Belinda Trussell of Stouffville, ON, was the first competitor into the stadium on the second day of Grand Prix. Under sunny skies she and Anton, a 16-year-old Sachsen-Anhaltiner gelding owned by Robyn Eames and Mark Trussell, had a lovely test, earning nines from several judges for her piaffe work.

“Anton was very good. He was very concentrated,” said Trussell after her test. “He was very relaxed. Often he can get a little bit more excited in the ring and in this ring he was just like it was another test. From that perspective, it was wonderful. He did everything that I asked him to do. There were a few little things I think I could spark up a bit for another few percentages, but to get a 72 which is just one percent lower than our personal best at the Olympics, I’m really happy.”

Not surprisingly, Trussell counted the piaffes as her stand-out moments today. “It’s just plain fun to ride his piaffe. I was really happy with the changes,too; when he’s a little bit more relaxed or different to ride I have to make the right decisions on how to ride them. He was super, so it was a relief that it all worked. Everything just felt like it just flowed nicely.”

This was Trussell’s second Olympic experience, having previously competed at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games where the Canadian Dressage Team earned ninth place. She had remarked prior to coming to Rio, “These Olympics are so special to me, because four years ago my dreams were shattered when Anton had a major injury that took us out of the running for the London 2012 Games. Little did I know he would recover so well and earn a place on the Rio Olympic Team with personal best scores.”

Trussell took a while to get to the mixed zone for her interview, but with good reason. As Anton is a little older athlete now, Trussell is very careful with his cooldowns. “After I ride, I always do a long and low stretch to let his muscles relax and let him come down a little. He has – I hope! – a test tomorrow so I wanted to give him that opportunity.”

There has been music playing in the arena both days, to mixed reviews. Trussell is one of the advocates. “They do a great job. I like it and it’s a little bit quieter in the ring than it is out here. You can hear it, but it’s not overpowering, it’s nice. It really helps you flow with the test.”

The 44-year old is staying in the Athletes Village in Barra da Tijuca along with Megan Lane. “It’s great. I was unsure, because I’m a little older athlete, if I would fit in. No one has asked me if I’m an athlete, they all ask me if I’m staff! It’s comfortable, it’s clean. Canada House is great, because you have all your stuff from home that you like and you are around people from your homeland. And the transportation is so easy, I like that, too. You get on the bus every half hour and you’re here in 30 minutes, you don’t have any worries.”

Trussell has plenty of rah-rah energy with her in Rio. Besides the Canadian Team supporters and fans, her husband Mark, sister, mother, and father were also cheering her on in the stands.

Security concerns have not personally been an issue for Trussell. “I’ve heard of a few little incidences but … there are military guys all over!” She was happy that there was no constant gunfire from local practice ranges during her ride. “I was very happy there was no gunfire today. We were grazing Anton when we first heard it, and he didn’t seem to care. I was a bit nervous that he would care down here, but he didn’t. I got lucky.”

When asked if the pressure here at the Olympics was different than competing on home soil at the Pan Ams, she thought for a second before replying. “They are both huge pressure. Yes, different. You want to perform for your home country and they are all there watching and you want to please them. Having them [here in Rio] with you, but through Facebook and social media, you feel that as well. It’s the Olympics; there’s nothing bigger for us.”

You can watch their ride here.