Lima, Peru - The U.S. Eventing Team concluded their first day of competition with exemplary scores from the four-member team, led by Chef d’Equipe Erik Duvander. They are currently in first place on an overall score of 76.4, as they turn their focus to the FEI CCI 3*-L cross-country track designed by Argentina’s Jose Ortelli. Canada secured second place with a team score of 81.3, while Brazil sits in third place as a team with a combined score of 85.9.
Lynn Symansky (Middleburg, Va.) and RF Cool Play were the lead-off pair for the team. They entered the arena in the first grouping of competitors to lay a positive foundation for the remaining three members of the team. Symansky guided the 11-year-old German Sport Horse gelding (Condors Champion x Radscha) owned by the Donner Syndicate, and received a 29.2.
“I think I had a bit of a more nervous, holding horse today. We did what we could this morning and he was more nervous, but he’s never naughty. He tries so hard, almost to a fault, because he goes in there and holds his breath sometimes. He’s a big guy, and it can be tough to really get him to take me in there. You do what you can on the day.”
Symansky has long been a consistent navigator of major international cross-country tracks and will be responsible for reporting back on the rideability of the course.
“I think you have to be pretty smart in the beginning to not go out guns blazing. You want to be efficient, but you have a very short amount of time to get them settled into their job before things really start coming at you. My plan, especially since I’m the first one out and I don’t know how it’s going to ride, I’m going to ride according to what I think is going to suit him and figure out where I can take some extra time and where I can take a chance and feel what he’s like out there.”
In a brilliant effort, Tamra Smith (Murietta, Ca.) and Mai Baum, a 13-year-old German Sport Horse gelding (Loredano x Rike) owned by Alexandra Ahearn, Ellen Ahearn, & Eric Markell, impressed the judging panel and finished their test on a 22.8. Smith and Mai Baum are contesting their first international championship for the United States and handled the pressure of their debut gracefully and sit in first place individually.
“He stayed with me the whole time. He was super. He tried so hard and really has been great all week and very happy. Even when my partnership was very green with him, he’s just such a trier. We know each other so well. He’s such showman. He goes into the ring and is just a professional. I’m so lucky to be sitting on a horse like that. I’m really thankful to my owners for giving me the opportunity.”
As to the main objective of the team, Smith said everyone is focused on earning a qualification for Tokyo 2020 and that has fostered a sense of unity and motivation as the team looks to tackle what will be a true test of cross-country tomorrow.
“I mean really, we’re all here together. All of the owners are so supportive of all the riders. The team is great; I feel like we’re gelling well together and we’re all excited. We’re on a mission to get this done.”
A first-time representative of the United States in a championship environment, Doug Payne (Aiken, S.C.) aboard Starr Witness, an eight-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare (Chello III x Veneur) owned by Payne, Laurie McRee & Catherine Winter, completed their test as the third in the order for the team. The pair produced a fluid and balanced test to score a 28.0, helping boost the team to the top of the overall team leaderboard.
“It was about as good as we can get today. She’s one hell of an athlete and is really spectacular. There were a few moments where she started to get distracted, but I was really happy and proud of her because she came back and then we could go again. It’s a big win and a big step in the right direction. I’m happy with the score, but there’s a lot more to do.”
Payne has been waiting for the opportunity to represent the United States in international team competition and the atmosphere and comradery of the team has made him feel more at ease with the task at hand in Lima.
“This is a massive honor to be here. It’s one of those things that in your life you’re hoping you get to represent your country and having that ability is really special. It’s a great group that we’ve got here and a really great team,” he commented.
As the anchor combination for the team’s efforts this week, Boyd Martin (Cochranville, Pa.) and Tsetserleg, an 11-year-old Trakehner gelding (Windfall x Buddenbrock) owned by Christine Turner, produced an impressive score of 25.6 to secure the U.S.’s grasp on first place heading into the second phase tomorrow. The pair are in second place individually.
“He went well. He’s a good workman in there. I was really, really pleased with him. He warmed up well and you always wish that you have one movement back, but to be honest, I was pretty happy with him,” said Martin.
Martin, who excels in the cross-country phase, will anchor the team tomorrow, and elaborated on his plan to navigate the seasoned Tsetserleg safely around the impressive track.
“I think the course is as hard as I’ve ever seen at this level, the CCI 3*-L level, and I’m on the most experienced horse in the field,” he continued. “As a team contest, we really want to have all four horses jumping clear. My game plan is to start a little bit steady and get him settled in, get through the first five to six fences then really open him up where the galloping is good.”
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