U.S. Dressage Team Wins Gold at Pan Am Games

The U.S. dressage team won the gold medal ahead of Canada and Brazil at the 2007 Pan American Games July 15 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
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The U.S. dressage team won the gold medal ahead of Canada and Brazil at the 2007 Pan American Games July 15 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, July 16, 2007 -- The three-member U.S. team comprised of Lauren Sammis, Katherine Poulin-Neff and Christopher Hickey brought home the gold medal in the dressage team final July 15 at Deodoro Stadium and the National Equestrian Center.

Two Americans entered the dressage arena on Sunday to add to the Saturday score laid down by Lauren Sammis, who stood at first coming into the second day of dressage and final day of the team competition. The American team ended its work with an average score of 68.633 percent. Canada took the silver medal (67.250 percent), and Brazil won the bronze medal on a score of 64.933 percent.

After two rides for both the Americans and the Canadians, there was only a 2/10 difference in the total scores deciding the team medal.

Poulin-Neff was the first of the Americans to enter. She scored a 66.550 percent aboard Brilliant Too.

"I felt good about the test," she said. "There was one little mistake at the end--a flying change. I corrected it, but overall he [Brilliant Too] felt good. I thought he would be more nervous in there...but, overall, I was really happy."

"I'll be more relaxed next time," she said, referring to the upcoming individual finals. Overall, the pairing finished the individual first qualifier in sixth place.

Hickey and Regent wrapped up the American effort and scored a 69.150 percent, which sat them in second place overall. Canadian Andrea Bresee's 65.250 percent secured the silver for her country.

"I made a few little mistakes, and part of those were rider error...going for it a little too much," said Hickey. "But, I'm very happy with our ending score and to be able to represent the U.S. team. We've had a wonderful time here in Brazil."

Hickey's mount, Regent, was fresh entering the ring Sunday, and the rider was cautious not to over-warm-up the horse. However, some gutsy chances were taken during the test, and a resulting few mistakes were made.

"I was a little overzealous trying to make him more expressive, and I could have ridden him a little calmer," said Hickey. "That is one place where I rode too much and tried to make him higher in the neck and little more forward over the ground with more expression. It didn't work today." Regardless, his efforts were enough to secure the medal.

Sammis spoke for the team when she shared her enthusiasm for the competition and her appreciation. "The way that this show has been run has been fantastic, and the reception from the people has been fantastic," she said. "We are so very grateful to be here as a team."

Team USA chef d'equipe Klaus Balkenhol was obviously pleased.

"Considering that all of these riders are riding in a large international event for the first time, each and every one did a fantastic job," said Balkenhol. "I am thrilled that these riders were able to get the gold medal. I also want to thank everyone--the grooms and the others who worked together...that's really important."

Looking toward the individual competition, Sammis said that she was ready and was fortunate to be competing on her mount, Sagacious HF (an eight-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding owned by Hyperion Farm, Inc.).

Poulin-Neff said that she showed come nerves in her Pan American debut, as did her mount, the 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood/Thoroughbred cross gelding owned by Sharon Poulin.

"I'm happy with the way it went," she said. "Being here overall has been really great, and we have such a wonderful support group here helping us...It has been absolutely wonderful."

"[Monday] I'll be a bit bolder, and the Intermediare I is our better test," said Poulin-Neff.

The two-day individual finals begin today with the Intermediare I and wrap up on Wednesday with the Intermediare freestyle.