Townships Rider reaches Rio
The Ayer’s Cliff Fair experienced a first during its Sunday parade this year: it was led by an Olympic Equestrian just back from the 2016 Olympic Summer Games, in Brazil. Colleen Loach, the daughter of former Sunnyside teacher Maureen
Hallam-Lemay and who grew up in the Ayer’s Cliff area, competed in the Equestrian Team eventing at the Olympics along with team members Rebecca Howard, Jessica Phoenix and Kathryn Robinson, finishing in tenth position overall with a total score of 339.10.
“I was born on a farm and my family always had horses. I was seven when I began taking jumping lessons at Turtle Hill,” said Colleen Loach in an inter- view with the Stanstead Journal. At a young age, she began competing at the Ayer’s Cliff Fair and at the Ayer’s Cliff Country Show, eventually moving on when to the Quebec circuit.
Ms. Loach qualified for the Canadian Olympic team at the Jersey Fresh International Three Day Event in May and the team was announced at the end of June. She received a phone-call giving her the good news soon after. “I realized I had a good chance to make the team but I was very excited, very happy when they called. I had focused on this dream and I was lucky it came true. We had only one week of training in Ocala before leaving for Brazil,” said Colleen who also went to the London Olympic Games four years ago as the groom for Olympian Peter Barry.
Her sport, Team eventing, is made up of three forms of competition: dressage, jumping and cross-country jumping. “It is like a triathlon for horses,” said Ms. Loach who was riding Qorry Blue D’Argouges, a horse belonging to Peter Barry. During the three day event in Rio de Janeiro, held at the National Equestrian Center, the horse and rider combinations had to perform precise movements in an enclosed area in ‘dressage’, compete in two show jumping events, and complete a five to six kilometer cross-country course, jumping natural barriers like ditches and fences. “It is a real endurance test for the horse,” she added.
Colleen was first up in the dressage competition for the Canadian team when a technical glitch got her off to a bad start. “The microphone gave loud feedback three times in a row and that startled my horse. We lost some points but he did regain his composure. It was unlucky and unfair,” said the equestrian when asked about the unfortunate incident.
It certainly didn’t ruin her Olympic experience in any way. “They really did a great job and the venues were great. The Athlete’s Village was really nice and it was such a cool experience staying with all the other athletes.” Besides competing, Colleen visited the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue atop Corcovado Mountain and watched a men’s Rugby Sevens game and a Women’s basketball game.
Now that she’s back from Brazil and back to her full time work as a groom and rider, Ms. Loach has other challenges. “I’m trying to syndicate Qorry Blue D’Argouges. He’s for sale,” she commented. When a horse is ‘syndicated’, people buy ‘shares’ in a horse that has proven itself and is connected
to a professional rider.
Ms. Loach was on her way to a new equestrian opportunity the day we did the interview. “I’m now heading to Ocala, Florida, to work at the stables of Clayton Fredericks, the coach for the Canadian Eventing Team. Mr. Fredericks is also a member of the Australian Olympic Equestrian team and an Olympic silver medalist. “I plan to keep training and I hope to be in the World Equestrian Games, in 2018, and then Tokyo,” concluded Colleen.
Colleen oach leading Qorry Blue D’Argouges at the National Equestrian Center in Rio de Janeiro.
The magnificent ‘ Mr. Blue’ (Qorry Blue D’Argouges).
In Canadian red and white, Colleen oach competes in the jumping competition during the 2016 Olympics.
Qorry Blue D’Argouges gets some well-deserved attention from Colleen oach after a competition.