We don’t need to be patriotic to cheer for Team Ecogold’s Canadian riders. They are all very talented and accomplished riders. On top of that, I don’t know if you have to be amazingly good-looking and have a great personality to event in Canada, but they could definitely all be on the cover of Vogue and win the congeniality award if there was one.
Diana is coming to Rolex with Manny, who was an alternate for the 2008 Olympic Games in his first year of competition at the advanced level. Manny is homebred, raised and trained by Diana, which makes this partnership and accomplishment extra special. Last September, Diana and Manny were the top-placed Canadian team at Burghley International CCI4* and only, the 3rd Canadian combination in history to finish to complete the event.
Something you might not know… Diana rescues pitbulls, trains them and turns them into the sweetest barn dogs. She’s like a Canadian Cesar Millan!
Here's Diana and Manny, riding at the 2009 Burghley Horse Trials
Here they are at Rolex 2009
Jessica Hampf rides for Canada but lives in Alabama (yep, you read right). Born in London, Ontario, she moved to Nashville, Tennessee when she was 6 and rode hunter-jumper before getting hooked on eventing.
This will be her first Rolex, which is pretty exciting but nerve-racking at the same time. She will be riding her top horse, High Society III who competed at the 2009 Blenheim Horse Trials, where they gained valuable international experience. Jessica trains with international event rider Jan Byyny, who suffered an unfortunate accident earlier this year. This could be a set back for a lot of people but not for those two pros! Amazingly, the training has continued according to plan and it’s all steam ahead for Kentucky.
Something you might not know… Her generosity and sportsmanship is quite incredible. When we sent her a couple of saddle pads to compete at Blenheim, she generously gave one to a fellow competitor as she thought it could help him. Her team kept washing and re-using the one saddle pad she had left.
Hawley Bennett Already an Olympic veteran (Athens 2004 with Livingstone), Hawley has been to Kentucky many times but this year, she is bringing her little mare Gin and Juice. And when Hawley says “my little mare”, she’s not using an endearment term, that mare is really tiny (15.3 h.h.)! I guess, like a Ferrari, you can be low to the ground but have loads of power. They won the 2009 Bromont International CCI*** and earlier this year, finished 3rd in the CIC*** at Galway Downs . Hawley lives in California (who can blame her!) and is one of the featured Rolex riders, with a blog on their official website. This year, one of her dreams came true when she carried the Olympic torch in her hometown, for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games.
Something you might not know… At Fair Hill International, Hawley made the difficult decision to not run Gin and Juice in the cross-country, because of poor weather conditions. This represented a great sacrifice – both financially, as she had flown all the way from California, and personally, as she needed the scores. But her horse’s well-being came first, which is a testament to her great horsemanship and integrity.
Here's Hawley and Gin and Juice, riding at Galway Downs 3* in March 2010 - Hawley starts at 1:49
We don’t know Kyle personally as well as some of the other riders, as we only met him in February. Kyle is based in Citra, Florida where he runs Five Ring Stables with his wife Jennifer, an advanced-level competitor. Kyle is an accomplished member of the Canadian Eventing Team, having represented his country at the 2008 Olympic Games riding Madison Park. He was also a member of the Silver Medal winning-team at the 2007 Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Something you might not know… Kyle founded Safer Building Materials Inc. with fellow Olympian Mike Winter. Their company makes frangible cross country jump logs made of Expanded Polystyrene (EPS). Designed to increase safety and reduce the severity of a fall, PROLOGS™ absorb energy in the event of horse impact and are frangible when hit with enough force and/or velocity. Their technology is already being used by many horse shows, including the Red Hills Horse Trials, Galway Downs and the North American Young Riders Championships.
Here's Kyle and Madison Park at the 2009 Burghley Horse Trials