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Just happy to be riding again
2020-06-30

Amanda McCartney never experienced the Trillium Provincial Championships in Palgrave as a kid. To be able to enjoy the competition for the first time as an adult, with her daughter, has more than made up for that.

Riders at the equestrian facility that the family owns in Cache Bay, both Amanda and Kadence (age 12) were in town last weekend, part of small group that attended Covid-compliant clinics that were being held under the watchful eye of coach Cathy Inch at Foothills Farm.

"I rode on the Trillium circuit for a few years, when I was a kid, but I never went to champs," suggested Amanda. "Now, as an adult, I was able to make it to champs, qualifying on my own horse, which is nice."

"And now my daughter has started showing competitively on the Trillium circuit and she has qualified for champs every year," said McCartney, proudly. "She actually got a first in her first year showing. It's mostly her that competes now - I've taken a step back."

When both do compete in tandem, there are some differences that run beyond the obvious generational gap. "My mom's horse is big and stockier and a bit of a draft, so he's heavier on the reins, more jumper style," explained Amanda.

"My horse is a little bit calmer and light on my hands. He's a great hunter to have."

While Kadence might have some very good reasons for favouring much of what her horse (Ben) has to offer, mom doesn't sway a whole lot from the parental perspective when trying to match her daughter with an appropriate ride.

"Safety first - safety with these animals is key," said Amanda. "They are a large, large animal, and they have a mind of their onw. Sometimes what we think is going to happen isn't necessarily what they think is going to happen, and when you don't match up, bad things can happen."

Thankfully, bad things have been rare with this particular daughter and horse partnership, one which is now entering year four of a very special relationship.

"He's been amazing," said Kadence. "I like to do a lot of things with the horses, like going swimming and stuff, and Ben is just perfect to do it - he doesn't care about that sort of thing."

Even in the stifling heat of a very pleasant month of June, Ben was more than holding his own. "It was really nice to come and lesson with Cathy, she helps me with a lot of things," stated Kadence. "My favourite was probably the flat lessons that she did."

"I always enjoying showing, and Ben was pretty good for both the flatting and jumping. He was just a littlle bit lazy, just because it's just so hot." Not that the younger McCartney is about to complain, not in the middle of a pandemic.

"I'm very lucky just to have a chance to ride," she said. "You think of the people who live in big cities, and what they are doing, just sitting around in their houses, where I'm out here doing stuff with the horses."

For talented local rider Julia Arnold, doing "stuff" with her horse this year likely will not involve a return trip to the Royal Winter Fair, not if the qualifying events simply cannot be hosted. The timing, however, is not all bad.

"Of course, I'm sad about not having any shows," said Arnold, who qualified for her first Winter Fair last November aboard Gavin Pendragon. "I would get to see all my friends, and it's really fun to show and compete."

"But this year is an OK year for this to happen because we just bought Yoda and there's a lot to learn."

After competing in recent years with ponies, Arnold was ready for another challenge, one which will require her to connect in a very special way with the new addition to the family. "He (Yoda) is my dream horse, everything I was looking for in a horse," she suggested.

"First, his overall look is perfect. I think he's adorable, he's exactly my type. He's a little flashy, so the judges will notice him. I've bonded with him a lot, especially on the ground."

"When it comes to riding him, he's got a really big stride, so I've got to get a little bit stronger and learn how to control that," Arnold added. "I'm used to riding ponies."

In that sense, Arnold is committed to making good use of the extra time that she has gained, with the travel and weekend competitions seemingly out of the mix for the summer of 2020. "I'm feeling pretty good about taking the year to just train and learn together, so that we will be even more ready when it comes time for the next show season," she said.

And much like the McCartney clan, there is the joy of simply being out at the farm. "I was really sore after the first time that I started riding again," said Arnold with a laugh. "After such a long break, you have to re-train all of your muscles."

"But I was so happy. It felt so nice, just to be back out here."

Even in a season without competitions.

Northern Ontario AAA Hockey League