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Young riders with the Royal and other goals in sight
2022-07-20
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It's a combination as natural as peanut butter and jam.

With the Rick Smith Memorial Foothills Farm/Northern Legacy Horse Show set for this upcoming weekend, the summer show camp in the week leading into it remains one of the hottest tickets to secure for young riders across the north.

Some will take part in the show on Saturday and Sunday; others will not.

But one and all will leave the Chelmsford facility under the stewardship of national caliber coach Cathy Inch better equipped for the rigours of their trade, regardless of what the summer might hold in store for each and every one of them.

Adrian Cecchetto has been among the camp mainstays in recent years. The grade 7 student at Ecole Ste Marie in Azilda took quickly to the sport after being introduced to it by Holly Heikkila, a one-time hockey teammate and grand-daughter of farm owners Dave and Laurel Scott.

“I can’t remember much about the first time I rode a horse – but when I was six, I started riding a horse here named K-Low,” said Cecchetto. “I like going fast and he was more of the energetic type. I finally got a match with the horse. Every time I was at summer camp, they would pop me on K-Low.”

“It was so much fun; we would just go.”

Just a couple of years into the show competitions, the 11 year-old rider has been active on the Trillium Circuit, even as he gets a better and better handle on some of the keys to efficient riding, all while working his shortfalls.

“I have a good centre of balance from my core through my legs,” said Cecchetto. “I don’t focus on my legs and my body position as much. My main problem is my arms; I tend do go chicken wings and have dirt bike hands. You want to have your thumbs up and your elbows to your side.”

“When I’m showing, I force myself to think about my arms.”

Come the weekend, Cecchetto will be aboard Oliver, a horse that is familiar to the Foothills folks. And while he will also competed in the modified ponies division as well as “C” equitation, the real highlight for the very pleasant young man is the derby event on Saturday.

“I’ve never done a derby,” noted Cecchetto. “The derby is a jumper course mixed with a hunter – and it has options. Some jumps have two jumps and you get to pick one. The higher jumps give you more points and if you take the inside turns to some jumps, they give you handy options, which is also more points.”

After spending a few years with Oliver, Foothills club-mate Adriana Whynott is anxious to be around to lend a helping hand to both Cecchetto and her previous ride. Competing on the A circuit this summer, the 14 year old soon-to-be grade nine student at Ecole Secondaire Catholique Champlain is resting her current horse (Jammy) following three straight weeks of shows.

Sitting fourth in her division (children’s hunter 3’) nationally, Whynott is among that group of equestrian participants for whom change is all part of the allure. “I’ve always loved to try a new horse and then having a year to figure them out,” she said. “It was always my goal to figure them out and show them.”

It’s a process that begins even before horse and rider step into the ring together.

“It’s obviously a bonus to have a horse that is good when you’re just hanging around them or brushing them,” said Whynott. “You look for good manners outside; I like a horse that is of good character.”

And while the path of discovery that Whynott prefers, switching horses with regularity, might provide some additional intrigue to training sessions, it can also present some hurdles – beyond those jumps that are being cleared with every trek around the ring.

“It was so hard to adapt to how different Jammy was compared to my pony,” noted Whynott. “Oliver has a much smaller step – and your eye kind of adapts to how far you are away from a jump, based on that step. When I got on Jammy, he’s a big step and I probably ran into fifty jumps in the span of a month.”

“He also has a very long back and a short neck, so he rides downhill,” she added. “I couldn’t sit his cantor for the life of me; I was fighting him constantly, because he’s so bouncy. Camille (Bortolotto) would take me on this lunge line with no reins and no stirrups and it really helped me find my centre of balance on Jammy.”

Though many a local rider will make their way over to Foothills, the scope of their campers is much more far reaching, including Sault Ste Marie native Rosa Pedlar, a mid-summer visitor to this region since 2019.

Introduced to the sport at Strathclair Farm back in her hometown, Pedlar is climbing the ranks quickly, starting on the NEC (Northern Equestrian Circuit) when she was ten, jumping to Trillium last year and taking her best shot at the Royal Winter Fair, via the “A” circuit, this summer.

Those types of goals have led to her working closely with Inch and the others at Foothills, perfecting those elements that need perfecting. “I think it’s really important for me to focus on position,” said the 13 year old who will head to Korah Collegiate to begin high-school in September.

“We have three rules: rhythm, straightness and position. Rhythm for me is most challenging. My pony (Savannah) doesn’t have the best rhythm, so I usually have to create my own which is pretty hard to constantly keep an eye on, all the time.”

Now in her second year with the horse that goes by the show name of Golden Girl, Pedlar is thankful for the gradual acclimatization of this in-ring partnership which has already attended seven different shows this summer. “I think I have noticed that she is a lot more comfortable around me,” said the young teen who first asked about riding on the prompting of her neighbour back home.

“She used to be very “mare-ish” – grumpy, didn’t like getting touched all the time,” added Pedlar. “Now she quite enjoys it. She likes a good pat and a hug. She’s a lot more responsive and a lot more calm. My pony is very young and every show we are improving, which is okay with me.”

“This is kind of a year to figure things out and to try new things.”

And when it comes to the jumpers and hunters in northern Ontario, few places are better equipped to tackle that mandate than Foothills Farm.

The Trillium Show this weekend will take place on Saturday and Sunday, July 23rd and 24th.

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