The Continuing Pursuits of Canadian Dressage Team Rider Karen Pavicic

Written by Betsy LaBelle - In Dressage - Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Karen Pavicic and Don Daiquiri at the 2015 Adequan Global Dressage Festival Photo: Betsy LaBelle

Scoring big in the first quarter of 2015 during Florida’s winter dressage season, Karen Pavicic of Surrey, British Columbia and her 13-year-old Oldenburg gelding, Don Daiquiri (Don Cardinale x Rubinstein I), co-owned with Jayne Essig, are gearing up for an anticipated exciting spring/summer tour, “We’ll be preparing for the Pan American Games and will also be working to qualify Canada for a spot at next year’s Olympics. This is going to be a busy year for us.”

Last year was also a busy one for the pair, participating in three international competitions in Europe before competing for Canada at the World Equestrian Games in Normandy, “What we did last year was such a fairy tale.”

In October they finished in third place at the first-ever Central Park Horse Show in New York City, “It was a one-of-a-kind competition and was such an incredible experience. The backdrop was amazing.” Then it was to Dressage at Devon CDI-W placing second in both the Grand Prix and the Grand Prix Freestyle and then to the Royal Winter Fair in Toronto where they won the overall Grand Prix Championship, “It was so great to win on Canadian soil.”

Karen’s most memorable win to date, though, was her silver medal at the 2007 Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and they are working toward qualifying to compete there again for the 2016 Olympics.

The World Cup Target

Her objective with Don Daiquiri was reaching the two World Cup slots of the competitions held in Las Vegas, with the qualifying requirements being the two highest Grand Prix Freestyle scores for the North American League. Although ranking the highest Canadian for the World Cup, she was ultimately the leading Canadian at the Florida 2015 winter season, “I’m super proud of what we’ve achieved. But, I’m a little sad because I was hoping to head back to British Columbia with a World Cup in Las Vegas under our belt, to head home to my family and clients and horses there. I’ve been away a lot for the last year and a half!”

Rethinking Strategy

Karen has been considering options, “Right now, we’re sitting third for the Pan American Games in the big tour and they’ll likely be taking the top two in the Grand Prix and top two in the Prix St. George/Intermediare I. We’re in a great position, but the remainder of the qualifiers are in Ontario, too far from my home and business.”

She is also weighing the individual spots that will be selected by the FEI Olympic Dressage Ranking List.

Only one individual quota spot is given for the 2016 Olympic Games by the leading Grand Prix scorer on the silver medal team at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto. Another quota spot will be given to whoever is top in group D after the Olympic qualification period is over mid in March 2016. CLICK HERE to read the Olympic Games Qualification System - Group D = North America

“Competing at CDI 4* in Europe this spring/ summer for me might be more beneficial. If we have Canadian riders achieve individual Olympic spots it could create a composite team of three or four riders for the 2016 Olympic Games.”

Karen will be pursuing scores in Europe for a good portion of this spring/ summer since most of the 4* CDI competitions are held six to eight weeks in May and June, “It’s a great opportunity that I really shouldn’t pass up.”

In the meantime, Don Daiquiri will be heading to New York with fellow Canadian, Denielle Gallagher LeGriffon, for a couple of weeks while Karen goes back to British Columbia to spend some time with her family. She talked about the encouragement and support she gets from her husband and children, “My husband, David, and our two children, 13-year-old son Niko and 11-year-old daughter Katie, are so supportive. They were all here with me in Florida for spring break during week 10 at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival. I’m so thankful to them.”

Anticipating the time she’ll be spending away from them while she competes, she explained, “It’s really hard to leave the kids even though their relationship with their father has grown strong. I was very fortunate that my daughter spent six weeks with me in Europe last summer. We also had a wonderful family vacation after the World Equestrian Games that we might not have otherwise had the opportunity to experience. It’s going to be difficult to be away from my family again, however, as I am from the west coast if I choose to stay in Canada to continue gaining qualifying scores for the Pan Am's, it would also require being away from home.”

Recalling Victories at the Florida Adequan Global Dressage Festival Series

During Week 1 in the January 8-11, 2015 Grand Prix Freestyle of the FEI Grand Prix CDI-W division, Karen and Don Daiquiri placed fifth with a score of 71.675% and also proved successful during week 3 in the January 21-25, 2015 AGDF competitions.

Successful during week 7, she and Don Daiquiri placed fourth in the Grand Prix Freestyle with a score of 72.675%, finished the Grand Prix test in sixth place with 69.720% out of a huge class of 34 starters, came in second with a 72.250% in the 4* FEI Grand Prix Freestyle and placed fifth in the FEI Grand Prix CDI-W division.

Karen was delighted with their performance, “The Adequan sponsored shows have been of huge importance to me. Last year, when I traveled from the west coast of Canada to Wellington, Florida to compete, it was an enormous undertaking and also required a lot of sacrifice, both personally and professionally. The fact that I decided to return again in 2015 says a lot.”

She explained, “The opportunity in Florida to compete at a world class venue against top international competitors on a frequent basis in such a short period of time is truly unique. Not only had it helped to prepare Don Daiquiri and I for competing in Europe last summer, it helped us to obtain our goal of qualifying for the World Equestrian Games. In fact, when I was competing in Europe in the summer of 2014, I had many fellow competitors asking me about the Florida Dressage circuit and there was a lot of interest in coming over to compete here. I truly believe that more and more international riders will travel to Florida to compete at the annual Adequan Global Dressage Festivals. This is fantastic for North America because it will not only increase the popularity of our sport, but also motivate competitors native to North America to improve and raise their game. As the saying goes, ‘you’re only as good as your competition.’

Karen is grateful for the opportunities she has had at the AGDF, “I would like to personally thank Adequan for their ongoing support, as well as Mark Bellissimo and his team for their dedication, commitment and vision. Thank you.”

Pavicic And Her Beginnings at Grand Prix with Don Daiquiri

The pair have been partnered since late 2007, with a special thanks to co-owner Jayne Essig, who allowed the horse and rider to develop a very strong connection. In 2012, Karen and Don Daiquiri competed in the Developing Grand Prix and then continued to make huge strides in top scores in 2013. Dressage Canada awarded Karen a grant to compete in Florida in 2014 where they went on to become top performers,which led to a European tour and the World Equestrian Games, “It was a huge undertaking to accept that grant and travel to Florida from British Columbia. A lot of people helped me and I cannot thank them all enough. I was given the grant in December and I had only one month to find housing, stabling and get my family and business in order so I could go to Florida in mid-January to compete.”

She continued, “I never would have had all the opportunities without Florida last year. And, I wasn’t sure what I would do when the season was over because Dressage Canada’s criteria for the candidates of the World Equestrian Games was to have one score over 70% between the months of May 1st and June 30th and there were no CDIs on the West Coast at that time. I had two choices – I could remain in the east in Ontario and go to two CDIs or I could head to Europe and find some more competitions. I was so fortunate to receive another grant from Deborah Kinzinger and the C-DAAP [Canadian Dressage Athlete Assistance Program]. “

“I’m extremely grateful to be in the position I’m in. It’s been a life-long dream, and I feel that I need to make the most of it.”