I had the good fortune of being invited to the Training Camp for the Canadian Pan American Games Team this past summer - and what an amazing week this turned out to be for everyone. I have been lucky enough to have represented Canada at the World Championships, The Pan Am Games, the World Cup and the Open European Championships, but the funding and organization for a Team Training Camp was not a part of those competitions. This year (as for WEG Team members in 2014) Equine Canada put together a 9 day Camp designed to bring all the Team riders and horses to peak performance leading up to The PAG in Toronto.
I was part of 6 riders and horses who were aiming at a Gold Team medal for Canada. As an alternate the pressure was not as great on me as for the top four (Belinda Trussel, Megan Lane, Chris Von Martels and Brittany Fraser). But Diane Creech (the first alternate) and I had to be immediately ready to step up the plate if something happened to one of these four riders or their horses, so we were preparing just as diligently.
Every horse and rider had proven themselves in competition - we all had been competing in the Florida CDI's and in May had competed in Ontario at the CDI's. Canadian riders definitely root for each other at these international competitions, but the truth is also that we were vying with each other for a spot on the Team, which keeps us all trying our best individually. The Training Camp was the venue to get every individual to pull together as a real Team, and hopefully bring us all up to even better performances because of that spirit. It worked better than anyone hoped: the Canadian Team riders rode amazingly at the PAGS and scored numerous personal bests!
Before the Camp officially started the Team was all together at a lovely fundraiser outside of Toronto (Thank You Robyn and Tony Eames)! A fun night of freestyles, great wine and food was fabulous for everyone, and the next morning all the horses and riders arrived at the beautiful farm that was our home for the next 9 days. The support crew was all in attendance: the staff and wonder workers from Equine Canada and Dressage Canada who pulled this camp together (Desi and Christine in particular), the very accomplished Technical Advisor Dr. Volker Moritz, our Chef D'Equipe Alison Martin, our super vets Drs. Geoff Vernon and Usha Knabe, and our "Ace in the Hole": Dirk Stroda, Sport Psychologist extraordinaire.
Training was individual every day, and personal coaches were encouraged and worked beautifully together. It was a private camp, so that riders were not distracted by family and friends during the this intensive training. Every member of the Team is a professional rider, which means we are busy every day schooling numerous horses and riders. We rarely get to have such laser like focus on our riding, or on only one horse, or on only one competition. I relished watching my teammates school every day - super riders on wonderfully talented horses getting coached by the best in the world was incredibly inspiring! I believe each horse and rider improved daily as we inspired better riding in each other.
The farm we were at had miles of gorgeous hacking trails, so even on our days off from training we got to rest our horses with fun stuff. Our hotel had a fitness center which I made use of daily (I for sure will get out of shape if I only ride one horse a day)! We worked with Dirk on our mental readiness for competition, and I know his expertise was very pivotal to Canada's success. But it wasn't all work - there were great Team building outings together which brought us all together: lunches and dinners together, a very dressy day at The Queen's Plate (fancy hats and all), and a Canada Day celebration with the Canadian Three Day Event Team.
In the end I was not needed to step in, so I stepped back and watched with immense pride as my teammates did everything in their power to win Gold. And we came damn close (I think we surprised everyone but ourselves)!! The American powerhouse was undeniably strong - but we came away with a very well deserved Silver. It's really incredible that our discard scores were over 70%! I truly believe that the top performances or our horses and riders were the end product of a super Training Camp. Everyone was good coming into the camp, and definitely primed for great when they finished.
This Camp would not have been a success without our horses, our owners, our family and friends, or our all important grooms. There are so many people in my "village" who made it possible. Personally I want to thank Chester's owner Elizabeth Ferber, my wonderful hubby Lorne and my uber grooms Sarah And Liz. No way I could have these experiences without you. And Chester buddy you rock it with the big boys.....