Hawley Bennett-Awad of Langley, BC, was the highest placed member of the Canadian Olympic Team for Eventing as competition opened on Saturday, July 28, at Greenwich Park for the 2012 London Olympic Games.

Three Canadian Olympic Team members for Eventing competed on the first of two days of dressage competition with Bennett-Awad currently ranked 11th in the provisional standings after scoring 48.70 penalty points riding Gin & Juice.  Michele Mueller of Port Perry, ON, earned a score of 57 penalty points to place 25th while Peter Barry of Dunham, QC, is currently ranked 32nd in the individual standings with 61.70 penalty points.

Two German competitors, Ingrid Klimke riding Butts Abraxxas and Dirk Schrade riding King Artus, currently top the leader board with scores of 39.30 and 39.80 penalty points respectively.  Great Britain’s Mary King is ranked third after scoring 40.90 with Imperial Cavalier.

“Amazing, what a feeling going into that ring!” said Bennett-Awad, 35, following her dressage test.  Bennett-Awad is making her second Olympic appearance, having also represented Canada in 2004 in Athens.

Of Gin & Juice, a 12-year-old American thoroughbred mare that she co-owns with Linda Paine, Bennett-Awad said, “She actually surprised me with how rideable she was.  I had a few tears coming down center line.  I am so proud of her!”

In her Olympic debut, Mueller is riding Amistad, a 13-year-old chestnut thoroughbred/Belgian-cross gelding owned by Julie-Anna Pring.

“I am pleased with it, I am happy with it,” said Mueller, 48, of her dressage test.  “I would have loved to have been better; everyone wants to do better, of course!  I am pleased that my horse didn’t lose it in the ring; he kept it together, he listened and he tried hard.  I couldn’t ask for any more.”

Barry was awarded a score of 57 penalty points from the three-member ground jury to currently rank 32nd in the individual standings riding Kilrodan Abbott, a 13-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding owned by Peter, Susan and Dylan Barry.

“I had two mistakes which cost me,” explained Barry, 56, who is also making his Olympic debut.  “After the halt when we trotted off, he wanted to go into a canter, and then there was an error in the test. It was not my best dressage score, but I think we were respectable.”

Barry is looking forward to Monday’s challenging cross-country phase, stating, “I am happy to say that I don’t think it is going to be a dressage show here.  I think the cross-country course will be influential.  I will try hard to ride my turns well, and I think there is time to be made, so I hope we move up after cross-country.”

Canada’s other two team members, Jessica Phoenix of Uxbridge, ON, riding her own Canadian-bred Exponential, and Rebecca Howard of Salmon Arm, BC, riding the Canadian-bred Riddle Master, owned by Blithe Hill Farm, will contest the opening phase of dressage on Sunday, July 29.  Once all five team members have completed the dressage phase, the best three scores will be used to determine the overall team standings.  A total of 12 countries are contesting the team medals.

Often referred to as the triathlon of horse sports, is comprised of three consecutive phases.  The first phase of competition, dressage, will be held over two days, Saturday, July 28, and Sunday, July 29, at the 2012 London Olympic Games.  The second phase, cross-country, will be held Monday, July 30, and features 28 fences with 39 jumping efforts over a track set by British course designer Sue Benson.  The third and final phase, show jumping, will take place on Tuesday, July 31.  Team medals will be decided following the first round of show jumping, while the top 25 athletes in the individual rankings, limited to a maximum of three representatives per nation, will advance to a second round of show jumping to determine the individual medals.

The Canadian Olympic Team for Eventing is supported by Coach/International Technical Advisor David O’Connor; Chef d’Equipe Graeme Thom; Veterinarian Christiana Ober; Stable Manager Deb Furnas; Ferrier Randy Pawlak; Team Manager Fleur Tipton; and Therapist Jo Ann Wilson.

For more information, including results, please visit the equestrian sport section of the official 2012 London Olympic Games website at www.london2012.com/equestrian.