The U.S. Dressage Team rose to the occasion to secure team gold at the Santiago 2023 Pan American Games, finishing on a team total of 450.670 after strong performances today from all combinations. Brazil finished with a silver medal on 443.343, while Canada captured bronze with a 431.937. The three Grand Prix combinations will move on to contest the Grand Prix Freestyle on Wednesday, October 25, for individual medals.
“Firstly, I’m just proud. The team spirit is unbelievable, and it really has carried them through. Each one of them, in the end, rode better today,” said Chef d’Equipe George Williams. “There were a few bobbles in some of the tests, but the actual riding was better, so I was happy with that. They came back strong, and I really feel like the team comradery helped carry them to this result.”
Christian Simonson’s Small Tour Ride
Christian Simonson (Ventura, Calif.) and Son of a Lady, a 2012 Danish Warmblood gelding owned by Christina Morgan and Cliff Simonson, led off in the order again as the only Small Tour combination on the team. The pair were poised and accurate, impressing the judges and earning a personal-best in the Intermediate I with a score of 74.971%. The pair showed their connection and quiet communication, earning a nine in their canter pirouette and showcasing the massive movement of the 2011 Danish Warmblood gelding owned by Christina Morgan and Cliff Simonson.
“He and I just have really good communication together. Even on a day when he’s a little tired or maybe not want to give 110 percent, he either will let me dig deep or he’ll dig in and fight for me. It’s the epitome of the best feeling riding – just that feeling knowing they’ll fight for you in the ring,” said Simonson. “The team atmosphere has just been incredible. We have so much synergy and it’s an amazing group of riders to be with.”
Anna Marek First of the Large Tour Rides
The first combination for the United States in the Large Tour rotation saw Anna Marek (Dunnellon, Fla.) and Fire Fly open with the Grand Prix Special for the team. Marek and Fire Fly, a 2010 Hanoverian gelding owned by Janet Smile, worked through an early bobble in their test in the half pass, to recover with a beautiful second half to gain improved marks from the judges, earning a 73.489%. Marek mentioned that the strength of their growing relationship allowed her to guide them both back to focus and still produce a very strong score for the team.
“I’m thrilled with our test and how he went. I was really proud that when we made a big bobble, we both recovered from it like it was nothing. As I was half-passing across and I kind of got down and then reminded myself that we have an entire test to go and just took a deep breath and said, ‘Alright buddy, let’s go,’” said Marek. “He’s really a sensitive horse and that’s why I love him. We’ve built a lot of trust together and trying to press when I can and back off that we come here and we’re not nervous and I know he’s going to be there for me, and I can support him when he’s scared he trusts me when I tell him we can do it.”
Codi Harrison and Katholt’s Bossco
A few small miscommunications kept Codi Harrison and Katholt’s Bossco from scoring to their potential, but the pair recovered well to earn a 71.957%, with Harrison showing their determination and fighting for every mark throughout the test to keep their score competitive. Katholt’s Bossco is a special horse for Harrison, having brought him up herself through the levels from a young horse all the way to Grand Prix.
“He felt so on today and great. The first part of the trot tour felt like it was some of the best work we’ve ever had. We had a few little miscommunications which was unfortunate, but overall, the feeling was so good,” commented Harrison. “He really grew into the atmosphere today and it’s amazing to be able to say that he was my Young Rider horse. We really didn’t have any intentions on making him a Grand Prix horse and along the way we realized he’s a much better Grand Prix horse and I feel so lucky that I have a horse who let me teach him the ropes and I learned from him and together we fulfilled a dream by making a U.S. team.”
Sarah Tubman and First Apple Shine
As the final combination in for Team USA with medals on the line, Tubman and First Apple, a 2010 KWPN stallion owned by Summit Farms, produced another spectacular test, earning a 76.872% to help push the team to the top of the podium. The pair, who are the most seasoned partnership in the group, showed their experience, helping to guide the team to a consecutive team-podium at the Pan American Games.
“We’re just so fortunate to have each other as a team. This is a very young team to represent the U.S. and we really brought it,” said Tubman. “Apple was fantastic today and he really gave me everything in there. It’s another personal best for us and I’m just so proud of the way he’s continued to rise to the occasion for me.”
Dressage competition will continue Wednesday, October 25, with the freestyles to determine individual medals.