Ian Millar Ends Record Tenth Pan Am Appearance as Top Canadian

Equestrian competition officially came to a close at the TORONTO 2015 Pan American Games with the individual final in show jumping taking place on Saturday, July 25, at the OLG Caledon Pan Am Equestrian Park in Caledon, ON. Ten-time Canadian Olympian Ian Millar of Perth, ON, hometown athlete Yann Candele of Caledon, ON, and 2008 Olympic Champion Eric Lamaze of Schomberg, ON, contested the individual final for Canada.

Canada had claimed the gold medal in Thursday’s team competition, also earning Olympic qualification, with all four members of the Canadian Show Jumping Team producing impressive results. The top 35 athletes move forward to the individual final, however, nations are restricted to sending their best three ranked riders. That meant Tiffany Foster, 31, of North Vancouver, BC, cheered her teammates on from the sidelines, despite being ranked 18th individually with Tripple X III, owned by Artisan Farms LLC.

In his record tenth Pan American Games appearance, Millar emerged as the highest-placed Canadian individually following two tough rounds of show jumping competition at Olympic standard. Riding Dixson, a 12-year-old bay Belgian Warmblood gelding (Vigo d’Arsouilles x Olisco) owned by Susan and Ariel Grange, Millar incurred eight faults in the opening round. The pair improved to a four fault effort in the second round, which saw competitors tackle a new track set by Canadian course designer Michel Vaillancourt, individual silver medalist at the 1976 Montreal Olympics.

With a final score of 13 faults over two rounds, Millar ended his tenth Pan American Games bid tied in 16th position. A total of 50 athletes contested the show jumping events at the TORONTO 2015 Pan American Games. Following a two-horse jump-off for the gold medal, Mclain Ward of the United States riding Rothchild won over Venezuela’s Andres Rodriguez and Darlon van Groenhove. Another jump-off to determine the bronze medal saw Lauren Hough of the United States emerge on top riding Ohlala.

“I said to the team that it was a good thing we got a medal on Thursday!” said Millar, 68, who was the Pan Am Champion in 1987 and 1999. “When we come to these things, the team event is the most important thing. That’s what we want is the team result. It’s what we need for the Olympic qualification. That was the big job. It doesn’t mean that we let down today, it just didn’t happen.

“The horse executed everything just fine, all of the problems, but he happened to have a couple of rails,” continued Millar of Dixson’s performance. “Am I disappointed? Yes. But I love the horse and he’s given us a great Pan American Games. It just wasn’t our day.”

Candele finished in 19th position individually with a two-round total score of 16 faults. Riding Showgirl, a 15-year-old chestnut selle francais mare (Gold de Becourt x Elf III) owned by the Watermark Group, Candele incurred eight faults in both rounds.

“Our priority was the team and qualifying for the Olympics,” said Candele, 44, who was riding with a broken finger. “Today was going to be a bonus, and today was for the crowd. In both rounds I rode very well, but the mare was lacking energy. She is older, so we are not going to hold anything against her.”

In Thursday’s team event, Candele and Showgirl delivered the best scores of the Canadian Show Jumping Team. Less than two years ago, a group of committed owners came together under the name Watermark Group to purchase Showgirl for Candele on the advice of 2008 Olympic Champion Eric Lamaze.

“They got together to try to help me and help the Canadian Team for the World Championships and Pan Am Games,” explained Candele. “It was a success at the World Championships, and the experience we gained over there was amazing. That actually did help for being at home in Toronto where the pressure was twice as big. It was a success for the group of owners, and it was a success for the country. It was a success for all of us. It was amazing that we got the gold and qualified for the Olympics. I will remember it for life.”

Lamaze had an unexpected stop on course during the first round riding Coco Bongo. As the pair entered the opening element of the triple combination at fence 11, Coco Bongo hung up in the air, coming down on the back rail. As a result, they could not make the distance to the ‘b’ element. The eight jumping faults and two time penalties left Lamaze in 22nd position individually, just missing the cut for the second round.

“He clearly backed away in the air, I don’t know if he was looking at something or if he was being extra-careful as the course went on, but he backed away in the air and, at that point, it was over,” said Lamaze of the 10-year-old bay Rheinlander stallion (Caretino x Calido) owned by Artisan Farms LLC. “It’s disappointing and it’s not. I think the mistake came from having a lot of quality. It’s not a horse that is scared, just a horse that is extremely careful. He wasn’t sure how to solve that triple and he held himself back.”

Having built his business, Torrey Pines Stable, in nearby Schomberg, ON, competing at the OLG Caledon Pan Am Equestrian Park was something of a homecoming for Lamaze.

“This venue is superior to any other Pan Am Games that I’ve been involved in,” said Lamaze, 47, who was competing in his fifth consecutive Pan American Games. “Rio also did a fantastic job with the venue. This venue is excellent; this could be an Olympic Games. We have plenty of warm-up rings, great footing, and great stabling for the horses. The crowd was great. There was nothing missing here. It was first-class. We can be proud as Canadians to have hosted the Pan Am Games.”

The Canadian Show Jumping Team was led by chef d’equipe Mark Laskin, Team Manager Karen Hendry-Ouellette, Team Veterinarian Dr. Sylvie Surprenant, and Stable Manager Darren Roberts.

The Canadian Equestrian Team claimed a total of five medals at the TORONTO 2015 Pan American Games, helping Canada set a record for the most medals earned in Pan American Games competition. Canada won team silver in dressage with an individual bronze for Chris von Martels; eventing won team bronze with an individual silver for Jessica Phoenix, and show jumping took the team gold medal for the first time since 1987.