The Pemberton Valley Equestrian Centre's riders got off to a strong start at the 2018 Canadian Premier at Thunderbird Show Park on the weekend.
Leading the way was 15-year-old Gabby Holland, who was the reserve champion in the 1.10-metre children's jumper division, scoring two first-place finishes and several other top-five results over the course of the five-day show. She also placed third facing off against pro and amateur riders in the $1,000, 1.10-metre stakes class on Sunday, May 27.
Riding a Dutch Warmblood named Icarius, the competition marked Holland's first time at the 1.10-metre level after she rode the one-metre competition last year and at 0.85 metres in her first season of action in 2016.
"I was jumping the rungs clear without any rails or time faults," she said. "You're basically just trying to get the fastest time with no faults."
Holland, who trains six days a week, said since it was her first event at the new level, she wasn't sure what exactly to expect. She was more than thrilled with her performance.
"I was just hoping for some smooth runs, but the horse was being really good this week," she said. "You have to be able to see a distance to jump when it's a bit bigger because you can't make many mistakes. You can't really just take the horse off the jump and try to let it do it. You have to let them collect a bit of stride or push them a bit towards the jump."
Holland said she hopes to eventually reach greater heights in the sport, as she and Icarius could find themselves up a level as soon as 2019.
"I mostly just do it for fun, but hopefully by next show season, we could maybe do 1.20 metres," she said. "My horse has quite a good jump in him, so my coach thinks maybe we could do 1.20 metres one day."
Also at the Canadian Premier, Judy Ameli rode on SIG Cortez, a nine-year-old Holsteiner gelding she'd owned for only two weeks prior. In the Pacific Open Jumper Division, Ameli took second in the one-metre event. Sally Warner was also on a new horse, riding Lexington von Darco, an eight-year-old Irish sport horse, though she also competed with long-time partner Rivaldi. In all, Warner ended with a third-place finish and three fourth-place finishes in the one-metre event.
As well, Laura Wetaski won a number of ribbons atop Deal Me In while competing in the 2'3" Long Stirrup Hunter Division. It was just their second show together.
Trainer Shirley Hills was pleased with how the season-opening event played out, especially considering competition came from across Western Canada, Washington, Oregon, California and Mexico.
Considering two riders needed to find chemistry with new partners, she wasn't sure how things were shaping up, but ultimately, everything came together.
"It would have been hard to say before this show, given that we had some new horses, but they did very well," she said. "We're very excited about the rest of the year."