Two Canadian Riders Opt Out of Olympics

Three top dressage riders--one from Switzerland and two from Canada—have renounced their participation in the 2008 summer Olympics in China, citing potential equine health hazards posed by extreme climate and travel conditions.

Canadian riders Cindy Ishoy and Ashley Nicoll-Holzer, members of the 1988 bronze-winning team in Seoul, announced their withdrawal from the Hong Kong-based events late Thursday, according to Canada's Globe and Mail, two days after Swiss rider Silvia Iklé announced that she would not participate in the games in order to protect the health of her horses, Salieri CH and Romario.

"It was with great difficulty that I came to this decision … (but) I have always held the interest of my horses in the highest priority," Iklé stated on her Web site.

Without their top competitor, Swiss chief dressage coach Peter von Grebel pulled the entire Swiss dressage team from the events.

Reportedly angered by the team’s decision, the national dressage trainer, German Jurgen Koschel, announced his demission late Wednesday.

Vice-president of the Féderation Suisse des Sports Equestres, Charles Trolliet, DVM, acknowledged that although conditions in Hong Kong were not "ideal," they were not "impossible" and should be considered reasonably safe.

Ishoy and Nicoll-Holzer also cited financial restraints given the expenses related to the numerous qualifying events for Canadian riders.

All three equestrians communicated that in addition to the extreme summer heat and humidity in Hong Kong, they were reluctant to put their horses through the 11-hour flights and the extensive absences and quarantines required to participate.

About the Author

Christa Lesté-Lasserre, MA

Christa Lesté-Lasserre is a freelance writer based in France. A native of Dallas, Texas, Lesté-Lasserre grew up riding Quarter Horses, Appaloosas, and Shetland Ponies. She holds a master’s degree in English, specializing in creative writing, from the University of Mississippi in Oxford and earned a bachelor's in journalism and creative writing with a minor in sciences from Baylor University in Waco, Texas. She currently keeps her two Trakehners at home near Paris. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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