06/05/2013 04:34 EDT | Updated 08/05/2013 05:12 EDT

Canadian rider Foster views Olympic disappointment as learning experience

CALGARY - Tiffany Foster can laugh now, but at the time she shed many tears.

The 28-year-old rider from Vancouver was competing in the biggest show jumping event of her life at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

After making her Olympic debut in the first round of the individual event, equestrian officials disqualified her horse Victor for the rest of the Games because of a small scratch on his leg.

As developments at Olympic Games often do, it blew up into a major Canadian story that drew the attention of host broadcaster BBC.

The Canadian show jumping team appealed the decision, believing Victor was sound and could compete.

Foster's mentor and teammate Eric Lamaze was reported to be upset that Equine Canada did not fight hard enough for Foster and Victor.

The dust now settled, Foster can look back on her Olympic experience with a sense of humour and some satisfaction.

Just earning a spot on the Canada's Olympic show jumping team alongside entrenched veterans Lamaze, Ian Millar and Jill Henselwood was a significant step forward for the young rider.

Lamaze, Millar and Henselwood won team silver and Lamaze gold in the individual event at the 2008 Olympics.

Foster says she gained knowledge and seasoning in London, despite sitting out the team event.

The Canadian team that finished fifth in London would have been allowed to drop one bad score with four riders. In Foster's absence, there was no room for error because all three scores counted.

"At the time it was for sure devastating," Foster said at Spruce Meadows where she's competing this week. "It seemed like the end of the world at that moment.

"Looking back, it could have been a lot worse. My horse wasn't hurt, I wasn't hurt, we didn't have a bad experience at the Olympics. Everything went well the one round we jumped, so it could have been a lot worse.

"I think that ranks really high on my experience. That was my first championship. I'd never done the Pan Ams, or (world championship) or anything like that. It's definitely something different and I got to do all of that part other than the actual riding at the end."

Foster competed with Victor and another horse, Southwind, in both Europe and the U.S. this past winter. She rode Victor at Spruce Meadows less than a month after the London Games.

"He's perfect. His foot was fine at the Olympics too," she said cheekily.

Foster hopes to wear the Maple Leaf again at the World Equestrian Games in 2014, the Pan American Games in 2015 and to also return to the Olympics in 2016.

Foster and Victor are competing in the $1 million National Tournament at Spruce Meadows, which opened Wednesday in Calgary.

The five-day competition kicks off five consecutive tournaments at Spruce Meadows.

Foster added another, significant horse to her string of mounts on the eve of the National.

Verdi III is a horse she believes can take her to the next level in the sport.

She acquired 11-year-old bay gelding with the financial help of Andy and Carlene Ziegler of Artisan Farms.

The Zieglers also co-invested in a pair of new horses with Lamaze, who will also ride them for the first time at Spruce Meadows.

Switzerland's Pius Schwizer, ranked among the top 15 riders in the world, rode Verdi III to a World Cup Grand Prix victory in France last year.

That horse and rider combination also represented Switzerland in the World Cup final in April.

"He would definitely already slot in as my best horse," Foster said. "He's pretty awesome."

But with little time to develop chemistry, Foster will be competing cold aboard Verdi III at Spruce Meadows.

"Especially a horse like that, that's got a very good reputation and everybody knows who he is, there's a little bit of pressure there," Foster said.

"He was ridden by one of the best riders in the world, so you have to try and do your best."