Canada’s up-and-coming jumping athletes celebrated National Horse Day on June 1, 2019 with team camaraderie and podium finishes during nations cup competition at the CSIO 5* Odlum Brown BC Open at Thunderbird in Langley, BC.
First up was the CSIO-Ch Children’s Nations Cup, open to athletes between the ages of 12 and 14, and set at a height of 1.20m. The Canadian team, comprised of Joseph Carruthers of Millarville, AB, and Calgary, AB natives, Serenity Enders, Olivia Stephenson, and Brooklynn Van Grieken, saw both ups and downs across what would prove to be three rounds of competition.
At the end of the first round, Canada was tied with Mexico for the lead on four faults, with the United States trailing on 12. However, in true nations cup fashion, anything can happen in the second round, and while Canada and Mexico added to their scores for a two-round total of 12 faults, the United States had a perfect score of zero in round two to stay on 12 overall.
Following standard nations cup rules, the rare three-way tie forced a jump-off for final placings. All four riders from each team were invited forward to the shortened jump-off course, where each team was granted one drop score before combining overall faults and time for a final score.
Carruthers, 13, was Canada’s lead-off rider aboard SM Rialto, a 15-year-old Hanoverian gelding owned by Spruce Meadows Ltd. and sired by Simply Spruce Meadows. Having gone clear in both previous rounds, he lowered one rail in the second element of a combination during the jump-off for four faults, but put Canada’s fastest time on the board, crossing the timers in 36.28 seconds.
Next up for Canada was Enders, 13, riding Torino, an 18-year-old Irish Warmblood gelding sired by Touchdown and owned by Joyce Enders. Having accumulated four and eight faults, respectively, during the first two rounds, Enders ended the day on a high note, putting a clear on the board for Canada in a time of 37.44 seconds.
The 13-year-old Van Grieken mirrored Enders’ effort, also finishing with zero jump-off faults, partnered with Viva La Vida (Uccello x Le Primeur), Lisa Carlen’s eight-year-old Hanoverian mare.
Despite being Canada’s youngest teammate, Stephenson, 12 – who was competing in the nations cup for the second year in a row – stepped up to the anchor position and handled challenges with poise and focus. During round one, Stephenson was working on a perfect clear heading to the final fence, where a big jumping effort from Chaccana (Chacco Blue x Kannan), a 12-year-old Oldenburg mare owned by Cheree Stephenson, resulted in an unplanned dismount. However, it was quickly confirmed that since Stephenson’s fall took place after the duo crossed through the timers, her clear score would stand.
Uninjured in the fall, Stephenson continued on to round two, where her clear ride secured Canada’s place in the jump-off. Staying calm under pressure as the final jump-off rider for the maple leaf, Stephenson had yet another clear performance, earning a time of 38.45 seconds, which allowed the team to finish on zero faults and a combined time of 116.47. This put Canada mere seconds behind the United States, who won on 112.44 seconds with zero faults. Mexico took third place on 12 faults and a combined time of 114.20.
“The Children’s team was great, and every rider contributed at least one round to the team score,” said Dayton Gorsline, Jumping Talent ID Program Advisor, who took on the role of Chef d’ Équipe for both teams in Langley. “Having three teams in the jump-off created a lot of fun and excitement, and I think all the teams really enjoyed it.”
The CSIO-J Nations Cup followed, with the jumps being raised to 1.40m, a tricky open water jump added, and the age limit changed to 14 to 18 years old. Like their Children’s teammates, Junior riders, Jenna Lee Gottschlich of Edmonton, AB, Jessie Prpich and Carly Stevens of Foothills, AB, and Alicia Timm of Calgary, AB, also faced teams from the United States and Mexico.
First into the ring for Canada’s juniors was Stevens, 16, and VIP des Majuros (Iolisco de Quinhon x Sarastro), a 10-year-old French Anglo-Arab gelding owned by Grant and Susan Stevens. Competing in the nations cup for the third year in a row, Stevens made an ideal pathfinder, and proved to be the team’s top performer after laying down back-to-back clear rounds.
Timm, 17, was next with Loughnavatta Ash, an 11-year-old Irish Sport Horse mare sired by Luidam and owned by Bruce Timm. Unfortunately the duo had a refusal in round one, but returned to improve in round two and finish on eight faults. Prpich, 18, followed aboard Kazou van de Kwakkelhoek (Copperfield Von Der Held x Toulon), a nine-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare owned by Telsec Farm Calgary Ltd. Their best performance came in round one, where they left all the rails up, but had a toe in the open water and came in just over the time allowed for five faults.
Taking on the anchor position was 16-year-old Gottschlich. Although she was riding her new partner, Evita P (Vingino x Niveau), a 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare, she is no stranger to team competition, having represented Canada at Thunderbird in 2017 and 2018, as well as the 2017 FEI North American Youth Championships (NAYC). Gottschlich’s experience paid off, and she closed out the competition by incurring just four faults in the second round at the ‘c’ element of a challenging triple combination.
Canada’s final two-round tally was 25 faults for third place. The United States topped the podium on four faults, while Mexico took third with 16.
“We really appreciate Thunderbird putting on this event,” said Gorsline. “They do a fantastic job, giving the kids a wonderful opportunity to gain team experience and compete in the main grand prix ring.”
Gorsline also spoke to the dynamic and well-rounded experience Canada’s up-and-coming athletes were treated to throughout the week at the CSIO 5* Odlum Brown BC Open in order to help foster their growth. Through the Youth Education Seminar (YES) Series, the athletes had the opportunity to learn from FEI Veterinarian, Dr. David Paton and FEI Steward, Jan Stephens, who provided valuable insight youth athletes need to have before moving into FEI competition. The athletes also received the special opportunity to attend a course walk with American veteran Richard Spooner.
“This was a really positive, feel-good event, and that kind of experience is great for the kids – it’s something really nice to build from,” said Gorsline, who was attending his first-ever team event as the Jumping Talent ID Program Advisor, having taken the role over from Beth Underhill in March 2019. “It was a lot of fun, and you really don’t feel like a singular beacon in this position. We have a really great group of people. From the coaches to the parents, everybody was out in full force, and they were all really supportive. It’s nice to see that kind of interest in supporting our up-and-coming athletes.”
In addition to Gorsline, the jumping youth athletes were supported on the ground by Equestrian Canada (EC) Manager of Jumping, Karen Hendry-Ouellette and EC Jumping Program Coordinator, Stefanie Krysiak. The youth teams are sponsored by SSG Gloves and Grant Stevens.
For more information and full results from the CSIO 5* Odlum Brown BC Open, visit www.tbird.ca.