Dawn Fox has been hailed as a “pioneer” for Bermudian dressage after qualifying a pair of horses for the Central American and Caribbean Games in Barranquilla, Colombia.
Fox bettered her achievement of four years ago, when she qualified her horse Lancelot for the CAC Games in Veracruz, Mexico, by achieving the feat on another horse, Landtango, as well.
The Seaview Stables rider qualified both horses at the Caribbean Equestrian Association Dressage Competition — a unique event as it enables the region’s riders to compete against each other without having to travel overseas.
Fox competed in the Prix St Georges and Intermediate classes, alternating horses on each of the two days of competition, which she believes actually helped her achieve her dual qualifying quest.
“I’m proud to have qualified with two horses,” said Fox, who needed to score an average of at least 62 per cent on each horse. “It’s my career highlight, especially [qualifying] the second horse [Landtango].
“The first day I would ride in the Intermediate with Lancelot and the Prix St Georges with Landtango, and the second day I would flip them.
“It gives you a bit of an advantage to ride two horses at that level because it means you’re adjusting your riding. Plus, it gives you more time in the ring as we don’t have a lot of shows here — perhaps five a year.”
Unfortunately Fox, who started riding aged four, will not be able to compete at the CAC Games, which run from July 19 to August 3, because of the hefty financial costs involved.
“It’s a tricky thing to do,” she said. “It’s an expense and it would probably cost $50,000 to get there and back. Ideally you would go down to Florida for three or four weeks to continue training and get some shows in. Travelling that far is a lot on the horse as well.”
Fox knew Lancelot was capable of hitting the qualifying mark but was less sure about Landtango, who is owned by one of her students Ashley Gibbs.
Both horses are aged 16 and Fox admits there will likely be “little career change” on the horizon for Lancelot.
“Qualifying Landtango was more of an achievement because we knew Lancelot could do it,” Fox said. “He was already at that level and it was just a case of keeping him healthy for another four years.
“Lancelot might not be the most special horse but he does have a good work ethic. We never thought [Landtango] would be at this level, let alone be able to qualify.”
Angela Halloran-Smith, Bermuda’s head dressage coach, said she was thrilled that Fox was able to qualify on both horses without having to leave Bermuda. An appointed judge travelled to each of the islands to officiate the shows.
“Four years ago it was one horse and four years later it’s two horses,” Halloran-Smith said. “[Dawn] is a pioneer; she’s getting us started! It shows Bermuda has a really stable programme. We’ve proven that four years ago wasn’t just a one-hit wonder.”
Fox echoed Halloran-Smith’s sentiments and said it felt special to compete in local shows with an “international feel”.
She said: “As a rider you just think you have to go away to qualify, as so many have, but it’s great to be able to do it here in Bermuda.
“Whether you’re able to go [to the CAC Games] or not, [qualifying] is still a goal. It makes it feel more international feel, as we’re competing against other islands in our group.
“It gives it an international flavour. To be able to qualify makes you feel like you’re on that level.”
Halloran-Smith, who has spent more than 25 years competing and coaching in Bermuda and the United States at all levels including Grand Prix, hopes Fox’s exploits will inspire the next generation of local riders.
“We want to try and keep our riders reaching higher goals and going for bigger competitions,” said the North Carolinian.
“When I stepped into this position [in March 2017] as national coach one of my big goals was to get qualifiers here for the riders.
“Now that she’s been able to do this the other up and coming riders will be like, ‘hey, I can do that as well, I can start reaching for those goals’. We’ve got a great group of juniors coming through the programme. If they stick to dressage and stay with their training programmes, all of this can be in their sights.”