I left Tasmania on Saturday the 25th June and flew to Sydney where I met the other members of the Australian team (except for Kym) at the airport. We spent the night in Sydney with a trip to the movies and a ride on the monorail. We had an early start the next morning to catch our overseas flight on Air Canada (Kym flew in from WA earlier that morning after finishing her uni exams the day before).
After 22 hours of flying time, we finally arrived in Toronto, and we travelled from the airport on a yellow school bus to Montessori College with the New Zealand and Hong Kong teams. Here we met the team members from USA, Canada and Japan. The next day was spent on team building activities, and we were in our scramble teams that we would later compete in for the Maple Leaf Challenge. We had to work our way around stations in the 35C+ heat doing 'horsey' charades (I had to do a running martingale!), making a double bridle blindfolded, and many quizzes on past Olympics and famous horses and horse people. After lunch we set off to conquer the high ropes course which was challenging and enjoyable. On this evening we had our official welcome dinner, team photos and introductions.
The arranged outing the next day was to Niagara Falls, an absolutely amazing place. Luckily it was a very hot day, because catching a boat under the biggest waterfalls in the world is rather refreshing! That evening we all went to our allocated billet families where we would spend the next 3 nights. I was paired with Meghan Moran, a member of the USA team. The family we stayed with had 2 pintos, one was only 3 weeks old, so a very good place for me. They had to stable them everyday because it was so hot, and in winter they are stabled because it is so cold, we are lucky our weather is not so extreme, for our ponies sake! I learnt a lot about Pony Club in Canada, quite different to ours! They only have 6 'rallies' a year, which are competitions within regions (zones I guess). Each rally is different, such as games rally, tetrathlon rally etc. Tetrathlon is held over 2 days, and involves running, shooting, swimming and riding. Their certificate levels go D, D1, D2, C, C1, C2, B, HA, RA.
On Friday we were taken to Cedar Peaks Farm at Cookstown (about 80 miles from Toronto). We went off into our scramble teams, and I was in a team called the Polar Bears (the other teams being Beavers, Moose, Prairie Dogs, Coyotes, and Bison). After trialling our 7 team horses, and finding 4 of them unsuitable, we then had to draw on the spares, one of which I ended up with, an elderly dun mare called 'Rosa'. That night we all went to Canada's Wonderland which is a theme park with some very scary rides. Only a few were brave enough to try some of them! That night we were treated to a spectacular fire works display for Canada Day celebrations.
The Maple Leaf Challenge was held the next day. The dressage test was held in a 20 x 40 arena with the judge and penciller sitting on chairs at the end. I found it quite challenging to execute the two 3-loop serpentines on a large, stiff and uneducated horse, in the small arena, but she tried hard and we ended up 23rd out of 30 which I was pleased with. The XC course was nicely built with inviting, solid jumps ranging in height from 2'6Ò - 3', and of the 30 competitors, 10 went clear and 9 were eliminated, so it actually proved to be a challenging course on strange horses. I was pleased with 'Rosa', who jumped clear, but we were a little slow and had a few time penalties. This was then followed by the showjumping phase (in Canada this is called stadium jumping), 17 riders went clear, and I had one rail down. In all I was very pleased with my competition, with the Polar Bears finishing in 4th position and individually 'Rosa' and I ended in 12th place.
The next day we flew to Calgary, and on arrival at the airport were presented with our white cowboy hats and made to pledge that we would have a good time while we were in Calgary. We attended another welcome dinner, and then dispersed again with our new billet families, this time I was paired with Bree, a fellow Aussie. They took us to their local pony club, which was held on a Monday evening. We spent the next 2 days with the billet families, and joined in the family activities, such as Grandpa's 80th birthday party!
On Wednesday morning the teams regrouped and together we went to Kananaskas to go hiking which was quite strenuous but worth the effort for the beautiful scenery. This proved to be a bit of a disaster for Barbara, the New Zealand coach, who fractured her foot (and ended up needing a wheelchair for the rest of the trip) and for our Bree who badly sprained her ankle.
The next day we went to Banff( where I had a great ride on a gondola up the Rockies) and on Friday to Calgary where we all took part in the Stampede Parade through the city streets in the morning, and then we spent the rest of the day attending the Calgary Stampede. Highlights were the rodeo with the wild cow milking and wild horse racing, chuck wagon races and the evening concert and fireworks.
On the Saturday we went to Okotoks for the horse tryouts for the Nations Cup showjumping competition, which was to be held on the Monday. Again we had a pool of 7 horses to choose between, and Anthea had 2 hours in which to work out the best combinations. I was matched with a 15.1hh bay Irish Thoroughbred called Star of Orion.
On Sunday we went to Spruce Meadows to take part in the Parade of Champions which was part of the North American Horse Show. Spruce Meadows is an absolutely awesome facility, and it was so exciting to be part of the parade. As it was the final day of the show, we were able to see some amazing showjumping, with international riders such as Michael Whitaker, Beezie Madden, Schuyler Riley, Nick Skelton and Rodrigo Pessoa. To see showjumping of this standard was an unbelievable experience for me.
The next day it was our turn to ride at Spruce Meadows to compete for the Nation's Cup. In the morning was the Owners Round, where we were able to assess our mounts with their owners riding them, and from this some riders chose to alter their selected horses, including Bree.
We walked our course and it was so beautifully presented and looked such a nice and inviting course, I couldn't wait to ride it. The competition began after lunch and there were varied results, some riders had falls, some refusals and many had rails down, with only four riders managing a clear round, Orion and I being one of them. At the completion of the first round Japan was leading on 17 penalties, followed by Canada on 20 and the Australian Team running third with 26 penalties. We went into the second round all feeling confident, and we managed 3 clear rounds this time, Erin, myself and Kym. Of the 30 riders again there were only 6 who went clear.
Imagine our excitement when Australia was announced as the winners of the Nations Cup. We couldn't believe we had actually won, and led by Bree we celebrated with a loud rendition of the famous Aussie chant! To have the Australian flag raised to the playing of Advance Australia Fair was a moment I will never forget and a very proud moment indeed.
After the rosettes were presented to all the teams, we then did our victory lap to the tune of Radetsky's March which was so much fun, a wonderful finale to this amazing experience..
I would like to acknowledge the assistance given by APCC, PCAT, the Southern Zone of the PCAT, Huntingfield Pony Club, Brighton Pony Club, D'Entrecasteaux Pony Club, Huon Council, and the Tasmanian Institute of Sport and thank them all for their contribution toward the trip to Canada. It was greatly appreciated.
I would especially like to thank Anthea and Susie for their guidance and friendship and sense of fun, and to my fellow team mates Bree, Erin, Kym and Claire for being such a fun and supportive group and making this such a memorable and wonderful experience for me.
It has been an honour and privilege to have been given this opportunity to represent Pony Club Australia, and I will treasure these memories for ever.
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