Decorated Canadian rider Eric Lamaze has spoken about the difficulties riders have in acquiring horses good enough to compete at the highest level. The Olympic gold-medallist from Beijing 2008 was speaking on the retirement of Showgirl, one of the more successful horses to represent Canada in recent years.

“As Canadians, we have great riders but struggle to keep top horses for them to ride,” said Lamaze, who orchestrated the acquisition of the horse for compatriot Yann Candele.

Purchased in 2013, Showgirl was co-owned by Lamaze, Uplands Farm, Albro Creek Farm, Artisan Farm and John Edwards under the collective name of The Watermark Group.

Candele and Showgirl were part of the team which won Team Gold at the 2015 Pan-American Games in front of a home audience in Toronto, which also qualified the country for Rio 2016.

“Winning the gold medal, as well as qualifying for the Olympics in front of our friends and fans was an unbelievable experience, and it was great to share that with the owners of Showgirl, who were all in attendance,” said Lamaze, who was part of the winning team along with Tiffany Foster and Ian Millar. “It was extraordinary to see everyone coming together with a common goal, and to see Yann and Showgirl doing great things for Canada.”

After a total of nine Nations’ Cup appearances under Candele, which included second place at the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup Fina in Barcelona in 2014, Showgirl’s international career ended last year, and the horse was passed to young Canadian rider Mackenzie Edwards.

The pairing cleared all the obstacles for an eight-place finish in the 1m45 High Amateur Owner Classic at the Winter Equestrian Festival on Saturday, following which the retirement was announced.

Mike Dunne

Photo: Showgirl competing for Canada with Yann Candele (Starting Gate Communications)