Meet the Canadian dressage team

  • For a nation that didn’t compete at Sydney and finished a lowly 10th in the team competition at Atlanta and Barcelona, the Canadians are upbeat about the Olympics — but also realistic about their chances.

    “We don’t anticipate any medal winners, but you never know,” says chef d’equipe Gwynne Rooke. “We aim to improve our world ranking and move up to seventh or eighth. I think that’s a realistic goal. We’re happy that we have a solid team of consistent performers.”

    Those thoughts are echoed by team rider Ashley Holzer.

    “My hope is to give a solid performance for the team,” says Ashley. “Cindy [Ishoy] and I were both on the bronze medal team at Seoul in 1988 and we’re committed to getting Canada back on the map.

    “We don’t have a superstar and a weak link, we’re all regularly scoring 68-70%. We have two less experienced horses at this level, but they are incredibly talented and have experienced riders in Cindy [Ishoy] and Leslie [Reid].”

    A veteran of five Olympics, Cindy Ishoy, 52, will be contesting her first Games since Seoul, where she finished fourth individually. She will ride her own 10-year-old Baden Wurttenburg gelding Proton, with whom she won the selection trials overall.

    Leslie Reid, 48, will be riding in her second Olympics. She was the individual gold medal-winner at the 2003 Pan Am Games with her Athens mount, Deryol Andrews’s Mark. The 10-year-old Holsteiner gelding has acquitted himself well this year — the combination was given a bye from the final selection trial based on exceptional scores earlier in the year.

    The two younger team members both rode their Athens horses in the team that gained Canada’s Olympic qualification at the Open European Championships in 2003 and at the World Equestrian Games in 2002, where the team finished ninth.

    Belinda Trussell, 32, will make her Olympic debut on her 14-year-old Oldenburg gelding Royan II. She finished second in the selection trials and was Canada’s sole representative in the World Cup final earlier this year.

    Gywnne also speaks highly of Ashley Holzer: “As the team collected the silver medals at the Pan Am games last year, Ashley jumped on a plane to compete Imperioso at Hickstead. Her experience and professionalism is unchallengeable.”

    The 40-year-old rider has been riding Imperioso, a 14-year-old Dutch Warmblood stallion by Cocktail, for four years. She bought him from sponsor Tess Gilder about 18 months ago. The pair won the final selection trial with a score of 69.125%.

    “Imperioso has been improving steadily and he’s incredibly consistent,” says Ashley. “It’s taken a while for me to figure out the best way to ride him, but over the past year the two of us have really bonded.

    “At the last Olympics I remember thinking: ‘I can’t feel my legs, I wonder if my horse knows what to do’ as I cantered down the centre line. I think it’ll be easier to see it as just another show this time.”

    The reserve combination is Evi Strasser and Quantum Tyme — team silver medal-winners at the 2003 Pan Am Games.

  • This team focus was first published in Horse & Hound (29 July)

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