The 91st Royal Winter Fair is the most prestigious horse event of the year in Canada. All riders have their hearts and goals set on qualifying for the show. I've been attending since the age of 10, always with my Mom. There is something for everyone at the fair - from the pony hunters and the Hickstead FEI World Cup to a rodeo and the Hackney ponies.
The Royal for many riders is also a time for reflection on this show seasons' passing. I caught up with grand prix rider Ainsley Vince (who has represented Canada in three world cup finals) to recap 2013 and this year’s Royal Winter Fair.
I asked Ainsley what specific moments of success are significant to her from this year:
All in all, 2013 was a great year. My horses were wonderful and produced consistent results at every show they attended. I have developed my horses from the time they were young, so their progress and success always means a lot to me. My students also had a banner year, which brings me a great sense of pride. My horse Frieda won a $33,000 class at Angelstone this summer against some of the top horse and rider combinations in North America. We went early on in the jump off and had to wait out the long list of competitors to follow. As each pair went I felt more and more delighted that none of them were able to catch me that day!
Two classes with my horse Darling were very exciting for me in 2013. In Spruce Meadows, I competed in the 1.50m open division, which were classes she had just moved up to at that very show. After many good classes, she jumped clean in a televised class to wrap up her Spruce Meadows tour. The class was extremely difficult. With all of the top horses and riders, only two managed to produce clean rounds. I was a fraction of a second over the time allowed but still put in a clean jumping effort to finish third. I was thrilled!
At the Royal Winter Fair, Darling entered the World Cup Qualifier, which again was one of the biggest classes she had ever jumped. She put in a clean jumping effort with most of her owners in the crowd. I was so proud of her maturity and willingness to handle the new tests presented to her. It was a great way to finish the year and very encouraging for the next.
I asked Ainsley about her students' experience and her experience with this years' Royal and the traditions that go along with it. Her experience and feel for the fair is very similar to mine - Ainsley grew up showing in Ontario and has been competing every year at the Royal since fifth grade.
To me, the Royal feels like a hometown show and a wrap to the end of each year. It is such a great social event in an ideal location. Friends and family who may not otherwise have a chance to see me compete are usually able to come watch a class. It’s a great place to showcase what we do and why. For my students, the Royal is always a year-end goal. Qualifying is step one, then the preparation to peak at the show is key. If you do your homework properly your results reflect all of the hard work and effort you put in through the entire year.
In keeping with the topic of tradition. I asked Ainsley what her most memorable experience at the Royal over the years has been.
Years ago, I remember competing with a horse named Catch 22 in an international jump off class on opening night. I had finished second in the World Cup Qualifier the week before at Washington International Horse Show. I had led the class until the very end when Beezie Madden edged me out. On this night at the Royal, I was last to go and I was flying! I was faster than all of the horse and rider combinations that night and this time I jumped ahead of Beezie. The crowd went wild! I received a standing ovation from everyone dressed in their tuxedos and ball gowns. It was a great night!
As riders beginning the new year, we can't help but have our minds set on the 2014 show season with hopes of success and achieving our goals. Ainsley has been working very hard towards a long time goal to develop a string of top competitive horses.
I now consider Frieda to be a seasoned competitor and a top 1.50m speed & grand prix horse. Darling seems as if she has the ability to do it all! She has steadily moved up over the last two years and has met every challenge with ease. I am extremely excited about the future with her.
In 2014 I am looking forward to continue to develop my young horses Daccardi V, and Persistence with Amy Millar at Millar Brooke Farm. My goal this year is to jump in the 1.20m open classes with Daccardi who will be turning 6 and qualify for the 2014 Royal, as well as to find talented young 4-year-old Persistence's potential and talents.
It was such a pleasure chatting with Ainsley, we hope you enjoyed a little sneak peek into her 2013 highlights and 2014 aspirations!