NATIONAL SHOW JUMPING CHAMPIONSHIPS 2009Were hosted by the Manitoba region at Bird's Hill Park
After finishing my first day of school at the University of Alberta, I promptly drove to the airport with my mom in tow and could feel the pre-competition jitters creeping up around the corner. After a relatively uneventful flight, we were greeted by a friend, Geri Sweet, whom I have had much interaction with at Alberta Horse Trials events for the past 10 years or so. I gazed in awe, from a smushed position in the back seat of her truck, at the sites of Winnipeg and then the fantastic snip-its of the Pam Am cross country fences in Bird's Hill Park. We arrived at the barn to meet with Val and Phil Crowe and a new idol of mine, Cheryl Wishart. This woman is an exemplary Pony Club contributor and I can honestly say she gave me such hope for humanity with her brilliant attitude and sunshine smile. Without the constant efforts of Val and Phil Crowe, the entire organization would falter and likely fail, so my hat is tipped to the both of them.
The real adventure began when I met a Good family, and by that I mean the Good family. Carol Good had been looking for her 'people' and boy, was she surprised when she found them. My mom and I would be staying with Carol and her wonderful family for the duration of the holiday, and neither of us anticipated the fantastic friendships that blossomed. The Manitoba Pony Club could not have found a more warm, caring, and fun-loving family to put a roof over our heads (and walls to keep the mosquitoes out!).
The horse trial began the first day of our arrival and I fell in love with a mare affectionately known as Strippy. I have never been a fan of mares, nor they of me, however, Ms. Tourmaline and I established an working relationship very quickly. I had the good fortune of having her regular rider there to guide me through some of her quirks, and I developed a great appreciation for her phenomenal jumping abilities. Robin was not kidding when she said 'she likes the long spot'. Geri Sweet was Strippy's ever-loving owner, and it was an absolute privilege to have been her rider. I could not believe the talent in that warm-up ring for those few hours, as all of those girls exhibited such remarkable horsemanship.
After the horses were cared for, we indulged our senses in the home cooking of the Moehring family and received our rider packages. The next morning, the competition began with a flat ride and proceeded to the Grand Prix arena for a 'gymnastic course'. I myself had never encountered a gymnastic course, and my steed and I were rather taken aback. It was a slight bit tricky, to say the least, but with an eventer's spirit, we got through alive and in one piece. With all that excitement packed into one day, you'd think it couldn't get better…well it did! That evening, the whole lot of us went to the Assiniboia Race Track to indulge in a phenomenal smorg and a beautiful viewing of the racetrack. To top it all off, Pony Club had an honorary race #4, where all the competitors got to watch the race from the winner's circle and get to meet the rider of the winning horse. In this case, the winning jockey was Vicky Baze on Kitty Can Dance. She is a 'retired' jockey ranked #7 at the Assiniboia Downs and was the Number 4 female jockey in North America at one time in her career (according to our guide). She greeted us with a wonderful smile and lots of support for the club. It was such a rush to have the horses storm past us at the finish line, a memory I most certainly will treasure all my life. The other great part was winning on the first horse I ever bet on! Thank you to Malibu Prospect for earning me $6.90 off a $2 bet!
After the races, we were treated to a special trip to the Westgates tack store in Winnipeg which was opened just for us by a fantastic hostess, Teri Gudmundsen, who humored my fascination with her collection of Western and English bits. Her hospitality was very much appreciated by all the tack and Pony Club Quiz enthusiasts!
The final day at the Bird's Hill Park was surreal. I couldn't believe I was already at the end of the road. There was a light breeze to flutter the pesky mosquitoes, cool the horses, and barely break through the heat emanating from the anxiety in the riding jackets. Geri set up a fabulous course for all the riders and I think I speak on behalf of the entire fleet that it was a pleasure to navigate. That evening, after an outstanding dinner (and dessert), and touching award ceremonies, it was time to say goodbye. I met some wonderful people, whom I have proceeded to follow up with via facebook, as that is the 21st century way of “keeping in touch”. A nearly-tearful farewell at the Winnipeg terminal, separating from our lovely, lively, jovial, enthusiastic, remarkable hostess, Carol, concluded my adventures, and what an adventure it was!