Jennifer Baumert and Handsome (Quinn Riddle photo)

Meet the US dressage team and learn about the competition in our exclusive preview

By Kim MacMillan

With just one day to go before the July 26 opening ceremony for the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, the US dressage team is setting up stabling and acclimatizing their horses to the milder winter conditions in Peru, where highs in the 60s and lows in the 50s are the norm. After the extremely hot and humid conditions in most of the USA over the last three weeks, all involved should enjoy the lower temperatures—and there may be a few “fresh” horses showing their enthusiasm under tack for those first schooling rides in Lima!

With the US dressage team already qualified for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games thanks to its silver-medal-winning performance at the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games in North Carolina, US Equestrian had the luxury of looking to the future when selecting horse-and-rider combinations for Lima. The 2019 US Pan Am team is full of fresh faces new to competition at a major Games, so here’s our introduction to the horses and riders and the alternate team pair.

Before we begin, however, an unfortunate update to the team roster: Although four combinations were named to the US team along with an alternate pair, team horse Lucky Strike, ridden by Endel Ots, suffered an injury this week while being transported from Wellington, Florida, to Miami for the flight to Lima, US Equestrian announced July 22. It was too late to “call up” the reserve pair, California-based Nick Wagman on Don John, so the US dressage team will have to compete as a team of three—meaning that there will be no drop score, so every ride will count.

We know you still want to get to know all of the horses and riders—and to hear from Ots about his mount—so let’s meet all of them now and get to know the team members with our exclusive Q&A.

Endel Ots and Lucky Strike (Sue Weakley photo)

Endel Ots and Lucky Strike

Ots, 33, was born in Rochester, Minnesota, and grew up near Green Bay, Wisconsin. Today he’s based at Bethany Peslar’s Everglades Farm in Wellington. He has been training and competing Lucky Strike (Lord Laurie x His Highness 2, foaled 2010, bred by Monika Hartwich) since he found the gelding while on a shopping trip in Belgium when the horse was only three years old.

Since Ots was just starting out on his own, he didn’t have a lot of money to spend, so he approached his father, Max Ots, about purchasing the striking black Hanoverian. “He agreed, and the journey for all three of us has been life-changing,” Endel Ots says.

“Lucky” “loves to work and thrives in the show atmosphere,” his rider says. “He has always shined in his consistency. He is very social and loves meeting new people and horses. He also loves to take apart tack trucks and pick up things in the aisle. He is very curious about everything that happens in the barn.”

Ots and Lucky have come up through the US Equestrian dressage “pipeline.” The pair represented the USA in the Five- and Six-Year-Old divisions at the FEI/WBFSH World Breeding Dressage Championships for Young Horses in 2015 and 2016.

Of the injury that has sidelined Lucky from Lima, “it is expected that he is going to make a full recovery, but we have decided it is not in his best interest for him to travel to Lima at this time,” Ots says. “Obviously, I am devastated. It was a goal of mine to compete Lucky at the Pan Am Games, but my horse’s health is more important, and I know the team understands. They are a strong group, and I plan on making it to Lima later in the week to support them.”

Nora Batchelder and Faro SQF (Jeanie Hahn photo)

Nora Batchelder and Faro SQF

Nora Batchelder, 35, resides in the Ocala suburb of Williston, Florida. She grew up in Piermont, New Hampshire, a small town with “more cows than people.” Her parents, Jeanie Hahn and Verne Batchelder, are themselves Grand Prix-level dressage riders, so it’s perhaps not surprising that by age 21 Nora Batchelder had already earned her USDF bronze, silver, and gold medals.

Batchelder and her cousin Andrea Whitcomb co-own the 11-year-old Hanoverian gelding Faro SQF (Fidertanz 2 x Rotspon). “Faro” was bred in the US by Jill Peterson, who purchased his dam, SPS Rose, from River House Hanoverians, Williston, Florida. Nora Batchelder and Jeanie Hahn are currently the resident trainers at River House.

The 2019 Pan Am Games will be Batchelder’s first experience representing the US in international competition. Accompanying her to Lima will be her mother (as groom), Whitcomb, sister Emma Batchelder, and friend Anne Clement.

Your Dressage: When did you start riding and why?

Nora Batchelder: I was born into a horse family; both of my parents are horse professionals, so I started riding as soon as I was able. At four years old, I learned to post on a 40-plus-year-old Shetland pony named Sammy. I used to climb on him bareback in the paddock, and he would buck me off repeatedly.

Why did you choose dressage?

I evented when I was a kid, but both of my parents were dressage riders by that point, so I did a lot of dressage with my event ponies and horses. When I was 12 I got my first Hanoverian, a beautiful four-year-old chestnut mare, from the Verden auction in Germany. She was by Weltmeyer and afraid of her own shadow—definitely not bred to be an event horse! We went all the way from First Level to Grand Prix together. She helped me earn my USDF gold, silver, and bronze medals when I was still a Young Rider.

At 18, I was already in love with training dressage horses—the beauty of being in harmony with such large creatures and the bonds you create with them when you spend hours and hours learning to speak the same language. I’ve always loved sports, but I have also always been very academic, too. The physical and mental aspects of dressage are appealing to me. I double-majored in chemistry and art in college, and dressage is also a special mix of scientific precision and artistry. It’s just a good fit for me!

How did you find Faro SQF, and how long have you had him?

I have had Faro for a little over two and a half years. I had known of him for a long time, as our farm [River House Hanoverians] imported his dam, SPS Rose (Rotspon x World Cup), from Germany. We sold Rose to Hanoverian breeder Jill Peterson, and she bred her to Fidertanz and Faro was born! He was sold to an adult amateur who kept him until he was eight. In the fall of his eight-year-old year, he came to me to learn how to do clean flying changes and get sold. I had him for about two months and the changes were coming along, but still not solid. His owner really wanted to get him sold. I loved him and desperately wanted to continue working with him, so I called up my cousin Andrea Whitcomb to see if she would be interested in doing a partnership with him. Andrea has ridden hunters and dressage for years and had expressed interest in helping me to buy a horse at some point. I am eternally grateful to her for saying yes on Faro. He is a dream come true!

Please tell us more about Faro.

Faro is a total ham. He is very sweet and personable. He loves to please and will try his heart out for me. He is normally very confident, but he doesn’t love thunderstorms and he has a serious donkey phobia. Faro loves carrots and cookies, and butt and chin scratches. And he loves turnout!

Where were you when you learned that you had made the Pan Am Games team, and what was your first thought when you received the news?

In the barn, of course! My first thought was “Really? Me?” I had to read the e-mail five times before I could believe it.

Tell us a little bit about your life outside riding.

Is there life outside of riding? I went to high school at Thetford Academy in Vermont; I was valedictorian with a 4.0, ran cross-country (I was Vermont state champion), led my varsity basketball team in scoring, and played Amateur Athletics Union basketball almost year-round. I was supposed to play basketball at Amherst College in Massachusetts but chose to focus on academics and horses. Graduated there with a 4.0 and summa cum laude. I still love watching basketball and wish I could play, but I save my body for riding.

What fun fact do US dressage fans probably not know about you?

I am totally in love with my Corgis. They go to every horse show with me, and I rub and kiss them for luck before every test. Unfortunately they can’t go to Peru, so a great friend of mine, Anne Clement, got me lucky Corgi socks with pictures of my Corgi printed on them.

Jennifer Baumert and Handsome

USDF-certified instructor/trainer and USDF bronze, silver, and gold medalist Jennifer Baumert, 47,lives in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, and works out of Betsy Juliano’s Havensafe Farm in Middlefield, Ohio. She grew up on her family’s Cloverlea Farm in Columbia, CT; mom Beth Baumert is a USDF-certified instructor, president and  CEO of The Dressage Foundation, and author of When Two Spines Align: Dressage Dynamics. Jennifer Baumert left Connecticut about 15 years ago, spending about a decade in the Carolinas and then relocating to Ohio four years ago.

Juliano owns Baumert’s Pan American Games partner, the 2005 German-bred Hanoverian gelding Handsome (Hochadel x Weltmeyer, bred by Friedrich and Edda Kroener).

“Before I met Handsome,” Baumert says, “I used to call many of the male horses in my life ‘Handsome’ the same way you’d say ‘Buddy.’ I have now gotten out of that habit. For me there is only one Handsome!”

Baumert and Handsome were members of the gold-medal-winning US dressage team at the FEI Nations Cup CDIO3* in Wellington, Florida, this past winter. Cheering them on in Peru will be Juliano; Handsome’s groom, Morgan Klingensmith; Baumert’s parents; her husband, Dave, and their nine-year-old son; her brothers; and a number of friends.

When did you start riding and why?

Jennifer Baumert: I basically started in utero! My mom, Beth Baumert, is a dressage trainer. I cannot remember not riding. I was always a horse-crazy kid, and I was lucky enough to grow up on a horse farm.

Why did you choose dressage?

I actually never thought I would be a dressage rider. I evented as a kid. I was lucky enough to ride with Denny Emerson frequently, and whereas my mom always instilled good basic dressage skills in me, she never pushed me to stop jumping. Whereas I was lucky enough to grow up on a horse farm, I was not able to keep my horse or pony after I outgrew them (in either size or ability). Like most kids, I fell in love with all of them. I had an awesome lower-level event horse when I was in my mid-teens, and we won everything through Training level. I took him Preliminary once, and he just could not jump at that level. I could not bear the thought of selling him, so I switched to dressage “temporarily.” Of course, I maxed him out there pretty quickly, too! From there on out, I pretty much stole all my mother’s rides and became a dressage rider without really consciously making that decision.

How did you find Handsome, and how long have you had him?

My horse was already found! When I met Betsy and started working for her, Handsome was one of her personal horses. When Betsy could not ride, I enjoyed riding Handsome to tune him up for her. The transition to Handsome becoming my ride came very organically. Betsy has a very demanding business. There were more and more times where he became my ride when she was too busy. Even after the first time Betsy offered that I could show Handsome, I still didn’t have it totally in my brain that Betsy had passed the ride to me.

Tell us more about Handsome.

I think Handsome is special in every way possible! Clearly he is a beautiful horse, with three fantastic gaits. He is not a hot horse, but he is very sensitive. He is an introvert. My job is to make him confident enough to show off. He is a horse that thrives on positive reinforcement and continual work on connection. He never says no. If I do my job, he goes a step further and says, ‘What can I do for you today?’ He’s smart. Handsome likes to be scratched in his favorite places, and he loves to hack out. I have to kick him back to the barn! He loves the special people in his life, and he recognizes people. He nickers at Betsy and me anytime he sees us. He loves kids. He’s polite, which makes him easy to spoil.”

Where were you when you learned that you had made the Pan Am Games team, and what was your first thought when you received the news?

I did not know whether it would be a phone call or an e-mail. I was making dinner and feeling a bit stressed that I had not heard anything. I burned dinner, and we had to get takeout! I kept refreshing my phone, and I saw a text from Endel saying, “Congratulations to us!” That was my first knowledge of it. Honestly, it felt even better than I’d imagined when I saw that e-mail!

Tell us a little bit about your life outside riding.

For fun I like to run, hike, cook, or read. I have been a lifelong runner, and I’ve run two marathons. I’d like to do it again, but time is always the issue. I love, love the woods and outdoors. In Ohio we have lots of great city, county, state, and national parks. It’s convenient and easy, which is key. I like to cook because it is relaxing and a good way to unwind if you have a busy type of personality. I have a wonderful husband of 18 years and a nine-year-old son. We have a great four-year-old dog named Kira; she is a terrier cross. She is perfect for us because she is happy to lie on the couch all day if we are all busy, but she will also go on an epic adventure with us and not lose steam.

Sarah Lockman and First Apple (Elizabeth Hay photo)

Sarah Lockman and First Apple

Sarah Lockman, 30, grew up in northern Nevada in a small town called Gardnerville and says she’s been riding since before she could walk. She is currently is the head trainer for Gerry Ibanez’s Summit Farm in Murrieta, California, which is an hour north of Temecula. She is a “B” US Pony Clubber who evented through Intermediate level before deciding to concentrate solely on dressage in 2004, and she has earned her USDF gold, silver, and bronze medals.

Lockman’s Pan Am Games partner is Ibanez’s 2010 Dutch-bred KWPN stallion, First Apple (Vivaldi x TCN Partout, bred by N. van Maaswaal). After Ibanez purchased the horse, Lockman spent a month in the Netherlands with the stallion’s rider, Dutch Olympian Patrick van der Meer, learning everything about First Apple’s care and training. Then, while “Apple” was quarantined in Florida after being imported, she spent that time training him under the guidance of former US Equestrian national dressage young-horse coach Scott Hassler.

The pair has only been together since the end of last year, but they have progressed quickly. The Pan Ams are Lockman’s first-ever start at a major Games for the USA. Her entourage for Lima includes Apple’s groom, Octovio Rocha; Lockman’s mother, Francie Lockman; her boyfriend; Ibanez; and Hassler.

When did you start riding and why?

Sarah Lockman: My mom is from South Africa. When she moved over here, she said she wanted a daughter, her name was going to be Sarah, and she was going to ride—so I was destined to ride from the beginning.

I got my first horse when my father surprised my mom and I after we returned from a trip to South Africa: a $500, 32-year-old Quarter Horse with one eye named Copper. I started in Western and did Western pleasure and trails. Then one day when I was about nine years old, my horse jumped one of those little trail obstacles and I told my parents I wanted to jump. One thing led to another, and I got very involved in Pony Club and ended up eventing.

Why did you choose dressage?

The whole time that I was eventing, I rode with a dressage trainer named Shelly Edwards back in Nevada, and she taught me that love for dressage. Then when I was 16, I got a job offer and moved to southern California and worked for a big training and sales barn for seven years. That’s where I focused completely on dressage for the first time. I started my own dressage-training business in 2012. I lived and trained with [Olympian and current US Equestrian national dressage technical advisor] Debbie McDonald for a period of time. When I returned to California, I worked with [Olympic bronze medalist] Guenter Seidel, and he was super. But my main coach and my mentor lately has been Scott Hassler.

Tell us more about First Apple.

The first time I sat on Apple, after just two rounds around the arena, I was crying. He was just the best horse I’ve ever sat on, and it was such chemistry. He is a total quiet gentleman. You would never know he was a stallion. He’s super consistent, and he never says no. He gives great feedback to my aids. He’s not a fan of treats in general—but funny enough, his absolute favorite treat is an apple. He also loves his turnout time.

Where were you when you learned that you had made the Pan Am Games team, and what was your first thought when you received the news?

Of course, they waited until the very end of the dayto name the team. I think I had been waiting by my phone the whole day, refreshing my e-mail 50 million times. I had just pulled into my driveway, and I decided to look at it one more time before I went inside, and it was there. The tears started happening. I started to make all of the phone calls. It was a rush of excitement and pride. It felt like all of the blood, sweat, and tears culminated in this. I really hope that this shows other young girls out there that if you work hard, you are honest, and are really passionate about horses, it can happen.

Tell us a little bit about your life outside riding.

I’m really physically active.I like to go hiking and do yoga. I’m the oldest of four; I have two younger sisters and a younger brother. My sisters, Bridget and Angela, are also into horses; one is a trainer and the other is a barn manager. My brother, Alex, is studying to become a farrier. I have two dogs, a Jack Russell named Ralphie and a Pomeranian called Q-tip, and a cat named Ben.

What fun fact do US dressage fans probably not know about you?

When I was younger, I was a pageant girl. I did that until I was about 10, and then it was a little too much.

Nick Wagman and Don John (

Nick Wagman and Don John (Team Alternates)

Nick Wagman,45, is a Californian through and through. He was born in Santa Monica, currently resides in San Diego, and bases his training business out of Elizabeth Keadle’s Clear Spring Farm in Rancho Santa Fe. He spent seven years in the Netherlands as an assistant trainer polishing his skills while he competed many promising young horses, among them the noted stallion Krack C.

A USDF gold, silver, and bronze medalist, Wagman has been a dressage professional for over 25 years. He calls himself fortunate to ride horses both for Keadle and for Beverly Gepfer, who owns his Pan Am Games mount, Don John. Wagman and the 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Johnson x Goodtimes, bred by P. A. J. Rops) were named to two US Nations Cup teams this year and competed in Europe in the Compiègne CDIO5* and the Geesteren CDIO3*. 

When did you start riding and why?

Nick Wagman: I fell in love with horses at summer camp and begged my parents for a horse. They told me that if I took lessons for a year, they’d consider it (never thinking I would), and a year later they got me my first pony.

Why did you choose dressage?

My first pony was a 14.1-hand Arab who was an embryo-transplant mare and had no business jumping. The hunter/jumper trainer suggested I try dressage with her, and we did. I was hooked. I ended up competing her through Third Level, even though I was 6’1″ at the time.

How did you find Don John, and how long have you had him?

My good friend and contact Gerard Hogervorst found him as a five-year-old in Belgium. I had just been in Europe looking for a special young horse, but the one I found failed the vet check. A couple weeks later, Gerard sent me a video of Don John, and we bought him without me even going back to try him. Gerard knows me very well and what my type of horse is.

Tell us more about Don John.

Don John is one of the most sensitive horses I’ve ever ridden. He doesn’t want to do anything wrong, but he gets worried easily. His sensitivity is what ultimately has made him a top Grand Prix horse. His piaffe and passage are definitely his strengths, as is his presence. He’s a very beautiful horse who commands attention. He is sweet but needs to know who you are first. He definitely loves and relies on his people. 

Tell us a little bit about your life outside riding.

I live with my husband, Kurt Gering. I enjoy reading and creative writing. My free time (which is little) I spend with friends and with my husband. I’m a very picky eater. I could eat the same thing every day for the rest of my life and be fine: yogurt, berries, and granola in the morning; a sandwich of some sort for lunch; and grilled chicken and vegetables for dinner. Throw in a chocolate lava cake and I’m a happy man.

What fun fact do US dressage fans probably not know about you?

I hope to write a novel someday.

The People Behind the Team

In addition to technical advisor and chef d’équipe Debbie McDonald, traveling with the US dressage team to Lima will be Laura Roberts, US dressage team leader; Dr. Sarah Allendorf, team veterinarian; Dr. Mark Hart; Kenny Bark, farrier, and Carly Weilminster, US Equestrian press officer.

The Strategy Behind the Selection

All five US horse-and-rider combinations selected for Lima are FEI Small Tour competitors. “Small Tour” is what the FEI calls competition at the Prix St. Georges and Intermediate I levels. “Big Tour” refers to Intermediate II and the Grand Prix-level tests.

“The strategy behind this particular team,” explains McDonald, “is that, hopefully, these combinations become future stars in upcoming team events. We are looking to increase our depth, and these four athletes have shown to be very consistent. The upward trend in their scores has been great, and even though this is young team, we are aiming to make the podium and striving to win gold. However, in order to secure a top team finish, our development-level athletes will need to work to achieve personal bests under pressure in their first major Games and in a team environment. Each combination brings something to the table. All of them deserve to be watched. They are a group of accomplished young professionals who bring immense talent to the Pan American Games.”

How Does Pan Am Games Dressage Competition Work?

For Lima 2019, qualified nations from the Americas may field teams of three or four horse/rider combinations. Teams may be either all Small Tour or a mixture of Small and Big Tour competitors.

Teams of four will have one drop score, but those with only three (as the US is following the withdrawal of Ots and Lucky Strike) will not have a drop score.

Pan Am team results are important in part because they help determine qualification for the following year’s Olympic Games. Teams comprising only Small Tour competitors are not eligible for Olympic qualification.

You may be wondering how the playing field is leveled when there will be Small Tour riders competing against Big Tour riders. It’s done through a system of awarding bonus points. As the FEI explains in its Pan Am Games dressage competition rules, Grand Prix-level combinations will receive a 1.5% scoring bonus (e.g., a score of 60% will be boosted to 61.5% for the purposes of calculating team results).

Small Tour rides receive no bonus points. If a Grand Prix-level pair winds up being the drop score for a four-horse team, then that pair’s scoring bonus will also be dropped.

Here’s how team and individual results will be calculated. Team medals will be awarded based on the three best scores from the first test (Prix St. Georges/Grand Prix) and the three best scores from the second test (Intermediate I/Grand Prix Special). The team with the highest total score will win the gold medal.

The highest-placing team with at least one Big Tour result will receive the qualification slot for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

The team tests will serve as qualifiers for the freestyle competition, which will determine the individual medals. The bonus-point system for Big Tour combinations does not apply to individual qualification.

The horse/rider combination with the highest freestyle score at either level (Intermediate I or Grand Prix) will win the individual gold medal. In the event of a tie score between a Big Tour combination and a Small Tour combination, the Big Tour competitor will prevail.

If two Big Tour pairs or two Small Tour pairs tie in the freestyle, the best result in the Intermediate I/Grand Prix Special will finish ahead.

Order of Go

The first dressage horse inspection will be held Friday, July 26 at 10:00 a.m. PET (Lima’s time zone is one hour ahead of Eastern Time).

On Sunday, July 28, all dressage competitors will ride the first team test (Prix St. Georges or Grand Prix). Monday, July 29, will be the second half of the team competition to determine the team medals (I-I or Grand Prix Special). After the second horse inspection on Tuesday, July 30, the top 15 individual finishers will move on to the individual medal final, the I-I Freestyle or Grand Prix Freestyle. If all four of a nation’s competitors finish in the top 15, only the top three may contest the individual medals.

How to Follow the Action

At press time, no known television coverage of the Pan Am dressage competition was scheduled for broadcast in the USA. and USDF social media will be posting daily reports from the 2019 Lima Pan Am Games dressage competition. Pan Am Games equestrian competition news can also be found on the Pan Am Games-dedicated section of the US Equestrian website at

Congratulations to the selected riders and good luck to Team USA!

Longtime equestrian photojournalist Kim MacMillan; her husband, the award-winning photographer Allen MacMillan; and the rest of their team are in Peru to bring you the latest news, photos, results, and stories from the 2019 Lima Pan American Games.

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