Pan Am Games - Cross Country
 By Winniefield Park   •   1st Aug 2015   •   1,927 views   •   0 comments

After my Pan Am dressage experience I couldn’t wait to attend the cross-country portion of the eventing competition. The Toronto 2015 competition was a FEI** event, with riders from North and South America vying for a team medal. The site was a newly built course in the rolling hills just north of Toronto.

We got a relaxed start as the first rider did not start until 11am. Again, we took an easy drive down back country roads to the grounds. The lineup to get in was long, but moved quickly and we left the car parked along the edge of a newly mown hay field. After having our bags checked, and ourselves scanned for metal, we entered the gates were a woman sitting on a tower like those used by lifeguards blared over a megaphone ‘you are now entering a high risk area’. If you’ve ever been on a cross country course, you’ll know that there’s often only thin rope separating spectators from the galloping horses and that getting from place to place means skittering across the course. All was done under the watchful eye of alert volunteers however.

The course was about 4km long with over twenty jumps. There were forty two riders. A few of the riders did not ride on teams. The course was very winding, encompassed by about fifty acres. There were an incredible number of spectators. Some obviously knew what was going on and then there were those to whom this was all very new and exciting. Spectators lined each side of the course enjoying the day in their lawn chairs and many sheltered themselves under umbrellas, which to my surprise we could bring in.

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This was only a two star event and the jumps were a lot smaller than I've seen at higher levels. There was one tricky jump through some trees with a quick 45 turn into an open field and of course a number of skinnies, that don’t so much test the jumping prowess of horse and rider, but dexterity and obedience. The most complicated and the one that seemed to present the most problems was a water complex. There were a few lines riders could take into this, but most commonly, they jumped a substantial brush jump down into the water, over a skinny in the water, and then another skinny out of the water. There were refusals here of course and one fall that put the horse completely under the water somehow - the water was only about 18” deep and the horse ended up completely submerged, head and all. Another horse that I did not see go down had to be trailered off the course after tangling with one of the obstacles in this combination.

Many of the jumps were Canadian and locally themed. There was a big wooden maple syrup jug on its side, a colorful maple leaf jump and a golden horseshoe that the competitors jumped through. I blame it on being in the hot sun all afternoon that I didn’t realize until after that this represented the "the golden horseshoe" urban area that wreaths the western end of Lake Ontario and includes the cities of Toronto and Hamilton.

At the finish line, the vetting and stabling area were visible, although the public were kept a good distance away. The main stabling was back at the OLG Caledon Equestrian Park, so several large horse vans were parked alongside the road above the temporary stabling.

The spectators were very enthusiastic! All good rides over the jumps earned applause, with the crowd getting extra noisy when the Canadian and American riders went by. Eventing is one sport the riders get to ‘flaunt their colors’ so it was fun to be able to identify each rider by the flags and colors they wore.

The afternoon was over too soon. By 2:30pm all 42 riders had gone through, and the crowd started heading towards the exit. We figured that there was no point sitting in the car waiting to get out, so we toured the course a little closer. I even cooled my feet in the water complex, just before a volunteer came and shooed everyone out. My daughter, of course was dreaming and picturing how she would build a cross-country course, and her fiance seemed enthusiastic about the idea. Then it was back to the car, and we bumped through the hay field to the highway home. My only regret at the conclusion was that I didn’t get stadium jumping tickets and that this was the end of my Pan Am experience.
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