The Pan American Games are held every four years in the year preceding an Olympic Games. In 2011, the US Equestrian Show Jumping Team traveled to Guadalajara with the pressure of needing a top finish in order to qualify their nation for the following year’s Olympics. Kent Farrington was on that four-member squad in 2011 that successfully brought home team gold, and he returns to the Pan Ams this year, albeit with a bit less pressure this time around.
Now ranked as the No. 3 show jumping rider in the world by the FEI, Farrington comes off a spring season that included a sensational winning streak and his 44th FEI career victory at Spruce Meadows with a win in the $400,000 RBC Grand Prix on June 12. With horses competing both in Europe and Canada through the summer, he makes frequent trips between the two continents to compete. Find out his game plan and learn more about his Pan Ams mount Gazelle as he looks ahead to his second appearance on a Pan American Games team:
Q: You have a whole string of incredible horses. How was it that Gazelle was the one that was picked for the Pan American Games?
A: I wanted to use one of my younger horses for the event, so that I can use it as sort of a learning experience for the horse. That said, I’m expecting the Pan Ams to be big. They changed the specs, and it will be a real 1.60m.
Q: Gazelle is a horse you half-own with Robin Parsky – you must really believe in her. What caught your eye about her?
A: If it’s possible, I try to own parts of all the horses that I ride. And I believe in all of them. I don’t typically try to buy anything that I don’t believe in because that doesn’t make any sense. In her, I looked for the same thing I look for in all the horses I ride. She’s careful, she’s scopey, and I think she has a good heart.
Q: She’s had some solid results this year. Does she feel ready for the Pan Ams?
A: I hope she is. Like I said I think she’s a nice young prospect and I hope it’s a good learning experience for the horse.
Q: You’ve said that you plan backwards from big championships. What was your “backwards” plan for the Pan Ams?
A: I brought her to a few bigger shows and had her jump a couple of classes that were a stretch for her level of experience. She jumped the Grand Prix of Antwerp and the Grand Prix of Rome. Now she’s in Calgary doing a lot of rounds and just building her level. She’s a horse that hopefully gets better with more time in the ring, so that’s my plan.
Q: Your team helps you manage horses that are currently on two continents, how do they make everything work so seamlessly? And how does this contribute to your incredible results?
A: You know, I’m surrounded by great people who work with me. I think I have a great group of owners supporting me and I think I have some very nice horses to compete on. Those three things combined makes for a pretty solid team effort.
Q: How does the atmosphere around this year’s Pan Ams differ from 2011 when there was such pressure for the USA to qualify for London?
A: If you’re a competitive person, I think there there’s always pressure to do well.
There was added pressure at that event [in 2011], and we sent a very strong team of experienced horses and riders because it was important that we try to qualify for the Olympic Games. That would have been a disaster if we hadn’t qualified there. It is nice that we don’t have that added pressure this time around.
Q: Back in February, Rolex came to visit your farm in Wellington. When asked about the many awards on the walls of your lounge, you said it was more the spaces on the walls between the awards that you focus on, and what you’re going to fill them with. Can you expand on that thought a little?
A: It’s not even like I look at an individual event like that, to go and get a medal, it’s more in terms of my overall career. I’m always looking forward. The Pan Ams are great, and I’m looking more for building the experience of the horse and myself to get a stronger partnership; I’m looking at things down the road more than I am going there to try to win the Pan Am Games.
Q: Now that you’re FEI Ranked No. 3 in the world, I have to ask – are you letting yourself think about what it would take to get to No. 1 in the world? Is it affecting your plan at all?
A: No. There’s importance in that ranking, but really if you’re anywhere in the top 30 you can get into any show you want to go to and that’s really why the rankings are important in our sport. For me, it’s more just focusing on the same plan there has always been, which is taking my time to pick the right events where I think my horses can be the most competitive. The moment you start chasing points and that becomes your objective, you probably won’t be as competitive because you’re no longer planning for the horses and where they belong.
The 2015 Pan American Games Show Jumping competition kicks off on July 21st in Toronto, Canada.