Ready, Set, Go: US Dressage Ready for Pan Am Debut

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The 2019 Lima Pan American Games US dressage team poses for a photo at the venue. From left: Nora Batchelder, Sarah Lockman, Jennifer Baumert, and chef and technical advisor Debbie McDonald (Allen MacMillan/MacMillan Photography)

Postcard from Peru: The jog, the opening ceremony, and the readiness is all

By Kim MacMillan

Hello from Peru! Forty-three dressage horses were presented to the ground jury on Friday, July 26, at the 2019 Lima Pan American Games. All three horses from the USA, and all four from Canada, passed muster to start in Sunday’s first individual qualifier and first day of team competition (at either Prix St. Georges or Grand Prix, depending on the competitor’s qualification level).

Jennifer Baumert and Handsome at the dressage horse inspection       
Diana De Rosa for MacMillan Photography

There was an anxious moment when US team member Jennifer Baumert’s mount, Handsome, was asked to trot a second time; but Betsy Juliano’s Hanoverian gelding was then accepted with no further discussion.

Two horses were held for reinspection on July 27: Salice Salentino, with Juliana Uribe Salcedo of Colombia; and Cocu, with Peruvian rider Daniela Carranza Bonelli. Salice Salentino was accepted, but sadly the home country has one fewer to cheer for, as Cocu did not pass on the second try.

Colorful costumes in the Pan Am Games opening ceremony evoke images of Incas and other indigenous Peruvian peoples.            
Diana De Rosa for MacMillan Photography

The 2019 Pan Am Games officially kicked off on July 26 with an opening ceremony that featured Peruvian culture, music, dance, colorful costumes, and sparkling fireworks that brightened the skies over National Stadium in Lima. None of the US riders had a chance to walk in the parade of athletes, but they said in a press conference the next day that they had gathered with the Canadian team members, who are staying at the same hotel, to watch the festivities on television.

The three Americans (Nora Batchelder/Faro SQF, Baumert/Handsome, and Sarah Lockman/First Apple) spoke at the conference, held after their arena familiarization time, about how their horses dealt with the long plane ride to Peru and what they thought of the stadium and atmosphere at the Army Equitation School, which is the equestrian venue.

Nora Batchelder and Faro SQF at the dressage horse inspection
Diana De Rosa for MacMillan Photography

Batchelder: My horse traveled really well. Actually, he’s never flown before, since he was born and raised in Florida.

The venue is amazing. They [the horses] are happy in the stalls, and the footing’s really good.

Baumert: Handsome traveled really well—he’s flown a bit—he traveled well and arrived in really great form. He has been feeling wonderful. He felt great in the familiarization. It was really fun to be able to ride in the ring as it’s going to be as it’s going forward. I agree with Nora: I think the atmosphere is great. You can definitely tell that something special is happening, but it’s not too overwhelming for them. It’s just right.

A look at the main equestrian competition arena for the Pan American Games at the Army Equitation School in Lima’s La Molina district during the arena-familiarization session prior to the start of competition
Allen MacMillan/MacMillan Photography

Lockman: “Apple” also traveled really well. We had a little farther to go. We are the only combination from the West Coast of the United States, so we had a little more of a trip to make, but made that earlier on.

I think all of our horses are very happy to be in a cooler climate than Florida…It’s perfect riding weather. I think they have gone above and beyond at this facility. The stabling is super. The footing is top-class. The layout is really horse-friendly. Yesterday, we all wandered around looking at things…I got my first set of butterflies in my stomach. All of our horses trained super today. We are really ready to bring it!

Sarah Lockman and First Apple at the dressage horse inspection
Diana De Rosa for MacMillan Photography

To stay relaxed, the riders said, together they made a shopping expedition to a local mall for their outfits for the horse inspection. And Lockman will be bringing home to California a “herd” of eight handcrafted stuffed alpacas—one of the native Peruvian camelids—purchased at the hotel gift shop.

Although all of the riders expressed eagerness for the start of competition on Sunday, July 28, US national dressage technical advisor and chef d’équipe Debbie McDonald said she was doing her part to keep confidence high.

“I like to send little inspirational quotes to [the riders] every evening,” McDonald said, “just to get their head around the fact that you can accomplish anything you want when you put their mind to it.”

McDonald is happy to be shepherding a team of international Games first-timers in Lima, she said.

“[T]his opportunity—to ride in an international environment—is really important for the US because it builds up our ‘pipeline’ and gets us stronger,” she said. “These are riders that I hope that we see a lot of in the future.”

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