When former Canadian Olympic medallist Ashley Holzer announced in 2017 she would be representing the United States in competition, it caused ripples throughout the Canadian dressage community. Although Ashley had lived in the USA for decades, her decision to compete under the stars and stripes instead of the maple leaf wasn’t easy.

Ashley Holzer continues to coach a number of top Canadian dressage riders, including three tea gold medallists at the 2019 Pan Am Games in Lima.

“It was a difficult decision, as I grew up in Canada and have been extremely proud to represent Canada for many years,” she told Horse Sport at the time, “but I have lived in the States for almost 25 years and it is now truly my home. My husband and children are American and I became a citizen last year. The owners of the horses I presently ride really want them to represent the US, which I totally understand.”

While she is now one of the USA’s top international riders, Ashley’s influence on the sport in Canada hasn’t waned. She continues to coach a number of Canada’s elite dressage riders, including three of our four gold medallists at the 2019 Pan Am Games.

Ashley Holzer isn’t the first Canadian rider to compete for another country; with limited opportunities and a lot of competition to get on the national team here, it is not surprising that riders would want to have a chance to compete on the international stage via a different route.  Here are three Canadians who all chose to fly a different flag.


Yvonne Losos de Muniz – Dominican Republic

Yvonne Losos de Muniz has put the small Caribbean nation of the Dominican Republic on the dressage map, representing the island at the Central American and Caribbean Games, the Pan Am Games, the FEI World Cup Final, and the Olympics. While Yvonne and her top mounts Foco Loco W and Aquamarijn are very familiar to international dressage fans, her Canadian ties are less well known.

Citizenship: dual citizenship Canada and Dominican Republic

Canadian Connection: My parents are not Canadian by birth, but they both moved here from Europe and later became Canadian citizens. They always loved Canada and owned property here, wanting it to always be our “home base” no matter where they lived in the world. I was born in Nigeria since my dad was working there at the time, and later moved to Uganda and Kenya, where we remained until I was a teenager. That’s when we moved permanently to Canada, and my dad still lives on our family farm in Ontario.

Yvonne Losos de Muniz,

Dominican Connection: My husband is Spanish/Dominican and we are both Dominican residents. In the early ’90s we were living in the Dominican Republic, and I started riding there. For a while I did both jumping and dressage, and was actually on the national jumping team in 2002. Later I decided to focus only on dressage. The national federation asked me to represent them early on in my career, which was a real honour.

Did you grow up riding in Canada?

I first learned to ride in Kenya and fell in love with horses there. I kept riding for fun in Canada but didn’t begin competing until I moved to the Dominican Republic.

What opportunities has riding for the DR created for you?

It has been a wonderful opportunity. It’s an honour and a privilege to ride for a small nation that supports its athletes, even the ones from non-traditional sports like ours. The federation, the Ministry of Sport, the national Olympic Committee and a private organization called CRESO, which is fully funded by the private sector and supports elite athletes, have always gone above and beyond to provide full funding for my participation in international events and championships, including Pan Am Games and the Olympics.

On the other hand, riding for a non-traditional nation (or exotic, as they call it) is a handicap at times. Throughout my career there have been competitions where I have not understood why or how I have received lower scores than riders from traditional nations, after seeing and comparing the tests. It has improved in the past years, but every now and then you do get disappointed when you see large score disparities. I have to ride better, fight harder, and be more consistent than others perhaps, but I think that has both made me tougher and a better rider, and it’s fine.

I have also been able to train riders from many other Latin American countries, and two of my students, Virginia Yarur from Chile and Patricia Ferrando from Venezuela are first and second reserves for the Tokyo Olympics.

Where are you based now and who do you train with?

My residence is in the Dominican Republic, but I keep my horses in Wellington, Florida, where I do the winter season. I usually travel to Europe for the summer to show and train, and take my students and their horses as well.

I have trained with many top coaches and riders from around the world over the years, including Ton de Ridder, Carl Hester, Diederik Wigmans, Jan Bemmelmans, Jose Antonio Garcia Mena, Andreas Helgstrand and Severo Jurado. Currently I train with my dear friend Kathy Priest. We help each other all the time and she has done a fantastic job in keeping me sharp in the show ring.

Do you still feel supported by Canadian fans and riders?

Absolutely; I have many great friends who are Team Canada riders, as well as judges, stewards and vets. I always receive great support from Canadian fans, and appreciate it. I will always have deep ties to Canada and I visit our family home near Ottawa several times a year.


Karen Pavicic – Croatia

BC native Karen Pavicic proudly represented Canada for more than two decades, earning a silver medal at the Pan Am Games, competing at the World Equestrian Games, and narrowly missing a spot on the 2016 Canadian Olympic team. So when Karen decided in 2018 to ride for Croatia, it meant starting out all over again. She has moved her young horses up through the levels of international competition under the Croatian flag, and scored the nation’s first-ever CDI victory this year at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival.

Citizenship: Dual citizenship Canada and Croatia

Canadian Connection: I was born and raised in Richmond, British Columbia, and still live here the majority of the year. My father is Dutch and moved to Canada when he was 16. My mother is Irish/Welsh, but her parents were born and raised in Canada.

Croatian Connection: My ex-husband was born in Croatia. He, my children and I all have dual citizenship.

Did you grow up riding in Canada?

I was fortunate to grow up in B.C. with horses in my backyard. I loved all of the Pony Club events that I participated in when I was a kid, and remember watching the 1981 NAYRC that was held in Maple Ridge.

Karen Pavicic was named EC Para-Dressage Development Coach of the Year in 2019. (Petra Kerschbaum photo)

Was it a difficult decision to ride for a country other than Canada?

It’s a bit bittersweet to ride for Croatia. I’m happy to be representing them and I hope to help promote the sport of dressage in that country.

What opportunities has riding for Croatia created for you?

This year I was supposed to compete at the Balkan Championships in Romania, but it’s doubtful they will be taking place now due to COVID-19. Competing for Croatia enables me to all compete at the European Championships too, which is exciting. This winter in Florida, Totem and I won a PSG at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival and it was the first CDI victory ever recorded for Croatia. Hopefully I will make more history for them! Winning that class and hearing the anthem play was very special.

The sport of dressage is still developing in Croatia and they have worked hard to develop a training program that is starting to pay off. One of their junior riders won the gold medal at the Balkan Championships last year.

Where are you physically based now and who do you train with?

My home base is in Surrey, B.C., and I spend some of the winter months in Wellington, Florida. I don’t have a personal trainer. I had the benefit of some excellent training when I was a young person, both in Canada and in Europe, and had the privilege of riding with many amazing people throughout my career, however, I am mainly self-taught. While I’m in Florida I try to get help from who I can, when I can, when the opportunity presents itself. You can never stop learning!

Do you still feel supported by Canadian fans and riders?

For the most part yes. My sports nationality is Croatian, but I am still a Canadian at heart.


Esther Mortimer – Guatemala

As the daughter of accomplished Canadian dressage trainer Ralph Mortimer, it’s no surprise Esther Mortimer grew up to become a successful international competitor and trainer herself. She has competed at the 2003, 2011 and 2015 Pan Am Games, as well as the Central American & Caribbean Games, where most recently she earned both team and individual bronze medals at the 2018 games in Barranquilla, Colombia.

While Esther is based in Millgrove, Ontario, where she and husband Harper MacKenzie operate M2 Dressage, she competes under Guatemala’s blue and white flag, rather than the maple leaf.

Citizenship: Dual citizenship Canada and Guatemala

Canadian Connection: I was born in Ontario and lived here until the age of nine. Growing up at IESS (now RCRA) in Newmarket where my father coached couldn’t have been a more incredible experience. I lived at the barn and had access to so many disciplines including eventing, dressage, Prince Phillip Games, and Pony Club. My father always found a way to make deals and get me incredible opportunities, like learning on Grand Prix school masters.

Esther Mortimer competing in the Derby at the 2018 Royal.

Guatemalan Connection: When I was nine year old my father was offered job coaching the Guatemalan equestrian team, and we lived there for the next 13 years.

What opportunities has riding for Guatemala created for you?

I had so many opportunities growing up in Guatemala, including being able to ride incredible horses that were imported from Germany. As they say there, I have a passion for Guatemala! They have given me so much support over the years and I’m so very grateful. It’s been an honour to represent them at the Copa de las Americas, three Pan American Games, and the Central and Caribbean Games. My dream is to represent Guatemala at the Olympics.

Guatemala has so many talented riders. I always love travelling there to give clinics. I appreciate their passion and dedication for riding so much, and I always come home feeling more inspired myself.

Do you still feel supported by Canadian fans and riders?

Of course! I have so much support from our friends, family clients and incredible fans here. Riding in the Pan Am Games in Toronto in front of a hometown crowd is one of my favourite memories.