA and Brazil posted clear rounds. The third clear round by Kent Farrington on Landon for the USA meant that their final rider, Laura Kraut and Dorado 212, would only be competing for individual honours.

It all came down to the last riders on course. Argentina’s final rider Jose Maria Larocca and Finn Lente had a rail, as did Mexico’s Jose Antonio Chedraui Eguia riding H-Lucky Retto. Canada’s anchor rider was Beth Underhill riding Nikka Vd Bisschop, who posted Canada’s third clear performance of the round.

Beth Underhill and Nikka Vd Bisschop.

Beth Underhill and Nikka Vd Bisschop. (Cara Grimshaw photo)

“We all felt the same pressure, honestly. Right from the get-go, Tiffany needed to go out and show us the way and she did admirably, both rounds,” said Underhill on how she felt heading into the ring last.

“For sure it’s an added pressure going last, since particularly that second round I really wanted to clean up my mistake in the first round, but I couldn’t be more thrilled with my horse and I’m proud that I was here with my owners and their family to get it done with the rest of my teammates. We are more than thrilled to be going to Paris next year.”

Following Underhill, Brazil’s last rider, Rodrigo Pessoa on Major Tom, had an unlucky eight faults, dropping the team to third place.

“I need the defibrillator, other than that I’m fine,” joked the team’s chef d’équipe Ian Millar after the medal ceremony. “What a team, they were in tough and they got to the second round and got her done.

“Watching it with no person in the hunt you would say ‘this is fantastic sport,’ but it was very, very concerning at times because of course the qualifications for Paris is such a big deal for every country. No country wants to go home and say ‘guess what, we didn’t qualify for Paris.’ That’s bad. But we didn’t disappoint.”

There is no competition tomorrow, with individual competition resuming on Friday with two more rounds of competition. The first round will see the top 30 competitors (including all Canadians) while only the top 20 will proceed to the second round over a different course.

The individual leaderboard is tight. with less than a rail separating the top 10:

1. McLain Ward & Contagious (USA) – 3.34
2. Laura Kraut & Dorado 212 (USA) – 4.06
3. Stephan de Freitas Barcha & Chevaux Primavera Imperio Egipcio (BRA) – 4.06
4. Pedro Veniss & Nmord de Muze Z (BRA) – 4.26
5. Tiffany Foster & Figor (CAN) – 4.4
6. Nicolas Pizarro & Pia Contra (MEX) – 5.62
7. Eugenio Garza Perez & Contago (MEX) – 5.63
8. Kent Farrington & Landon (USA) – 5.64
9. Amy Millar & Truman (CAN) – 5.71
10. Luis Fernando Larrazabal & Condara (VEN) – 6.41
11. Beth Underhill & Nikka Vd Bisschop (CAN) – 8.04
12. Damian Ancic & Santa Rosa Chabacon (ARG) – 10.23
13. Roberto Teran Tafur & Dez’ Ooktoff (COL) – 10.69
14. Ignacio Maurin & Chaquitos PS (ARG) – 10.69
15. Mario Deslauriers & Emerson (CAN) – 11.89

Results here.