Report by Nancy Jaffer

The United States (US) dressage team qualified for next year’s Rio de Janeiro Olympics when claiming the gold medal at the Pan American Games outside Toronto at the weekend (Sunday 12 July). The US took top spot ahead of the Canada, with Brazil in third.

The US scored 460.5 across two days of competition, while Canada earned 454.9. Brazil, which has automatic qualification as Olympic hosts, finished on 414.9.

The competition followed a mixed small tour/big tour format, designed to include Western Hemisphere countries that are not as strong in the discipline as the US and Canada.

The big tour riders got a 1.5% bonus under the unique formula that offered prix st georges and grand prix on the first day, with intermediate I and the grand prix special on the second.

Canada proved to have impressive small tour competitors, but the big tour combinations lacked the strength of their US conterparts.

The US’s Steffen Peters, ranked seventh in the world, was the leading rider on the first day with Legolas, scoring 77.24%. His teammate, eighth-ranked Laura Graves, led the way on the second day aboard Verdades earning 77.18%.

US dressage coach Robert Dover said he regretted a formula that meant two teams couldn’t qualify for the Olympics from the Pan Am Games. Canada will now have to rely on putting together a composite team based on individual rider’s rankings in order to have a squad at the Rio Olympics in 2016.

But it’s not all doom and gloom for the Canadians, who demonstrated how far their development program has come.

“I think this games has pushed us up to a new level,” said Canadian grand prix competitor Belinda Trussell. “We are so pumped as a nation to go forward to the next Games. We’re excited we’re real international contenders.”