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Profile: Ian Roberts
Port Perry, ON, Canada
by Amber Heintzberger
Photos: Anthony Trollope/StockImageServices.com

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Ian Roberts and Napalm at Fair Hill International CCI3*
Ian Roberts of Port Perry, Ontario is making a bid to ride in his second Olympic Games next year. Ian, who represented Canada at the World Equestrian Games in Aachen, Germany last year (though he and Napalm slipped and fell after fence 2 on cross-country, forcing their retirement), is qualified for the Pan-Am Games but has his sights set on the Olympic Games in Hong Kong next year with Napalm, also known as "Smokey". He also represented Canada at the Olympic Games in 2004 riding Mata-Riki, who is now owned and ridden by Ian's student, Young Rider Meghan Baillie.

Ian and his wife Kelly Plitz, an Olympic and World Championship eventer, own and operate Dreamcrest Stables in Port Perry, where they have 50 stalls and a busy lesson program. Their son Waylon, 18 is a rising star in eventing, as well as a solid competitor in show jumping and dressage.  He will compete at the Jersey Fresh CIC*** this spring. Ian also competes Tang at the intermediate level and the eight-year-old Irish gelding, a relative of Smokey, had a good run in the CIC** at The Fork in North Carolina in April.

Ian and Smokey did not have a very remarkable spring competition season - the only event that they completed was a preliminary level horse trials. But the pair had a respectable performance at the Rolex Kentucky three-day event recently, posting a competitive dressage score of 65.4, a clear cross-country trip with a moderate 6.8 time faults, finishing with an unfortunate five rails down in stadium jumping to finish 20th overall.

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Ian Roberts and Napalm at Rolex Kentucky CCI4*
The couple purchased Smokey from England, in partnership with Tracey Newman, when the big grey Irish gelding was only four years old. Kelly said that she first saw his head hanging out of a stall door and wanted to try him, but the owner didn't even want to let them look at him because Napalm was very green and unrideable, Ian and Kelly persisted and finally each of them had a chance to on the horse.

Ian rode him first and it went well so Kelly hopped on next - she said that it started well, with Napalm gradually relaxing and stretching through his back and neck, but then he took off with her and started jumping fences - she could not stop him and had to use a brick wall as a barricade to do so eventually. She hasn't ridden him since, but Ian said, "That's what sold me."

That is just as well, since Ian appears to have developed a strong partnership with Smokey. Ian explains that the horse was originally called Smokey Joe, but he had always wanted to name a horse Napalm, and had earmarked the name for a special one. "It's not a name anyone will ever want to copy," he reasoned.

Napalm has come up the levels well - and at age eleven he should have a lot of competition years ahead of him. "Napalm is very powerful - you just go down to the jumps," said Ian. "I don't find him difficult. He's very quiet in the barn and essentially easy to deal with."

For the past two years David O'Connor has acted as technical advisor for Canadian Eventing, and Ian said that O'Connor's coaching has helped to fine-tune his riding. "I've learned some techniques that I hadn't been exposed to," he said. "It has augmented what I also do with John MacPherson, who I've been working with for about 15 years. John and I work really well together, and his coaching is very complimentary with David's."

O'Connor commented, "We have had a good relationship for the past two years. Obviously Napalm is a very good horse; I've been helping with his technique and there is more to go but everything is stepping in the right direction."


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