The summer of 2020 is one we would all like to see in the rearview mirror. Self-isolation, social distancing, social bubbles, quarantine: these phrases and words have become part of our daily conversation. It’s been challenging for the entire population.
For equestrians, with local and international competitions cancelled the world over including Spruce Meadows’ Summer series and Masters, The Royal Winter Fair and the Olympics, it has brought our sport to a square halt at X in more ways than one.
This Canada Day, when most public celebrations have been cancelled, we thought it was an opportunity to take a positive look back at just a few of our country’s best moments in equestrian sports. Happy Canada Day!
1. Eric Lamaze and Hickstead won Individual Gold at the Olympics in 2008. This was the first time a Canadian horse-and-rider combination have achieved this honour in the sport. The pair were always dynamic to watch in the ring and continued to win after the Games until tragically the superstar stallion died suddenly during a competition in Italy in 2011. This legendary partnership will deservedly be inducted into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame in the class of 2020/21.
2. Olympic Gold came to our show jumping team for the first time in 1968, in Mexico City, where iconic equestrians and their mounts, Jim Day on Canadian Club, Tom Gayford on Big Dee and Jim Elder on The Immigrant rode winning rides to the top of the podium.
3. Showing the world that women are equal to men in horse sport, Gail Greenough rode to victory in 1986, becoming the first Canadian, First North American and first woman to win the World Show Jumping Championships aboard Mr. T.
4. No Canadian equestrian list is complete without the iconic due of Ian Millar and Big Ben; their record speaks for itself, but for this list we’ll single out the fact that they became the first horse and rider duo to win two World Cup Finals in a row.
5. When then nineteen-year-old Mario Delauriers, riding Aramis won the World Cup Final in 1984 it made him the youngest rider ever to achieve this feat.
6. The three-day-event is a brutal test of strength, skill and endurance, which makes the five-time Pan Am medaling horse and rider pair of Jessica Phoenix and Pavarotti even more remarkable. Of course, the big highlight was their individual gold at the Pan Am Games in Mexico in 2011.
7. The same year that Eric Lamaze and Hickstead won individual Olympic Gold in Hong Kong, his teammates, Ian Millar, Mac Cone and Jill Henselwood joined him on the podium for Team Silver in 2008.
8. It was a game-changer for the sport of dressage in Canada when our national team comprising of Cindy Ishoy, Eva Marie Pracht, Ashley Holzer and Gina Smith took home the team Bronze Medal at the Seoul Olympics in 1988.
9. Few dressage enthusiasts will ever forget the magical chemistry between Cindy Ishoy and the incomparable Dynasty, her Olympic mount. The same year – 1988 – the pair placed second at the Dressage World Cup Final in s’Hertogenbosch, a record that still stands.
10. He was already a living legend in tall boots, but when Ian Millar competed at the 2012 Olympics in London, he broke a record; becoming the first athlete in any sport to compete in 10 Olympic Games. Millar retired in 2019 and continues to train and coach.
What are your favourite moments in Canadian equestrian sport? Drop us a line at [email protected]