Belinda Trussell of Stouffville, ON, was third in the ring in the Grand Prix Special on a cool and overcast morning at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. Riding the 16-year-old Anton, Trussell, 44, had placed 28th in the previous day’s Grand Prix with a score of 71.286%, securing a spot in the Special. They performed a correct, elegant test, scoring 72.325%.

“I was generally really pleased with him; he went in there and did a good job,” said Trussell. “I had a mistake with the ones [tempi-changes] on the centreline which was a bit costly, so that brought us down a notch. But in general I’m proud of Anton; he went in and he did his best and he was with me even through a little bit of strange noises in the background.” She was referring to a loud coughing snort that came over the sound system as Anton passed by a flowerbox with a hidden microphone. “He didn’t flinch; he was very focussed,” she continued. “It just distracted me for a stride or two, but then I thought, ‘Okay, back to the game.’ I don’t know if he was coughing or choked on something or what. At least it wasn’t a bang [as happened in Colleen Loach’s eventing dressage test]. A bang would have been scarier.”

She talked about her piaffes, which scored a bit lower than in her previous test. “I thought they were a little flatter. He felt a little bit more tired. I think for one score higher he needs a bit more bounce.”

Trussell described her feelings about her second Olympic appearance. “I really wanted higher [scores]; I really wanted to get into the Freestyle and that’s not going to get me into the Freestyle, so that’s disappointing, because that was my goal to come to the Olympics and get to the Freestyle. But it is what it was today.” Only the top 18 individuals will go on to the Grand Prix Freestyle on Aug. 15 to compete for individual medals. “But I still am happy – he did a good job and he did his best on the day and I’m pleased with him.”

Trussell explained the daily balancing that goes into keeping horses happy and performing their best at the Games. “It’s different coming into an Olympics; you’re here for so long. It’s different than most other shows. You have to just judge things. The weather’s been changing quite a bit, so that’s been a little bit tricky, too. Does he need to work harder? Does he need to be worked less? Is it windy or cool? I think he’s just feeling the whole week.

“I really wanted to do this with Anton because he’s come back from an injury, and also to enjoy being here. I definitely feel like I did that, and I enjoyed my rides with him. I still feel like I’m not finished yet. As a Canadian, I want to be in the top ten and do well for Canada, so that still inspires me to keep going. I’m not sure if it will be with Anton, given that he’s 16 this year. So the next horse is coming along, hopefully, but it’s been a great Olympics and great experience. We want better in the future, but it’s still a very solid performance.

“We’re heading in the right direction and I’m really proud of my teammate Megan – I thought she came in and did a great job in her first Olympics,” Trussell concluded. Megan Lane, 25, had scored 71.286% in her Olympic debut with Caravella, placing 32nd, which was unfortunately just outside of the cut-off for the Grand Prix Special.