Dec 08, 2023

If You’re Not Winning, You’re Learning: 2023 Pan Am Games Team Revisits Santiago

By Lindsay Berreth - USEA Staff
The U.S. team of (from left to right) Liz Halliday, Sharon White, Sydney Elliott, and Chef d'Equipe Bobby Costello (not pictured: Caroline Pamukcu). USEA/Lindsay Berreth photos

St. Louis, Mo.—Dec. 8— United States Eventing Association (USEA) members at the USEA Annual Meeting & Convention were in for a treat on Friday as the U.S. Eventing Team was on hand to discuss their accomplishments this year at the Pan American Games in Santiago, Chile.

The discussion, moderated by U.S. Equestrian Federation Director of the Eventing Elite Program Gemma Stobbs, focused on their individual and team experiences, as well as logistics of getting to Chile, and looking ahead to the future with the 2024 Paris Olympic Games on the horizon.

The all-female silver medal-winning team of, Liz Halliday (Miks Master C), Sharon White (Claus 63), and Sydney Elliott (QC Diamantaire), were in person with Chef d’Equipe Bobby Costello, while individual gold winner Caroline Pamukcu (HSH Blake) was unable to attend and called in.

Liz Halliday on learning and looking forward.

“'Mikki’s' an incredible horse, and I’m so lucky to have been able to partner with him. He came into my life when I wasn’t expecting it, and I was lucky to have a wonderful group of owners make it possible for him to stay with me. It feels kind of weird that we’re still a young partnership with all the things he’s done. He’s stamping his passport one event at a time!

I’d be lying if I said the result we came home with was what I dreamt of. I came with very high aspirations for big things there, but I think even the best athletes in the world can have not the perfect weekend, and that’s just how it goes.

I will say what an amazing experience it was to ride for my country and to be selected to represent my country. It was something I’ve dreamt of my whole life. To be on a team with so much support that made it such a great experience—I’m so grateful for that. And of course these ladies who fought like hell through the whole thing.

I do think coming away from this has taught me a lot about my horse. I think all we can do as athletes is look forward and take what we can learn from every experience to make ourselves and our horses better and to do right by our horses and improve their program, and I think this certainly made me hungrier for more. I’m ready for the next season.”

Sydney Elliott on the pressure of going first and riding double-clear.

“I personally like having the pressure to go out first and be the trail blazer with 'Q' because we’re such an old partnership. I was really confident that I could report back and relay all the combinations and everything that needed to happen and how quick things were. It was fairly easy for me having Q to report back to know what you could and couldn’t do.”

Sharon White on her relationship with Claus 63 and how they’ve both changed.

“I think all of us here have such strong relationships with our horses. That is the sport in itself. My relationship with Claus matters a lot. It’s what makes you successful—the partnership and getting those horses mentally and physically prepared.

Claus is a very emotional horse, so I have to be mentally in the right place for him. The team experience, I’m so proud of him. He’s come home, and he’s had a little vacation, but he’s a slightly different horse. I don’t have words for it, but he’s less emotional now. I think he’s very proud of himself, and I think he’s very grounded. It’s a really interesting thing to see.

It was such an unbelievable experience, and I know all the horses and riders grew from it. I know I did, and I know I can see that in my horse. It was a developmental team, and there’s a trajectory for the future. You learn so much about your horse and yourself in those pressure moments.

I think horses really develop from experiencing that. I know for me on the last day, personally, I let my horse down a little bit. There was a lot of emotion and pressure, and he was a little bit tired, and I needed to be a little bit better. There’s exactly 15 seconds I would change from the entire trip. It was 15 seconds and three rails down in a row on a really good show jumping horse. I would change those 15 seconds, but I also would have learned the most from those 15 seconds. I know I’ll be better for him going forward.”

Caroline Pamukcu on making her dream come true on a U.S. senior team.

“It was a long process. It was in the back of my mind two years ago after I moved to England with the Wilton Fair grant. After the team got the Olympic qualifier at Pratoni [the 2022 World Championship], it was at the front of my mind. Every time I went to a show I was thinking, ‘OK, let make this count so I can go to the Pan Ams.’ Then I went to train with Pippa [Funnel]. That’s the real reason I came back, because I wanted to try and get on the squad. If I didn’t make it this time, then I’d have to wait another four years just to try to make it again for my senior debut.

It was fun to have a goal and try to do everything I possibly could to accomplish the goal. It makes it more fulfilling when you get there. It was a lot of pressure the whole time.”

Bobby Costello on working with an all-female team and the main takeaway going into 2024.

“That was definitely the best part! It was so cool. I remember when Liz won [the USEA rider of the year], and people were making a big deal that she was a woman, and she was like, ‘What’s the big deal? You should just expect that there’s going to be a woman in this position.’ We shouldn’t be surprised there were four incredible women on the team because in all there was not one woman on all of those South American teams. I think it’s a very military-driven sport there. I think there was maybe six [women] in the whole competition.

The [cross-country] course designer, Pierre le Goupil, will be the course designer in Paris, so it was great to have a couple of takeaways from his course.

This was a tough championship because it came so late in the year, and at the same time we had to keep our eye on the Paris ball for sure, but it seemed like the preparations and lead-up to the Pan Ams was forever. The takeaway after the competition was that there can’t be a lot of time to dwell on that competition because I flew home that night and had my little notebook and was writing down things to take away from that and apply to Paris and focus immediately on the job of getting to Paris. That was my mindset—let’s not dwell on this, let’s move on. We’re super-optimistic about Paris next year.”

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About the USEA Annual Meeting & Convention

The USEA Annual Meeting & Convention takes place each December and brings together a large group of dedicated USEA members and supporters to discuss, learn, and enjoy being surrounded by other eventing enthusiasts. The USEA organizes multiple seminars in addition to committee meetings, open forums, and tons of fun! The 2023 USEA Annual Meeting & Convention will take place in St. Louis, Missouri, on Dec. 7-10, 2023. Click here to learn more about the USEA Annual Meeting & Convention.

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