SPORTS

Seasoned riders, green horses - Canada fifth in Olympic team show jumping

08/06/2012 02:14 EDT | Updated 10/06/2012 05:12 EDT
LONDON - Canada had seasoned riders but not the equivalent horsepower to repeat as Olympic medallists in team show jumping.

Ian Millar of Perth, Ont., Eric Lamaze of Schomberg, Que., and Jill Henselwood of Oxford Mills, Ont., finished fifth Monday.

Britain won a jump-off for gold against the Netherlands in front of a frenzy of Union Jacks at Greenwich Park. Saudi Arabia was third.

Millar, Lamaze and Henselwood have a dozen Olympics between them, 10 from Millar alone.

The trio earned team silver four years ago in Beijing, but all came to London on youthful horses with less experience.

Up until last year, Lamaze expected to return to the Summer Games with Hickstead, the horse he rode to individual gold in Beijing as well as team silver.

But Hickstead died tragically of a ruptured aorta in the ring in November at age 15. Lamaze nearly quit the sport, thinking he'd never find a horse like Hickstead again.

When he decided to continue, Lamaze launched into hurry-up mode to find a suitable mount for London. He chose a nine-year-old mare Derly Chin de Muze from his stable.

Millar and Henselwood are both on 10-year-old horses after riding mounts three and four years older four years ago.

"Back in Beijing, Eric had Hickstead, I had In Style and Jill had a horse called Special Ed and these were all horses starting to get along in their career," Millar said. "They were hardened professionals as show jumpers go and these are a little bit new professionals."

Henselwood was the first Canadian in the ring and had a pair of knockdowns and a time penalty on George. Lamaze had two fences down for eight faults aboard Derly. Millar and Star Power knocked one fence down.

"For my team, I wish I could have jumped a zero (faults)," Henselwood added. "We were very clear, the three of us, what we needed. I needed to lead us off and put the pressure on the boys."

Sixth heading into Monday, the Canadians totalled 26 faults over two rounds. They needed to be 14 or better to get on the podium.

The thread throughout their post-competition comments was that their horses were talented, but green at this level of competition.

"This is giving our horses mileage," Lamaze explained. "Jill's on a young horse, I'm on an extremely young horse. My horse is nine and didn't even compete as an eight-year-old. It's like riding an eight-year-old.

"These horses will get mileage. As I've said before, this was supposed to be Hickstead's Games. This was a last-minute option for me. I'm doing the best with what I have which is very good. I have some very good horses in the stable, but just not enough time to prepare for this."

Each country gets four horse-and-rider combinations in the team event, with the worst score thrown out. Canada didn't have that cushion, however. Tiffany Foster of Schomberg, Que., wasn't able to ride Monday.

Her horse, Victor, was disqualified Sunday because of "an area of inflammation and sensitivity on the forelimb just above the hoof" discovered during a veterinary inspection. Canada's chef d'equipe Terrance (Torchy) Millar said it was a minor sore spot and lodged a protest, which was denied.

Millar, who is no relation to Ian Millar, had called it "a decision that lacks any common sense."

"The rule has a lot of latitude to it, which puts tremendous responsibility on the enforcers. Let's just say that," Ian Millar said Monday.

"It's a huge disadvantage. Without that dropped score, it's very difficult when everybody is coming at you. If you're playing baseball and everyone had four strikes and you only have three, it's a different game."

Millar, Henselwood and Lamaze were similarly short-staffed when they won silver in Beijing with Mac Cone's horse Ole injured and unable to compete.

Millar and Lamaze finished among the top 35 and ties to qualify for the first round of individual event Wednesday, when all riders start at zero faults. The top 20 continue into Thursday's medal round, with the combined scores from the two days determining the individual medals.

Lamaze says the team event was beneficial in Derly's steep learning curve.

"Every time she goes in, she learns," he said. "This was a big course for her. I liked her reaction. She had two down ... but they were things I think I can correct."

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