Canada Conceding Nothing to Americans on Eve of Pan American Games

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Brittany Fraser and All In.  © Cheryl Denault Photography
Brittany Fraser and All In. © Cheryl Denault Photography

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

PALGRAVE, Ontario, July 8, 2015–Brittany Fraser on All In and Chris Von Martels on Zilverstar, the two Small Tour combinations on Canada’s Pan American Games team, are conceding nothing to the powerful United States squad and are determined to win a start at the 2016 Olympics that is at stake along with the gold medal.

Neither are writing off the possibility of an upset Canadian victory over America in the Nations Cup that begins Saturday with the Prix St. Georges for Small Tour and Grand Prix for Big Tour and wraps up Sunday with Intermediate 1 and Grand Prix Special.

“I know what the Americans have been doing in Europe,” the 26-year-old Brittany said in a conversation she and Chris had with dressage-news.com on the eve of the veterinary inspection of the 44 horses that will represent 16 nations–10 teams and six individuals–in the competition embracing North and South America and held once every four years.

“They’ve been doing great, but so have we. We have strong horses and had great success. We’re just going to go out and do our best.

“The individuals are a free for all,” she said of the Intermediate and Grand Prix Freestyle scheduled for next Tuesday.

“I would love to win an individual medal. I never won a medal at Young Riders in 2007.

“I think it’s my time to shine.”

Chris von Martels, 32 years old and, like Brittany, on his first senior championship team, puts it this way: “I want to do my personal best each day in all three competitions. I don’t go into it thinking to win a medal or to go to Rio. I want to do the best that I can.”

Although he followed the performances of the U.S. riders in Europe, he said: “It’s difficult to speculate about one group of riders at a show–it’s a different venue, there are different conditions, different judges. When you look at the overall averages when we competed in Florida and since it’s a tight race. It’s very close. The standard is high.”

Chris Von Martels on Zilverstar in the Nations Cup Grand Prix Freestyle. © 2015 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Chris Von Martels on Zilverstar in the Nations Cup Grand Prix Freestyle. © 2015 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

The results of the two Canadian Small Tour combinations compared with the American pairs of Kimberly Herslow and Rosmarin and Sabine Schut-Kery and Sanceo bear out Chris’s belief that anything could happen.

The most consistent highest scoring couple so far this year has been Kim and Rosmarin with thwir best Intermediate 1 scores of 76.158 per cent and 75.500 per cent and a best Prix St. Georges result of 73.684 per cent. Sabine and Sanceo have a high I-1 score of 74.553 per cent in January and a best St. Georges score of 72.763 per cent.

Brittany and All in continued to improve throughout the year with their top scores of 74.395 per cent at I-1 and 74.474 per cent at St. Georges. Chris and Zilverstar logged the highest Canadian I-1 score of 74.895 per cent and 73.395 per cent at St. Georges.

There is, however, no escaping the strength of the American Big Tour partnerships of Steffen Peters on Legolas and Laura Graves on Verdades, who have moved up the world rankings to No. 7 and No. 8, respectively.

Or, as U.S. team chief Robert Dover puts it, “the Dream Team,” when added to the Small Tour pairs as well as the reserves, the eight-year-old phenom mare Rosamunde ridden by Steffen and Allison Brock on Rosevelt, both at Grand Prix.

For Canada, Belinda Trussell on Anton have two World Games on their record while Megan Lane, the youngest of the Canadian riders and one of the youngest in the Pan Ams at 24 years of age, was on her nation’s team at Normandy last summer.

The shirt worn by Megan Lane on Caravella at the Caledon Pan Am show grounds needs no explanation--a gold maple leaf. © 2015 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
The shirt worn by Megan Lane on Caravella at the Caledon Pan Am show grounds needs no explanation–a gold maple leaf. © 2015 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

The Big Tour duos get an extra 1.5 per cent added to their scores in the Grand Prix and the Special for the team totals. No bonus points are added in the individual competition that makes what Brittany described as a “free for all.”

Argentina and Mexico also have Big Tour combinations on their teams that is a condition of being a contender for the Olympic team berth. The other six teams are Small Tour.

Brittany and Chris both spent most of last month working with Canadian superstar rider and trainer Ashley Holzer at her New York City base before returning to Canada for the final training camp with team coach Volker Moritz of Germany.

“I’m on a high, especially coming to this facility where they’ve done a great job,” Brittany said. “The ring is unbelievable and when the stands are full there will be an amazing atmosphere.”

And the 4,000 spectator seats will be full–and being in the heart of Ontario horse country the crowd can be expected to outdo their typical boisterous enthusiasm that provides emotional support for the Canadian riders.

“We’re a very strong team that is also very consistent,” she said.

“The beauty of any sport is that on any given day everybody has a chance to win.

“People like to make predictions, but I don’t think the predictions are going to be as consistent as people might have thought.”

Zilverstar, Chris said, has “never been going as well as he is at the moment. After the last competition in May, he said the pair “had a bit of time to focus on training, to get every little detail solved.

“I’m the most prepared for this event than I’ve been for any other event including the Nations Cups.”

With “fantastic” support and “great” coaching as well as access to a very good sports psychologist, he said, “the mega details are what gives you that extra confidence going into something like this.”

What will each one do on competition day.

Brittany will braid All In, a job that calms her. “I don’t like sitting around waiting. I need to be doing things around the barn.

She won’t be thinking of the enormity of the competition.

Steffen Peters at the Pan American Games Caledon equestrian venue. © 2015 Kn Braddick/dressage-news.com
Steffen Peters at the Pan American Games Caledon equestrian venue. © 2015 Kn Braddick/dressage-news.com

“I personally try not to think about being in Canada,” she said, “I try to think of it like any other competition. I want to ride down the centerline like I did at other shows and give it my best.”

Chris likes to get into a groove with he and his groom following their own routines. His groom knows every little thing that needs to be done while Chris “likes to have quiet time, visualization to get in the best zone before the ride.”

Both riders plan to move their horses up to Grand Prix after the Games and go to Europe no matter the outcome of the Pan Ams.

If Canada does not get the Olympic slot, riders can try to qualify individually and success by three combinations from the same nation will enable formation of a “composite” team.

Chris said he is scheduled to go to Europe for a couple of months before the winter circuit in Florida.

Although married, his life of competing, training and selling horses to which he dedicates himself “200 per cent” will not change.

“I truly love what I do,” he said. “I never feel like it’s getting up and going to the office; I enjoy every moment of it.”

Brittany’s intention is to give All In a break after the Pan Ams and then head to Florida for the Global Dressage Festival and its seven international competitions over 12 weeks to compete at Grand Prix.

Florida, she said, would give her an idea of where the pair are in their development.

“I would like to go to Europe to compete and experience the shows over there. I think it’s important for my career.”

What little free time she has when not living out of a suitcase she likes to spend with her long term boyfriend who graduated as an engineer from university in April, and visiting her family in Nova Scotia for Christmas and over the summer.

She has liked the life of traveling the world with her horses, but thinks about settling down, having a family and operating her own business.