Dressage competition officially got underway at the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Normandy, FRA on August 25. Two of the four riders on the Canadian Dressage Team entered the d’Ornano Stadium for the first day of the Grand Prix Team Competition, which will continue on August 26, when the Team Medals will be decided.

A record number of nations and riders will be participating in Dressage, with a total of 24 nations and 100 riders vying for the podium.

Kicking off the Games for Canada was Karen Pavicic of Surrey, BC aboard Don Daiquiri (Don Cardinale x Rubinstein I), a 12-year-old Oldenburg gelding she co-owns with Jayne Essig. The eighth competitor to enter the ring, Pavicic executed a smooth, polished Grand Prix test to achieve a personal best score of 69.486%. This put her into an early position of third place after the first eight competitors had posted scores. At the completion of day one, which saw the first 49 competitors, Pavicic is currently sitting in 18th place.

“I was so excited to be here and I am super happy with my horse,” said Pavicic, who has ridden for the CET since 1988 and was part of the Silver Medalist Team at the 2007 Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro, BRA. “I am so proud of myself and my horse. I couldn’t be happier.”

She was also extremely excited to be surrounded by a big support team for her first-ever experience at the FEI World Equestrian Games. “I have so many people to thank, and I am so grateful my family was here to support me. I also want to give a big thanks to all of my friends and family back home. I wouldn’t be here without them.”

Prior to the Games, the entire Dressage Team spent time in Aachen, GER at a training camp, and Pavicic believes this had a huge impact on her performance at the Games. “Thank you to the Dressage Canada support team, and a huge thanks to C-DAAP for providing me with a grant that enabled me to get here to Europe to prepare for the Games.”

“Karen put in an incredible test. She got her personal best score, which is really all that you can ask for at the Games,” said Victoria Winter, the Chef d’Equipe for the Canadian Dressage Team. “It really put our team in a great position going forward because we knew we had a super strong score as the first score in.”

David Marcus of Campbellville, ON was Canada’s final rider of the day, entering the ring in the fifth flight later in the afternoon under less than ideal weather conditions. Riding his 2012 London Olympics mount, Chrevi’s Capital (Chrevi’s Lavallo x Weinberg), a 14-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding owned by Deborah Kinzinger-Miculinic, Marcus splashed his way through the test in heavy rain.

Despite one small hiccup in an extended trot, Marcus earned a score of 70.357%, which allowed him to take over the initial position of eighth place. Going into day two of the Team Test, he is holding 12th place.

“It’s an unfortunate mistake, but I think it was my mistake. I felt like he had more in there, and I asked him for more, and that’s always taking a risk,” said Marcus about Chrevi’s Capital briefly breaking into a canter during the extended trot. “But, he’s so confident now, he came right back and I think we both looked past that immediately to produce a nice test after that.”

Overall, Marcus was thrilled with the experience of his first FEI World Equestrian Games, and extremely pleased with the performance, stating, “I think when you come to a major championship like this, if you can do here what you do at home, you can be happy about that. Anything past that, I think, is really gravy.”

“The way that this is set up, where you have this long trek down the tunnel, really helps to build energy as you come in,” he said about the entrance to the ring at d’Ornano Stadium. “By the time you get in and you have your team around you, supporting you, it’s a great feeling.”

Day two of Dressage will determine whether or not Pavicic and Marcus will move forward as part of the top 30 riders invited to compete in the Grand Prix Special on August 27, which also works as an Individual Qualifier for the Grand Prix Freestyle later in the week.

“My first goal was to finish. My second goal was to get over 70%. My third goal would be to make the Special. That’s really up to how the chips fall,” Marcus explained. “I would love to ride one more test, or two more tests if I can. But, I have achieved my first two goals, and now I’ll wait and see how the third one pans out.”

The remaining two Canadians slated to perform tomorrow are Megan Lane of Loretto, ON, who will be competing in her first major games, and Canadian Olympian, Belinda Trussell of Stouffville, ON, who is representing Canada at the FEI World Equestrian Games for the third time.

“Both Megan and Belinda’s horses have been going so well, so we are really excited. With such a strong start, it gives them the confidence to really go for what they need to do tomorrow to put our team in the best position possible,” commented Winter.

Currently holding the lead after day one is Kristina Sprehe of Germany and Desperados FRH. In second place is Dutch rider, Hans Peter Minderhoud and Glock’s Johnson TN, while Carl Hester of Great Britain is sitting in third place.

The judging panel for the Games consists of a panel of FEI 5*-level judges, including Canada’s own Elizabeth McMullen of Palgrave, ON. McMullen was joined by Liselotte Fore (USA), Susan Hoevenaars (AUT), Isabelle Judet (FRA), Dietrich Plewa (GER), and Francis Verbeek (NED).

For a complete schedule of the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games 2014, as well as full information and results, visit www.normandy2014.com.

A full list of Canadians competing at the Games, along with rider bios, and more, is accessible at www.equinecanada.ca/cet.

Live broadcasts of the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games 2014 will be available for viewing at through FEI TV.

The FEI World Equestrian Games are held every four years, in the middle of the Olympic cycle. The inaugural Games were hosted in Stockholm (SWE) in 1990. Since then, the Games have been staged in The Hague (NED) in 1994, Rome (ITA) in 1998, Jerez (ESP) in 2002, Aachen (GER) in 2006, and Kentucky (USA) in 2010.