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Lynn Symansky Goes for the Equestrian Gold

When Lynn Symansky talked to the W&L alumni magazine back in 2005, she described her passion for what she called “an extreme sport” — the equestrian pursuit known as eventing. That passion has led the 2005 graduate of Washington and Lee University to a berth on the U.S. eventing team that’s competing this weekend in the XVI Pan American Games, in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Lynn and her horse, a Thoroughbred named Donner, are one of five horse-and-rider pairs on the U.S. team. According to this story from the United States Equestrian Federation, she joined the team only about a week ago, when another rider withdrew. In 2002, she and No It Tissant (aka Fergus), the horse she rode during her W&L years, made the short list for the 2003 Pan American Games CCI*** (Concours Complet International, with three stars denoting advanced level) and rode as an individual alternate, finishing 10th.

• UPDATE: The U.S. Eventing Team won a historic Gold Medal in the competition.

The three days of competition start today, Oct. 21, when Lynn and the others tackle dressage, which is comparable to ice skating’s compulsory figures. On Oct. 22 comes the demanding cross-country portion, where horse and rider gallop across a countryside studded with large, solid jumps. On Oct. 23 they will jump a course in an arena, the final test. As you can imagine, such intense and prolonged exertion requires the fittest and keenest athletes, both horses and humans. The Pan American Games have individual and team competition for the eventing, and Lynn and Donner are listed in both categories.

Lynn has been riding since she was three, winning events at such venues as the Virginia Horse Center here in Rockbridge County, and such honors as the 2002 National Advanced Young Rider Award from the United States Eventing Association. She kept up a demanding schedule during her four years at W&L, graduating with a B.S. cum laude in business administration while also competing around the country, studying in the barns when she wasn’t on horseback. “It’s hard,” she told the magazine. “I could only do it here, with the Honor System.”

You can follow Lynn and Donner’s progress at the Pan Am Games’ website. Good luck to the duo.