The Canadian Show Jumping Team athletes were off to a flying start on Aug. 14 at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, with Amy Millar of Perth, ON and Eric Lamaze of Schomberg, ON both posting clear rounds. Teammates Yann Candele from Caledon, ON and Tiffany Foster from North Vancouver, BC both lowered just one rail each for a score of four faults.
The opening day of jumping competition represented the first individual qualifier, with riders carrying their scores forward to the next individual round. It was also the deciding factor for the order of go for team competition. After applying the drop score, the Canadian Show Jumping Team is currently in a tie for third place on four faults, providing the advantage of riding later in the round on Aug. 16. Brazil and Germany are currently the only teams on a perfect score of zero.
Candele, 45, made his Olympic debut as the pathfinder for Canada. Riding First Choice 15 (For Keeps x Angard), a 13-year-old Hanoverian gelding owned by The Watermark Group, he had just one rail down at a double-combination off a tricky broken line at fence 11, which proved to be the bogey fence of the day, causing upwards of 20 horse/rider combinations to incur four faults.
“There was a line where you could do seven or eight, it’s very technical,” Candele commented about the course, which featured 12 obstacles and 15 jumping efforts set by FEI 4* course designer Guilherme Jorge of Brazil, who has a Canuck connection as the husband of Canadian grand prix rider, Angela Covert. “I think my horse did really well. He was going to go clear, but I got there a bit early, so a little rider mistake, but no damage and we’ll keep going. Now we’ve felt the ring and it was good height today and I’m sure it’s going to get bigger, so it’s exciting.”
Next in for Canada was Foster, 32, and Tripple X III (Namelus R x Cantango), a 14-year-old Anglo European stallion owned by Artisan Farms LLC and Torrey Pines Stable. Her four faults also came at the ‘b’ element of jump 11.
“That was definitely the bogey line in the course today,” explained Foster, who is now a two-time Olympian, having been named to the Canadian Show Jumping Team at the London 2012 Olympic Games. “It’s very big and quite spooky and airy, even for an experienced horse. But I’m not too concerned about it. We have a few little tricks in our bag for the next rounds, so we definitely didn’t tap out today. We’ve got a lot more in store. In the last four years, from the last Games until now, I have jammed in quite a bit of experience. So I definitely feel way more prepared and I feel pretty good about it.”
Millar, 39, made quite the impression with her Olympic debut, which followed in the footsteps of her father, 10-time Olympian Ian Millar. Paired with Heros (Canadian River x Clinton I), a nine-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding owned by AMMO Investments, she put Canada’s first zero on the board with a foot-perfect round.
“There is no better position to be in,” Millar commented about her clear round. “I wanted to be able to go into the nations’ cup with confidence, and for that, I put myself in the best position that I could have possibly done. I’ve known all along my horse has never been in as good of form as he is this week. He feels amazing. So I just have to make sure that I am in the same place and anything can happen.
Ian Millar was thrilled with his daughter’s Olympic debut, which happened to fall on the Father’s Day holiday in Brazil. “It’s definitely easier to do it myself, but I must say it is a whole new level of excitement and it gives me such pride and joy and pleasure to watch my daughter Amy do this today,” he said. “There’s nothing like it, it doesn’t compare.”
Team anchor and 2008 Olympic Champion, Lamaze, 48, opened his third Olympic Games with another clear for Canada aboard Fine Lady 5 (Forsyth x Drosselklang II), a 13-year-old Hanoverian mare, owned by Artisan Farms LLC and Torrey Pines Stable.
“This little mare jumped fantastic,” Lamaze said of Fine Lady 5, a horse that has been on fire this season, wrapping up the Games preparation with two big wins at the prestigious CSIO Aachen World Equestrian Festival in July. “I did ride a different plan on some lines, just because she felt so on it that some of the adds didn’t feel necessary. With this mare, once you get a feel that she is there, it’s best to stay out of the way. She speaks louder than me sometimes, so I just go with how she feels. And today I feel like I hit my stride and the pace felt good.”
As for the team overall, as anchor, Lamaze is feeling confident heading into the team competition. “I’m very happy with the whole Canadian team today,” he said. “I’m a big cheerleader of our Team Canada and I’ve always been. I promote team competition throughout the year and try to do as many nations’ cups as I can. I love team competition, I always have, so it’s great that they all did very well and I’m very proud of them all.”
The Canadian Show Jumping Team is supported at the Games by Chef d’Équipe, Mark Laskin and Team Manager, Karen Hendry-Ouellette.
Jumping competition will take a break while dressage wraps up with the Grand Prix Freestyle for individual medals on Aug. 15. Following the two-part team competition for jumping on Aug. 16 and 17, the individual medals will be decided on Aug. 19 with a two-round final.