USA “Dream Team” of 3 Pan Am Rookies, 1 New American Arrive in Mexico

11 years ago StraightArrow Comments Off on USA “Dream Team” of 3 Pan Am Rookies, 1 New American Arrive in Mexico
Marisa Festerling and Big Tyme. © 2011 Ken Braddick/

The U.S. dressage squad arrived at the Guadalajara Country Club Wednesday five days ahead of the start of equestrian competition, hot favorites to win an unprecedented fourth consecutive Pan American Games gold medal by a team that includes two championship rookies, one of the top riders in the world and a newly sworn-in American.

The horses arrived from a week-long training camp in New Jersey along with four team horses from Canada and a sole Ecuadoran mount on a flight organized and personally overseen by Tim Dutta of Dutta Corp. while the riders went to Houston, Texas, for the official U.S. outfitting and briefing process.

All the dressage horses and riders from 12 national teams and three individuals were arriving from across the Americas amidst the rain-soaking remnants of Hurricane Jova that was expected to be gone by the start of competition on Sunday. The Pan Ams are held once every four years at Prix St. Georges for the team compettion that qualifies for the Olympics–for 2012 in London–and Intermediaire for individual medals that will be decided next Wednesday.

The U.S. combinations are:

–Steffen Peters, 46, of San Diego, California, and Weltino’s Magic, a nine-year-old Westfalen gelding (Weltino x Viva), The pair swept the small tour at the World Equestrian Festival small tour in Aachen, Germany, this year and finished at the top of the U.S. qualifying competition. Steffen has been ranked as high as No. 3 in the world  with Ravel. However, he has never competed at the Pan Ams.

–Heather Blitz, 42, of Wellington, Florida, on Paragon, and her eight-year-old American-bred  gelding Danish Warmblood (Don Schufro x Pari Lord) . These Pan Am Games will be Heather’s first championship for the U.S. This is also Paragon’s first time outside the U.S. Heather trained and competed Otto in the U.S. and Europe, including a Nations Cup competition in Luxembourg before being sold to become a U.S. team horse at the 2010 WEG.

–Marisa Festerling, 34, of Moorpark, California, on Big Tyme, a 10-year-old Belgian Warmblood (Saros van ‘t Gestelhof x Elvira x Wendekreis). Marisa, the mother a baby girl, Ella, competed Big Tyme at the World Breeding Championships in Verden, Germany, but she has never before been on a U.S team.

–Cesar Parra, 48, of Whitehouse Station, New Jersey, and Grandioso, 10, Westfalen gelding (Grosso Z x Hauptstutbuch Popocatepal). Cesar became an American citizen last year. He competed in two Pan Am Games for his native Colombia, winning a team silvr medal, as well as the Olympics, WEG and World Cup Final.

The U.S. riders came in on the same flight as the American cycling and swimming teams with equestrian Chef d’Equipe Eva Salomon, team leader Jenny van Wieren and technical advisor Anne Gribbons. The team has been described by Anne as a “dream team,” perhaps the best ever to represent the United States.

Marisa said of the U.S. team processing: “It was awesome. It was super exciting. We had everything we wanted. We got to try everything on and they had an army of people there to help us. The stuff is awesome, it’s all Nike, we got so much stuff–they were super generous, our grooms have all the exact same attire that we have. It was really fun.”

The horses and riders had a schooling session despite the soggy conditons after arriving in Guadalajara.

“It’s amazing,” Marisa said of her first championship. “I’ve only been here one day and it is an incredible experience. Each new thing we do is new to me and that makes it, of course, even more exciting.”