Q&A With Karen Pavicic: A Whirlwind Trip to Austria

Karen Pavicic and Don Daiquiri at Central Park

Fritzens, Austria – July 2, 2016 – The fight for a chance to represent Canada at the upcoming Olympic Games is particularly fierce this time around. Without a full team qualified, Canada is limited to two individual spots for Rio, and several riders have been very close in the rankings throughout the process. With the qualifying period drawing to a end July 3, Karen Pavicic made a last-minute trip to the CDI4* at Schindlhof in Fritzens, Austria, with her partner Don Daiquiri.

Pavicic lies in third place in the rankings behind Belinda Trussell and Megan Lane, and she hopes to earn a score at Fritzens that would lift her into second. In Friday’s Grand Prix, she and Don Daiquiri earned a 69.42 percent – not quite enough to boost her average – but she has a final shot in Sunday’s Grand Prix Special. She currently has an average of 71.039 percent to Lane’s 71.0875 percent. Four scores from qualifying competitions count toward the averages, and scores from at least three different competitions must be included.

Pavicic and Don Daiquiri competed alongside Trussell, Lane, and David Marcus at the 2014 Alltech/FEI World Equestrian Games in Normandy, France, and both she and Lane are aiming for what would be their first Olympic team. Pavicic has had the ride on Don Daiquiri, nicknamed “Dono,” for nearly nine years. She owns the 14-year-old Oldenburg gelding (Don Cardinale-Neastate III, Rubinstein I) in partnership with Jayne Essig, who found him at a sales barn in Seattle. We caught up with her to hear more about her recent competitions and her decision to make the trip to Europe, which she is supporting through a GoFundMe effort that has raised over $13,000 to date.

Karen Pavicic and Don Daiquiri in Wellington

Karen, you’ve had a busy and very successful show schedule since the end of the Florida season. What have the past couple of months been like?

Extremely busy but so wonderful. The best part is all of the fantastic people we have met along the way. Many thanks to everyone who have helped us – it truly takes a village. I must thank my family, friends and sponsors.

What have been the challenges of all that travel? I heard you did at least some of the driving yourself?

I always drive and fly with Don D. We have a lot of miles under our belt for sure. I am fortunate that he is a great traveler and I like to travel too! The biggest challenge is time away from home and loss of income with all of the travel.

You’ve mentioned that Don Daiquiri could be difficult when he was younger, but he certainly seems to be hitting his stride now. What is he like in the show ring?

Don Daiquiri is a seasoned competitor now and looks to me for confidence if he is feeling nervous. Generally, he handles it very well and has come a very long way from his early years. A good weekly training program, incorporating days off and lighter work days in between more rigorous ones, is very important. Often in new environments, he can become a little anxious the first day or two before settling in, and then requires more attention and reassurance.

You recently achieved personal best scores at the Thunderbird CDI3* in Langley, British Columbia. How did you feel when you saw those scores?

It was a fantastic atmosphere at home. To be able to show everyone just how far we have come was wonderful. My supporters at home had not seen Don D in 2.5 years or more. The best part is he is still getting better! To be honest I did not even look at the scores initially when I came out of the ring. I was so incredibly happy with our performances, and that is the most important thing!

Karen Pavicic and Don Daiquiri at Devon

How did you make the decision to go to Fritzens? Was it challenging to get the logistics arranged so quickly?

It was always a possible option to consider, however I would have preferred to have stayed home. On the other hand, we competed at this beautiful and prestigious competition last year, and it is a true honor to be returning. It was definitely tight timing to make it all work, but where there is a will there is a way. I have had an overwhelming amount of support and I am incredibly grateful for everyone who has helped to make this happen. It truly has been an unbelievable journey and regardless of the outcome I am very proud of our accomplishments.

What’s the hardest part of being on the road to Rio?

The single biggest challenge is the cost associated with training, competing and traveling. I do not have a personal sponsor, but I am very fortunate to have some corporate sponsorship where product is given to us in exchange for endorsements, which I am very grateful for. However, maintaining a high performance horse is very costly, as well as the cost of competitions and traveling. The other big challenge is the time spent away from home.

What is it like shooting for an Olympic spot in such a competitive year?

For Canada this year it is very difficult, as we only have two individuals who are able to go to the Olympics. For the riders who are third and fourth this year, it will be heartbreaking. Everyone who has qualified has put in an enormous effort, and all horses and riders should be congratulated on this incredible achievement. In the end I think all of the Canadian riders want to see the best horse/rider combinations represent us at the Olympics.

Karen Pavicic with Don Daiquiri

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