Short of the Olympics, the Pan American Games are the biggest deal in equestrian sport in this hemisphere. Every four years, the best horses and riders in the sports of dressage, show jumping, and three-day eventing, from 42 nations in North, Central, and South America and the Caribbean, converge to challenge each other for medals and honor. For some, it’s a valuable warm-up for the Olympic Games. For others, it’s an end in itself — the biggest competition they’ve ever witnessed, much less participated in. For aside from the powerhouse nations — the United States, Canada, perhaps Brazil and Cuba — the Pan Am Games serve as a showcase for many countries that are hard-pressed to field an international-level dressage horse or show jumper. Imagine the difficulties involved with bringing a horse to the pinnacle of upper-level competitiveness from a place as tiny as Barbados, as poor as Guatemala, or as isolated as Chile! It takes vision, a lot of determination, the willingness to go where the sport is happening, and yes, financial backing from the home team, to make it a reality. But reality it was for the dozen or so nations that traveled huge distances to converge on Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, this past July and August.


Friendly Winnipeg is one of only two cities to have hosted the Pan Am Games twice in the event’s 48-year history (the other is Mexico City). The first time Winnipeg hosted was in 1967, coinciding with Canada’s centennial celebration. Thirty-two years later, the city once again pulled out all the stops to welcome more than 5,000 athletes competing in 41 different sports (the 35 currently included in the Olympics and six others), making this Pan Am Games the largest multi-sport event ever held in North America after the 1984 and 1996 Olympic Games.


Of course, the human and equine athletes first had to get to Winnipeg. For North American riders, it was a comparatively