These days, you can find Dana at any number of locations across the western hemisphere: the British Columbia native currently resides in Mooresville, NC, and her eyes are locked on earning qualifying scores at three-day events across North America for the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, PER.

Dana Cooke is Groomed for the 2019 Pan American Games

Dana Cooke, a Canadian residing in Mooresville, NC, is making strides towards the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, PER.
Photo Credit: Leslie Threkeld

For four years, Dana traveled with Canadian Olympian Rebecca Howard as a working student and groom. This invaluable opportunity enabled her to peek behind the major games curtain at the 2011 Pan Ams and 2012 London Olympic Games, and was a critical experience in Dana’s own development as a high performance athlete.

By the time she was ready to strike out on her own, Dana had learned through her time with Rebecca that the key to major games qualification was to, “Work hard and believe in your program, especially if it’s proving to be successful, and not get too caught up in just trying to get selected. Stick to your plan; make improvements, but not unnecessary drastic changes. [Working as a groom] also helped me be prepared for what to expect during the selection process, and hopefully will help me be prepared for what to expect at the Games themselves. It gives you a good appreciation for what it takes to get there, for both the rider and the groom.”

Dana Cooke is Groomed for the 2019 Pan American Games

Dana (left) is armed with insider knowledge of the Pan Am selection process from her time grooming for Canadian Olympian Rebecca Howard (right). The pair was all smiles after Howard completed the cross-country phase at the 2011 Guadalajara Pan Am Games.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Dana Cooke

Now that Dana is the one with plans to ride for the maple leaf, she is supported by a groom of her own, Tesla Parker (USA).

“We have a very similar relationship to what Rebecca and I had,” remarked Dana. “We are friends, but also have a business relationship and are very good at separating the two. Tesla is not only my groom, but also my head rider and assistant trainer, similar to what I was for Rebecca. I would say Tesla is my right hand and a lot of the time my left hand, too! I truly couldn’t do this without her.”

Dana Cooke is Groomed for the 2019 Pan American Games

Dana is passing on the lessons she learned with Rebecca to her groom and right-hand woman, Tesla Parker (USA).
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Dana Cooke

Dana and Tesla have many charges under their care, including FE Mississippi (Cassini II x Legaat), a nine-year-old Dutch Sport Horse owned by the FE Mississippi Syndicate LLC and known simply as “Missi”. Together, Dana and the grey mare are making a strong case for selection to the Canadian Eventing Team for Lima 2019. The pair nabbed an impressive second place finish in the 2019 Chattahoochee Hills CCI 3*-S, held in Fairburn, GA, from April 5-7.

Speaking to their performance at Chattahoochee Hills, Dana commented, “Missi jumped and galloped super on cross-country. Obviously, we need to be faster for the Pan Ams, but my plan wasn’t to make time at Chatt Hills but to be about 10-15 seconds over, which we did. Cross-country is Missi’s favourite phase and she loves tricky turning questions. I couldn’t be happier with how she is stepping up this year.”

Having proved their mettle in Georgia, Dana feels confident in the combination’s chances for selection to the Pan Am team. She explained, “Results like this show that we are competitive in a large field of horses and can deliver a clear cross-country round on a technical course.”

In addition to FE Mississippi, Dana hopes to qualify for the 2019 Pan Ams with Whole Lotta Rosie, Kingfisher Park’s eight-year-old Württemberger mare, and seems to be on the right track after earning a top-10 finish in the 2019 Ocala International Festival of Eventing CCI 3*-L, held April 10-14.

With her two major games hopefuls in tow (along with several other young horses with future Canadian Equestrian Team potential), Dana’s next steps on the journey to Lima will be the Jersey Fresh International Three-Day Event, held May 8-12 in Allentown, NJ, followed by the Bromont Horse Trials, set for June 5-9 in Bromont, QC.

“Dana has paid her dues in all ways, and has put in the hard work and study,” commented Rebecca. “She has built a great team and I can’t wait to see her fly the flag… this time from horseback!”

When all is said and done, Dana’s approach to making it to the 2019 Pan Ams all goes back to those life lessons she learned at the hands of Rebecca: “Work hard, be a good person and a good horseman, and you will get there. I am on a constant path to improve myself and would love the honour of representing Canada.”

Dana Cooke is Groomed for the 2019 Pan American Games

Dana hopes to qualify for the 2019 Pan Am Games with FE Mississippi (pictured) and Whole Lotta Rosie.
Photo Credit: Cealy Tetley

Want to support Dana and other Canadian equestrians on their quest for gold? Donate to the 2019 Lima Pan American Games #RidetoLima Fundraiser here.

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