Mill Spring, NC – Emulating the female superheroes depicted in their performances, two Canadian vaulting pairs conquered their second round of freestyles to conclude the Pas-de-Deux Competition at the FEI World Equestrian Games™ Tryon 2018 (WEG) in Mill Spring, NC, on Sept. 20, 2018.

Dallyn Shields, 16, of Didsbury, AB and Jeanine van der Sluijs, 31, of Olds, AB launched fearlessly into the second run of their Xena: Warrior Princess themed routine. They executed bold movements on Phoenix, a 16-year-old Belgian/Paint/Thoroughbred-cross gelding owned and lunged by Rebecca Marland of Rocky Mountain House, AB, for a score of 7.258. Combined with their first round score of 7.758, Shields and van der Sluijs ended on a final score of 7.508 to clinch 10th place overall.

Lorenzo Lupacchini and Silvia Stopazzini of Italy led the pack on Rosenstolz, earning an impressive total of 9.027 for the gold medal. Austria followed in the silver medal position with Jasmin Lindner, Lukas Wacha and Dr. Doolittle earning a final score of 9.013. Taking home the bronze medal was Theresa-Sophie Bresch and Torben Jacobs of Germany with Picardo 13, scoring 8.872 overall.

“We had to work for everything a little bit harder today, but I think we did a really good job,” said van der Sluijs, who also represented the maple leaf at WEG 2014. “We got everything in there that we planned to do, and that’s a really good feeling to finish off with. For us, the big thing was just trying to remember what worked for us the day before and get the same run-through, and I think we did that.”

Speaking to the theme of female strength, van der Sluijs commented, “Girl athletes, we’re very strong and we don’t always get an opportunity to show how strong we are together, both inside and outside of the arena. I think we’re much more powerful that what people always think, so it’s kind of a cool feeling to go out there and show that girl power.”

Alisa Schmidt and Cassie Sponchia’s Wonder Woman themed freestyle earned them an overall placing of 11th.
Photo Credit – © Cealy Tetley

Alisa Schmidt, 32, of Chilliwack, BC and Cassie Sponchia of Delta, BC also returned to the ring aboard Sponchia’s Duke, a 14-year-old Shire/Warmblood-cross gelding lunged by Alishia McKitrick of Abbotsford, BC. Having already performed their Wonder Woman freestyle to the tune of 6.864, in the second round they added a score of 6.518 for a final combined score of 6.691, placing 11th overall.

“I think what we set out to accomplish today is exactly what happened,” said Schmidt, who is at WEG for the fifth time, having traveled as an alternate in 2002 before competing in 2006, 2010 and 2014. “We were happy with the horse, happy with the way that the performance went, and much more relaxed today.”

Speaking of her experiences at Tryon, Schmidt said, “I’ve only competed as an individual at WEG, and this is my first time being with a pair and team. I wish I had done it earlier; it’s been awesome, being out there with teammates.”

Alternatively, WEG 2018 represents Sponchia’s major games debut, and she is just as positive about the experience, commenting, “This is my first games and I think it was a really good experience because we accomplished all our goals.”

The top 15 individuals in both the male and female divisions also began their second round of competition with the technical test on Sept. 20. However, Canada’s representatives in the Individual Competition – van der Sluijs, Jessica Bentzen of Parksville, BC, and Todd Griffiths of Magrath, AB – closed out their runs with the first round Freestyle on Sept. 19.

With a final score of 6.578, van der Sluijs finished in 24th place individually aboard Habakkuk, an 18-year-old American Warmblood gelding owned and lunged by Karin Schmidt of Tottenham, ON. Bentzen, 27, scored 6.322 to follow in 27th place with Hugo, Deborah Bentzen’s 13-year-old Canadian Sport Horse gelding, lunged by Korynn Weber of Nelson, BC.

In the male division, Griffiths, 38, wrapped up his fourth WEG appearance in 19th on a final score of 7.048, earned with Lunar Eclipse, a 10-year-old American Warmblood mare (sired by Company Commander), owned and lunged by Kimberly Wellmann of Lubbock, TX.

The Canadian Squad will return to the ring to perform their final Freestyle for team medals on Sept. 22.

Although Canada’s vaulting athletes will enjoy a day off on Sept. 21, the Canadian Equestrian Team (CET) will be represented in jumping and para-dressage competition.