Edited Press Release by Starting Gate Communications
Ten-time Canadian Olympian Ian Millar Makes Debut as Chef d’Equipe
Wellington, Florida – The Canadian Show Jumping Team won the $150,000 FEI Nations’ Cup, presented by IDA Development, held on Saturday, March 4, during the CSIO4* Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, FL. The win came as 10-time Canadian Olympian Ian Millar of Perth, ON, made his debut as the new Canadian Team chef d’equipe.
A total of 11 countries competed in the annual team event. Following the opening round of competition held in the afternoon, the top eight teams moved forward to compete under the lights in a second round of competition. The Canadian team comprised of Erynn Ballard, Mario Deslauriers, Tiffany Foster, and Beth Underhill were on a score of eight faults as the first round came to an end, as were Brazil and Ireland. Belgium sat at the top of the leaderboard with four faults.
As Canada’s lead-off rider, Foster, 38, of Langley, BC, incurred four faults in the opening round and rebounded to post a clear round the second time out riding Hamilton, a 12-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Quadros 3 x Acolord) owned by The Hamilton Group.
Ballard, 42, of Tottenham, ON, had the same scores as her teammate, knocking a rail at a black vertical at fence six before returning to jump clear under the lights with Gakhir, a 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Spartacus TN x VDL Indorado) owned by Ilan Ferder and Esperanza Imports LLC.
Deslauriers, 58, produced a faultless performance for Canada with two clear rounds aboard Emerson, owned by Wishing Well Farm LLC, in the horse’s first Nations’ Cup appearance. Deslauriers and the 11-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding (Eldorado van de Zeshoek x Berlin) were one of only two horse-rider combinations to jump double clear over the track set by U.S. course designer Anthony D’Ambrosio with the other belonging to Brazil’s Fabio Leivas da Costa aboard Ilex.
Having added nothing to the eight faults collected in the first round, Canada moved into top spot after Belgium was eliminated and Brazil and Ireland both added faults in the second round. With the win already secured, there was no need for Canada’s anchor rider Underhill, 60, of Mulmur, ON, to return with Nikka van den Bisschop, a 10-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare (Emerald x Nabab de Reve) owned by Rein Family LLC.
“It was a win that our team needed badly, I would say,” said Millar. “These four riders and four horses really delivered. The second round had to be executed with precision, and that’s exactly what they did. It underscores how strong our team was that Beth didn’t have to go in the second round – the other three riders nailed it. It’s not so often that the anchor gets a free ride.”
The win marked Canada’s seventh victory in the Nations’ Cup in Wellington, FL, since the team event was first held at the Winter Equestrian Festival in 2002. Finishing behind Canada in second place was Brazil with a total of 16 faults followed by Ireland, also on 16 faults but with a slower combined time. Mexico took fourth with 17 faults while the United States was fifth with 32 faults. Australia was sixth with 32 faults in a slower combined time, Great Britain seventh with 42 faults, and the early leaders, Belgium, failed to finish after both Jos Verlooy and Zoe Conter were eliminated at the wall at fence nine. Argentina, Chile, and Venezuela failed to make the cut for round two, which featured the top eight teams.
“These riders have been my teammates on numerous occasions in the past,” said Millar, 76, who retired from international competition in 2019. “They know me as a rider and now they know me as a chef. They were so easy to work with and so receptive to any ideas or suggestions. The word synergy comes to mind.