Pony mayhem, a new horse for a talented teen, and a ride to call her own: Cathy Inch may have only experienced a pair of shows in recent months, but she sure managed to squeeze a lot into those equestrian outings.
With the Trillium Shows a no-go this summer, there were limited expectations as to whether the young Foothills Farm crew would enjoy the opportunity to put practice into play.
Thankfully, in August, Caledon Equestrian Park in Palgrave opened up.
"They were extremely strict with Covid protocols," said Inch, who would accompany a group much smaller than usual into competition this year. "They took temperatures at the gate, you could only bring designated people with you, there were no jogs, because they didn't want people waiting around the rings."
"You arrived at your designated showing times, did your three trips over fences and left," Inch continued. "Everybody knew when they were done, they were finished. Usually, there's a lot of waiting around."
"We loved the changes: get in, get done and get out."
Despite the brevity, Inch was beaming with pride at the performance of her youngest riders, with locals Ella Palladino, Holly Heikkila and Adrianna Whynott competing alongside Mathilde Candele, daughter of Canadian Olympian Yann Candele.
All four would be coached by Inch. "The kids may not have won any classes, but they were all in the ribbons with seconds, thirds, fourths - consistently, in every class," said the Hall of Fame equestrian mentor.
"The kids were so good; it was unbelievable."
Meanwhile, Julia Arnold could not have asked for a better unveiling of her new horse, riding Yoda to a first place finish in the children's hunter class. "She exceeded my expectations," acknowledged Inch.
"This was not only her first three foot hunter event, it was her first time competing on a horse (versus a pony), so to win a class is really, really good. But Julia is a lot like Leah Blanchette," added Inch, alluding to her long-time student who qualified for the Royal Winter Fair on multiple occasions.
"She is cool as can be. She stands in the gate, not thinking of anything negative. She knew that she had a wonderful horse that is very confident. Nothing fazes this horse."
While that might have been the book on Yoda when the locals made the purchase earlier this year in Florida, there is always some uncertainty, as the animal adjusts to completely new settings.
"And some horses are wonderful at home and when they go to a horse show, they have a completely different temperament," said Inch. "The old owner told us that he (Yoda) worries about nothing, and in this case, she was absolutely right."
Also breaking in a new horse successfully was Kelly Scott, who guided her 2020 acquisition to a second place showing in one of the schooling classes. "But I am also going to brag about my horse, Bentley," said Inch.
Owned by long-time friend, Melissa Manwaring, Bentley was under the watchful eye of the local legend for much of this year. "We had one horse show in Florida before Covid, just a small division," stated Inch.
"He came to a July show and got a couple of ribbons. In this latest one, he won two of his classes in the professional division."
Still, for all that she has accomplished, Cathy Inch never stops learning. "Horses will forever keep you humble," she said. "Just when you think that you're pretty darned good, horses remind you that you've only grazed the surface."
The learning will continue this winter in a new venue at Foothills, the Scotts' Arena now opened up. "We plan to have some good clinics, along with some schooling shows and a really good educational program to get everybody ready for the hopeful season we are going to have next year."