After two decades in the sport, Doug has secured his first Team USA spot. Now, he and his “athletic freak of nature” equine partner are ready to show the world what they’re made of.
Doug Payne has been dreaming of representing Team USA at an international competition for almost his entire life. And in the next couple of days he’ll be living his dream as he competes for Gold at the Pan American Games.
For Doug, it took more than talent to get here… he needed determination and a lot of patience. “I did my first Advanced when I was 18,” he says. “Now I’m getting on 38. And the Pan American Games have definitely been a goal of mine for a long, long time.”
Doug’s gritty, never-give-up attitude has carried him for years. “I’ve spent the majority of my life working toward an opportunity like this,” he shares. “It takes an extraordinary amount of time and there are challenges that seem insurmountable. But being resilient is what makes it possible.”
It’s not surprising then that Doug’s partner, Starr Witness, an 8-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare, shares that quality of resilience.
Doug and “Ginja,” as she’s affectionately known around the barn, have been working together for almost two years and their journey has been a unique one.
Ginja was originally a show hunter. But she proved too feisty to find success in the hunter ring.
But her natural athleticism was undeniable. And so, Doug took a chance on the mare and helped her make the transition to eventing. She took to the sport quickly — and spectacularly. Earlier this year, the duo won the Jersey Fresh CCI3*-L, along with the CCI3*-S at The Fork.
“She’s an athletic freak of nature, really,” Doug says with a laugh. “She’s come along very quickly. We’re lucky to have her.”
Last summer was the first time that Doug dared to dream of a Team USA spot with Ginja. She was performing so well, and in peak competitive form and Doug realized that the duo might have a shot at making the Pan American Eventing Team.
When the Team was announced in late June, Doug and Ginja were included. Doug’s lifelong dream had finally come true.
As for what he’s looking forward to the most in Lima? Crossing the finish line after completing the show jumping portion of the competition — in what will be, if all goes well, a clear and speedy round. “Obviously, you look forward to the experience too,” Doug says. “But it’ll feel good to cross the finish line.”
And even though it’ll be Doug and Ginja striving for victory, there will be a long list of people who are with them in spirit. “We’re so lucky to have owners, donors, staff, and the United States Equestrian Team Foundation’s supporters behind us,” Doug says.
Of course, seeking success at such a high level comes with its own unique set of challenges… especially when an Olympic qualification is on the line. And for the U.S. Eventing Team, the pressure is on. They’ll need to place first or second in order to qualify for next year’s Summer Games in Tokyo.
For his part, Doug is feeling good about their chances. “We’re all going to be trying our best to see if we can get the Gold,” says Doug. “We’ve got a very good group of competitors and we’re feeling very confident.”
Your U.S. Eventing Team will compete August 2 – 4 at the Escuela de Equitación del Ejército La Molina in Lima. Doug and Star Witness will be joined by teammates Boyd Martin with Tsetserleg, Tamie Smith with Fleeceworks Royal, and Lynn Symansky with RF Cool Play. Cheer on your Team as they look to get on the podium and earn the chance to compete in Tokyo next summer! Go to uset.org to find out how your Team does!