Mark Todd: Don’t be so unsporting *H&H VIP*

  • From a personal perspective as coach to the Brazilian team, the Pan Am Games were a huge success. We took team silver and individual bronze medals, which probably surprised a few people, but I thought we had a decent chance and so it proved.

    The venue — Caledon Equestrian Centre, about an hour from Toronto — was stunning, with first-class facilities. It made last year’s World Equestrian Games look even more of a shambles!

    The cross-country took place an hour away. It was a fairly small area, but it was undulating, and the Australian course-designer Wayne Copping had done a good job of making use of the whole site. The track was on the soft side for a CCI2* but, considering the varying abilities taking part, it was a fair course.

    From the sport’s perspective, it was encouraging that there were 11 teams and 13 nations competing. The USA, Canada and Brazil stood out; there was a big gap back to the other, central and South American, nations, but it was great they were fielding teams — it is hugely difficult for them to compete at any level — and trying to improve.

    Karen O’Connor is coaching the Mexican team, while former Canadian rider Peter Gray is training the Guatemalans, and another Canadian, Kyle Carter, is helping the Venezuelans. The progress the Brazilians have made was a talking point, and should act as inspiration.

    We were drawn behind the hosts, Canada, so all our riders had to follow theirs into the dressage arena, where huge cheers went up as each of their competitors exited — and again as their scores were announced, by which time Ruy Fonseca, for example, was doing his first halt.

    There was a definite element of gamesmanship to it and it was a bit unsporting — there was a big cheer as our last rider entered the stadium, organised by someone connected to their team. But our riders did remind theirs in whose country next year’s Olympics will take place!

    All the Brazilians went clear inside the time, and we pushed team gold medallists, the USA, all the way to the line. Ruy had the last showjump down, so won individual bronze, rather than gold — still a terrific result.

    Anna Ross, the Brazilian dressage coach, and I were very satisfied; we are on target.

    Hooray for Aston

    I got pretty wet at Aston-le-Walls last weekend — if the dressage and showjumping had not been on all-weather surfaces I think it would have been cancelled. But the cross-country held up well, considering that close to 1,000 horses ran on it over the three days. Most fences have all-weather take-offs and landings, which made the difference.

    Every time you go to Aston, Nigel and Ann Taylor have done more. It is a brilliant facility. My one tiny criticism was that the surfaces in the new arenas aren’t quite settled yet and got quite churned up. But, especially as we no longer have Salperton at this time of year, it is so important that Aston is there so that these horses could get a run.

    Having a say in our future

    There is a lot of discussion going on about the FEI’s future changes to eventing, and there was a meeting last Tuesday with the Eventing Riders Association (ERA) about it. The FEI are interested in input from national federations and riders, and for the first time during my career I feel as if riders have a say in the future of our sport. We need to get behind our federations and rider groups and make sure we have input in a constructive and considered way.

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 30 July 2015