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The Globe and Mail

Canada’s bad luck continues in equestrian

David Marcus from Canada rides Capital in the equestrian dressage competition, at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Thursday, Aug. 2, 2012, in London.

Markus Schreiber/AP

So far at the London Olympics, there seems to be a black cloud following Canada's equestrian riders.

On Thursday, just as dressage rider David Marcus of Campbellville, Ont., was starting his Grand Prix test with his mount, Capital, a torrential rain burst down upon them.

And then things got complicated for a horse that only began to compete at the Grand Prix level in January. Two-thirds of the way through the test, Capital became petrified. Marcus doesn't know why. But just as the horse came out of a corner to do an extended trot, something seemed to catch his eye, and the horse spun around, not something to do in a sport where the rider must control the horse at all times. Capital made it clear that he didn't want to dance any more. He would not go on.

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They were eliminated from the Olympics.

It means that Canada will not get a team score, because every one of the scores of the three dressage riders on the team needed to count. Now there are only two Canadian riders left in the competition. Jacqueline Brooks of Mount Albert, On., and Toronto-born Ashley Holzer will continue on to the individual events. Brooks finished today with a score of 68.526, in 18th place. Holzer will compete on Friday.

Marcus and Capital's Olympic experience is over. They needed a score in Thursday's test to move on to the individual portion of the event.

Earlier in the week, three-day event rider Hawley Bennett-Awad fell off her horse, Gin and Juice during the cross-country portion and suffered a concussion and a stable sacral fracture, which ended her games.

"I feel terrible for Canada and I feel bad for all of the incredible people who have supported me up to this point," Marcus said by phone from London. "But everyone who has been in horses for any amount of time has gone through this stage at some stage in their career. It is a humbling experience sometimes with horses. And today was that for me."

Although Capital had never competed in such a grand, noisy venue, Marcus never expected the horse to react the way he did. He's a calm sort of animal. Marcus said he's the most "bomb-proof" horse in his stable, the sort of horse you could take to the Santa Claus parade.

Marcus said Capital warmed up well, and he felt confident to go into the ring. However, during the last half of their warmup, the rain began to fall, and it wouldn't stop. Just as he rode into the ring, the rain intensified.

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Even so, Marcus was happy with the first part of the Grand Prix test that Capital did. "He was really trying hard," Marcus said. "He was taking in all of the atmosphere and all of the rain and all of the noise. I'm not sure exactly what happened after that."

Perhaps it was a combination of things, Marcus figured: the downpour, the loud noise of the rain hitting the stands, the people moving around to dodge the rain, the opening and closing of umbrellas. "If it was just one thing, I think he might have been okay," Marcus said.

But Marcus could feel the horse's heart start to race underneath him. The horse might have caught sight of something as he rounded the corner, And he just couldn't handle the experience any more. He could not recover.

He still believes in his horse, which has risen unusually quickly through the dressage ranks in Canada. "I really do believe he's going to have a long and successful career ahead," Marcus said. "It's still very early in his career. And I think that he is going to go on to do great things."

Capital will get some light work in the next few days, and Marcus says he'll remain in London to cheer the rest of the equestrian team on. Capital and Marcus will return home on Aug. 11.

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