Lima, Peru – July 31, 2019 – It was Team USA on the top step of the podium when Sarah Lockman steered the chestnut stallion, First Apple, to clinch Individual Dressage gold at the Pan American Games 2019 taking place in Lima, Peru. A superb score of 78.980 in the Intermediate l Freestyle clinched it for the 30-year-old who overtook Canada’s Tina Irwin and Laurencio by just over a single percentage point, while Lockman’s team-mate, Jennifer Baumert, claimed the bronze with her gelding Handsome.
This was America’s ninth individual Dressage title in the history of equestrian sport at the Pan American Games, which dates back to Buenos Aires (ARG) in 1951. And Lockman made it a US three-in-a-row as compatriot, Steffen Peters, posted a consecutive double at Guadalajara (MEX) in 2011 and Toronto (CAN) in 2015.
Both Small Tour and Big Tour combinations compete at the Pan Ams, and the Small Tour riders were first to battle it out in the Intermediate l Freestyle today. Just four horse-and-rider partnerships contested the higher-level Big Tour class that followed, but the medals were decided by the biggest scores on the day, regardless of the category, and it was Small Tour contenders Lockman, Irwin and Baumert who posted those to claim the top three steps of the podium.
The USA was never eligible for one of the two Olympic team qualifying spots on offer because they sent just three Small Tour riders to Lima. They already had their Tokyo ticket in the bag after claiming silver at last year’s FEI World Equestrian Games™ on home soil in Tryon (USA) and were quite happy to settle for silver in the team competition won by Canada on Monday.
But today they were gunning for the gold and they got it, thanks to a stunning performance from team debutante Lockman and her sensational 9-year-old Dutch stallion which is owned by Gerry Ibanez. Judges Thomas Kessler (GER), Mary Seefried (AUS), Eduard De Wolff Van Westerrode (NED) and Janet Lee Foy (USA) all put the American first, while Canada’s Brenda Minor placed her second, and the winner achieved high marks for Degree of Difficulty from all five judges, including a nine from Kessler.
“I’m over the moon excited about it!” Lockman said. “It’s everything I ever dreamed of and wanted, and I’m so proud of my horse and grateful to everybody who helped me get here and the whole support staff that have been here helping me at my first ever Games experience – it’s been truly unforgettable!”
“I am so proud of my horse and, to be honest, with myself. I put a lot of pressure on myself today because the last two days were so phenomenal. I couldn’t have asked for anything more. I may still be in shock, but it will sink in soon. I’m just so happy with that score and so happy that I was able to do that on this international stage,” said Lockman.
The duo have been together for less than a year, as “Apple” was purchased in October of 2018 and did not arrive stateside until early 2019. The speed of their progress has given Lockman the confidence to try and reach her ultimate goal of one day competing at the Olympics. The experience they take home from this competition will be invaluable in their efforts to achieve that aspiration.
“Being in a competition like this really makes the horse and rider a lot closer. We traveled so far, and there’s a lot of stress involved. I put a lot of pressure on myself to perform for my team, my owner, my coach, and everybody that’s here. I just look to Apple and I know we can pull it off together,” she said.
With a resounding start to their international championship career, Lockman and First Apple will depart from Lima with high expectations for their future, but Lockman will always remember where she started.
“I’ve been really committed to this sport. When I was 10, I told one of my trainer’s that I was going to grow up to be a horse trainer and go to the Olympics. This is step one, being able to represent my country here and I’m looking forward to whatever comes next,” she elaborated. “It’s a complete dream come true. I’m a small-town girl, and I’m so fortunate to that have had so many people believe in me from the beginning. I really think hard work pays off, and I have worked so hard to be here. I have something to say to all of the little girls out there who tell someone that they want to go to the Olympics one day, it is possible.”
Irwin and Laurencio, members of Canada’s gold-medal-winning team on Monday, put a strong 77.780 on the board to hold second spot, and when Baumert and Handsome slotted into third on 75.755 then all three medal contenders had an anxious wait while the Big Tour foursome strutted their stuff in the Grand Prix Freestyle. And Dominican Republic’s Yvonne Losos De Muñiz put in a strong challenge with her 14-year-old mare, Aquamarijn, but when the scoreboard showed 75.430 she just missed out on the podium and the top three wouldn’t change.
Baumert and Handsome, a 14-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Hochadel x Weltmeyer) owned by Betsy Juliano LLC, helped the U.S. Dressage Team earn the team silver medal with their performances in the Prix St. Georges and the Intermediate I tests, but their Intermediate I Freestyle was a highlight, as the pair recorded a career-high 75.755 percent.
“Overall, I was very pleased. There were no major mistakes in the test, and he is just so electric here. In other venues he’s a little bit quieter, and it’s a different ride, which means I need to make adjustments quickly, but you can’t complain for having that kind of energy,” laughed Baumert. “I was really happy with the trot work at the end because by that time he was lit, so it felt really nice. Over the past few days, I’ve figured out how to ride him in this atmosphere and we’ve had a very deep bond for a long time. I’ve learned how to ride my horse a little better each day here.”
The duo were part of the gold medal team at the 2019 FEI Dressage Nations Cup™ USA in Wellington, Fla. but earning a team and individual medal at their first continental championship for the United States has been incredibly rewarding for Baumert, who has dedicated her life to perfecting the sport.
“I know that my horse is capable; I’m capable, and we have an awesome freestyle. Of course, I was hopeful, but it’s all up in the air until it really happens, and I’m just so proud,” said Baumert when asked if she ever considered she would be an individual medal contender in Lima. “Obviously, this is any horse-crazy kid’s dream come true.”
Chef d’Equipe Debbie McDonald has been an individual medalist at the Pan American Games herself, riding the famous Brentina to both a team and individual gold at Winnipeg 1999, and her pride in the athletes and their accomplishments this week has been palpable.
“This is pretty amazing and overwhelming as someone who knows how much their lives are going to change after this. For those two to walk away with medals on their necks, it is life changing,” said McDonald. “This has been a tremendous week for our team, and I’m looking forward to the progress we make from here.”
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