This past summer Naima and her Grand Prix horse Statesman were the reserve pair for the Canadian Dressage Team in Tokyo . This winter, as well as competing with Statesman, she also has two younger horses she has been competing with at the Global Dressage Festival in Wellington Florida. I had a chance to ask her some questions about Tokyo , Covid and her future plans.
1.This past summer you were the Canadian Dressage Team’s reserve rider at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. What was that like? .
The Olympics are every athletes dream . It was a close call between myself and the other Canadian riders as to whom got the elusive 3rd spot on the team. Many factors contributed to the final selection and ultimately we were chosen as the reserve. Given the fact that this was my first time working towards qualifying for the Olympics, I was of course a bit disappointed to be the reserve however I know we gave it our all . It was still an amazing learning experience to be the travelling reserve and gave me great take aways for the future .
2.What was it like to be in Tokyo in the midst of the Covid Pandemic?
Covid definitely affected the Olympic experience. Many restrictions were in place with the intention of protecting the athletes and the inhabitants of Japan. Unlike past Olympics , we were not allowed to support other sporting events , or travel /visit within Japan. We had certain areas , such as the equestrian venue and athletes village in which we were allowed to stay in , with social distancing measures and masks a requirement… and evidently – many Covid tests!! Also, it was a bit odd to not have any spectators in such a huge venue but the security of everyone is of the highest priority. All that being said, I think all the athletes were grateful to be able to HAVE an Olympics to begin with and so the restrictions were a small price to pay.
3.How did the heat affect your horse Statesman?
Statesman handled the heat very well. I was fortunate prior to the Olympics to already be training in a warm climate in Florida, and we also worked with the aqua treadmill regularly to insure that he was as fit as possible heading into the Olympics. He is quite used to travelling and as such he handled the long journey to Tokyo very well.
4.Did you see this as an excellent rehearsal for a time when you hope to be riding in the Olympics?
Yes, I definitely feel more prepared heading into future major games. There is so much more to it than just the riding. The preparation for the horses and ourselves is varied and customized. The whole process of preparing a training plan for the months ahead, as well as all the travel plans and just the mental training . It was also a great experience once there to see how such a massive event is run and organized.
5.You are from Quebec and come here to train and compete in the winter. During the summer months do you return to Quebec? If you do how do you keep up with coaching sessions with Ashley who is based in Wellington?
I do have a base in Quebec, which I am fortunate to share with my sister. Due to the pandemic, the last few years our horses have mainly stayed based in Florida or in Europe . My coach, Ashley Holzer, is also in Florida most of the year and so it made more sense at the time to stay . Each year brings new plans but I always enjoy being back home as well.
6.If you do go home to Quebec how do you keep up with coaching sessions with Ashley who is based in Wellington?
We do some online training, if I am away, which has worked well .
7.Tell me about Statesman. How old is he? What is his breeding? Does he have any little quirks of personality that you find interesting?
Statesman is 15 years old this year. I have had him since 2018 and he is a gelding by Sandro Hit. He has many little quirks but one of my favourites is that he loves any and all attention and gives the best hugs!
8.What are your goals or plans for the rest of the competition season here in Florida?
I am hoping to finish the season strong with both Statesman and some of my young horses as well, such as Inspire who is 9 and I have been competing at the Small Tour level (Prix St George and Intermediare 1) and Jaliska who is 8 . I have been competing her at 4th level and hope to bring her up to Prix St. George in the near future. My focus with them will turn towards the coming summer months.
9.What are some of your longer term goals?
Long term, I have my sights set on the next Olympics. I hope to be able to compete. I am also looking forward to competing in the future at the international level with some of the young horses we have acquired over the years. It is very rewarding to bring them along! Lastly, I look forward to competing globally once again at events such as Aachen and Rotterdam as they are such amazing atmospheres to ride in. Pan American Games and World championships are definitely on my list as well!
Thank you Naima for taking the time to answer my questions. I wish you and your horses the all the best for the future and your competitions