Every four years athletes from Argentina to Canada compete in 46 different sports ranging from Archery to Wrestling. This October 14-30 Guadalajara, Mexico and surrounding cities will host the XVI Pan American Games (Pan Ams). The equestrian portions of the games include individual and team Dressage, Jumping, and Eventing. This year’s Eventing portion of the games takes place on two different locations in the state of Jalisco, the capital of which is Guadalajara. The Santa Sofia golf course will play host to the cross-country phase while dressage and show jumping will be at Club Hipica, a two-year-old state of the art competition center. will house the dressage and show jumping portions. Both sites are located between 12 and 30 miles from the Guadalajara airport.
(Above left: The cross-country course at the Pan Am Games Test Event. Photo courtesy of Brian Sabo.)
Eventers will compete at the two-star level among the blue agave plantations (that delightful plant that ferments into tequila). The Jalisco region boasts some of Mexico’s staples (yes tequila) and the famous Mariachi music, impressive arts, and beautiful architecture. Mexico’s darker “call to fame”, violence stemming from the drug cartel, cannot be ignored as it is a particularly hot topic in the media. Rightly so security issues raise concerns for athletes and spectators traveling to the region. According to Pan Am website, it appears Mexico is aware the world is watching and plans to increase security in the region to ensure safety for all. The USEA president and Mexico’s Eventing team coach, Brian Sabo, said, “I’ve been going to Mexico for years and have felt safe and comfortable. It’s just like everywhere you go from New York City to Paris there are always sharks in the water, so you need to be aware and cautious.”
The Pan American Games are a wonderful opportunity for Eventers from all over the Americas discover and learn from each other’s programs. “To me the most important thing to realize is it’s a big world and there are a lot of other countries to be aware of.” said Sabo. This is Sabo’s second year coaching the Mexican team, which is comprised mainly of cavalry riders. The cavalry is kept alive in Mexico for traditional purposes such as parades and competition. “For many of us (Americans) this will be an eye opener into what our neighbors south of the board have to offer towards Eventing and horse sports in general. I think the coolest thing is there are entire groups throughout the Americas that are seriously passionate about Eventing. We just don’t think of them because we have a well oiled system in the United States.”
The Mexican team held a test event on June 16-19 at the equestrian sites where the Pan Ams will occur. John William designed the cross-country and according to Sabo, “We were very pleased with the course. John did not soften the three water jumps. Previously, there was a major concern with the footing, but I am happy to say the footing was great. The construction is up with the top tier international events. The amenities are going to be fantastic.”
The Games are an exciting opportunity for up and coming horse and rider pairs to compete at an international event. Sara Ike, Managing Director of Eventing for the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) and team leader for the 2007 and current US Pan Am Team said, “The Pan Ams are important for two reasons; one it is a qualifier for Olympics and two, it is a great opportunity to send a young team to gain experience at the international competition level.”
Lauren Billys and her horse Ballingowan Ginger (pictured right at the Galway Downs CIC*. Josh Walker/USEA Photo) exemplify a young horse and rider team experiencing international competition for the first time. Billys is a 22-year-old California native gearing up for her first international competition at the Pan Ams. “I’m looking forward to the fact that I’m 22 and getting this opportunity. Everything is new and exciting. Even the ambiance of ordering my pinque coat yesterday made me stop and think… this is a crazy opportunity! This is my and Ginger’s first time for everything… flying her in a plane and competing internationally… the best she’s done is the best I’ve done.” Billys is a third generation Puerto Rican, which allows her to attend the games for Puerto Rico. She has been riding for Puerto Rico for the past year, but will be the only Puerto Rican Eventer represented as fellow team members experienced “everything bad that could happen.” Billys said, “The opportunity to compete in the Pam Ams is really exciting for Team Puerto Rico as it’s a young and upcoming team.”
The buzz is building with a little over two months until the Dressage competition kicks off the equine competitions at this year’s Pan Ams. Across the Americas teams are gearing up. The United States and Canada announced their long list teams around the end of July and have been tweaking the lists since. But as we all know, with four and two legged athletes anything can happen between now and the opening ceremonies. Keep an eye on the news and support your favorite first timer or veteran eventer as he or she tackle the excitement of great international CCI2* competition this October in Guadalajara, Mexico.
Equestrian Competition dates:
Dressage: October 16-19
Eventing: October 21-23
Jumping: October 26-29
The Canadian team’s website “Aim for the Games” is a great source of information for those planning on attending the games or showing support by keeping an eye on the competition. The site has great pictures of the amenities from the cross-country course to the groom’s hotel.
Pan American Game’s website:
Chronicle of the Horse’s Pan Ams coverage:
Lauren Billys’ Blog – http://laurenbillys.com/blog