B.C. rider Tiffany Foster couldn’t write a better story of equestrian competition than what happened in the Santiago 2023 jumping team final yesterday, for her and her teammates.
The Canadian show jumping team – consisting of Beth Underhill, Amy Millar, Mario Deslauriers, and Foster – went to Chile to earn a medal and secure an Olympic berth.
With what’s being called true grit, determination, and exceptional teamwork, they did just that, bringing home the silver and punching their ticket to Paris 2024.
It certainly wasn’t without pressure, noted Equestrian Canada.
After nail-biting competition that saw the podium positions decided down to the last rail, they described the day “as exciting as it gets.”
The Nations’ Cup-style competition took place over two rounds covering 13 obstacles with 16 jumping efforts at 1.60m and a time allowed of 77 seconds.
Canada began the first round of competition in third place and ended the day on the podium earning silver with a final score of 17.62 and the ever-important Paris qualification.
Team USA, which started the day in fifth, earned their Olympic ticket and the gold medal after delivering two double clear rounds and ended on their score of 12.37.
Defending champions from Brazil, who had already qualified for Paris, held the lead through much of the competition, yet finished with the bronze on 20.32 after the final rider incurred eight faults. Mexico, in fourth place, earned the third Olympic qualifying spot that was up for grabs.
“It was tough sport today, and I could not be more proud of the team,” said Chef d’Equipe Ian Millar.
“There were a few little things that happened in the first round; however, I was absolutely confident they would all get cleaned up in the second round, and sure enough, they did.”
Pathfinder for the day was Langley’s own equestrian star, Foster, riding Figor (VDL Groep Zagreb x Indoctro) – a 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding owned by Foster and Artisan Farms and groomed by Caroline Holmberg.
They kicked things off with a bang and rode what Millar called an exceptional clear round in 76.59 seconds.
“Tiffany and Figor’s first round was the round of the day in terms of its accuracy, its precision, and its classical style,” noted the Chef d’Equipe. Coming back in the second round, the pair laid down another clear.
“He was amazing, I mean he just felt even better this round,” Foster said of her mount.
“The more he jumps, the more relaxed he gets, and I’m just so proud of him and so grateful to have a horse like this, to make these things fun, because they’re very stressful, but he makes it fun.”
She continued, “I would just love to mention his owners, Andy and Carlene Ziegler because they make all this possible.”
Canada’s only double clear combination of the day, their confident and skillful rides made it look easy and were important confidence builders for the team. Foster and Figor finished the day on their individual score of 4.40, standing fifth overall heading into the Individual competition on Friday.
Second to go was Mario Deslauriers, of Venise-en-Québec, Que. riding Emerson.
In round one, after navigating the course well, the pair had an unlucky rail and incurred four faults with a quick time of 71.64. Then in round two, the pair hit another rail near the end of the triple combination.
With the four faults incurred, that left it to Amy Millar and Underhill to hold the team score with clears.
Third up was Amy Millar of Perth, Ont., aboard Truman. The pair delivered a strong first round in 75.76 seconds, but knocked a late rail down, incurring 4 faults. The pair came back strong in the second round delivering the crucial clear.
Millar finished on a score of 5.71 in ninth place and qualified for the individual final today (Friday).
“I’m so happy with Truman. He really wanted to jump clean today, and that second round I just felt looser and more concentrated, and my horse felt awesome, and so we pulled it off!” she said .
“And now it’s just the waiting. These championships are stressful for everyone so it’s really a lot of a mental game, but I got it done.”
Anchor rider for the team was Underhill, of Mulmur, Ont., riding Nikka vd Bisschop.
Having had an unlucky rail at the end of round one, the pair became the deciding ride for the team. With a clear final round, and the scoring of the other teams, it was clear that the Olympic berth had been secured and Team Canada had netted a medal.
At the time, with two riders left to go, it was expected to be bronze.
“I think we all felt the same pressure honestly. It was right there from the get-go. Tiffany needed to go out and show us the way, and she did both rounds admirably. And everyone’s score counted, and everyone contributed,” Underhill shared.
“Amy going clear was a little extra inspiration and being anchor rider is always a little extra pressure, but my horse delivered beautifully and came back and jumped clean in the second…We just couldn’t be more excited to be on the podium like that and to be going to Paris.”
With the four faults incurred added to her overall score, she finished the round on a score of 8.02 placing her in 11th individually, and she too qualifying for the individual final today.
At the end of Underhill’s second round there were just two riders left – one from Team USA in second and Brazil in first. By the end of their two rides, the Americans with another clean had moved into first and Brazil with eight faults fell to third, leaving Canada in second place for the silver medal.
When reflecting on how things came together over the week and through the high stakes’ day, Chef d’Equipe Captain Canada felt it was truly the Canadian way.
“It’s about team spirit which is so critical,” Ian Millar said.
“One of our greatest strengths as a Canadian team is our synergy and we’ve always been able to pull together. That’s part of what made the second round today happen, was that synergy. It was a beautiful thing to see.”
“These are four top horse and rider combinations, and they know how to function under pressure and they got the job done,” continued Millar.
“We got a silver medal and we are off to the Paris Olympics!”
The individual competition is running today with three individual riders representing Canada – Tiffany Foster, Amy Millar, and Beth Underhill.
• Stay tuned for more local results from the Pan American Games currently underway in Santiago.