Every so often, you hear a story about an athlete outperforming expectations as they get older. Sometimes, that can hold true for horses, too.
Whistler rider Judy Ameli of the Pemberton Valley Equestrian Centre (PVEC) won the 1.15-metre amateur division at the BC Hunter Jumper Association Fall Finale in Langley last month while riding 22-year-old Adios.
Ameli, who finished fourth overall in the province after seven events and has won the provincial title in previous years, was proud of the accomplishment.
"It means a great deal, mostly because of the age of my horse," she said. "He's an exceptional horse."
Ameli, who has been riding since the age of seven, explained Adios has the right genes to be a talented horse, but even then, there are several other factors in his continued strong performance.
"First of all, it starts with his breeding. He comes from a top stallion named Acord II, so he's a very well-bred Hanoverian. He was imported from Germany," she said. "I think, personally, the second piece of it is living in Pemberton. Most of these show horses are kept inside in their stalls and they don't get to turn out like they would, move around and be active."
Even though Adios continues to perform well, Ameli acknowledges he can't ride exactly like he used to in his prime. She competed in the 1.20-metre division in 2015 before scaling back for this season. For 2017, she'll see how he's feeling in the spring and won't ride him beyond his abilities.
"I won't know that until next year. It's exceptional that he's still showing, so I'm just going to take it day by day," she said. "I have to be cognizant of not jumping him too high or outside of his comfort zone."
Ameli also praised trainer Shirley Hills and veterinarian Dr. Laura White for their expertise and care.
"It's a team effort to keep the horses conditioned and healthy," she said.
Hills, meanwhile, was thrilled with how the season played out, as several emerging riders are looking to leap into higher divisions in the coming years.
"I have a wide range of riders that I work with. I have some teenagers. I have some kids that are preteens and then I have some amateurs that are adults. The program is varied, really. We all just look at the level at they're at and look to raise them up the ladder of what they and their horses are able to do," she said. "They're very dedicated and they're all in a training program. They all have at least two lessons a week and they're under supervision the rest of the time.
"It's a very serious program geared at a fairly high level."
While Hills said PVEC riders tended to travel a lot in past years, they've come to realize everything they need to grow as competitors is available in the Greater Vancouver region.
"Thunderbird Show Park (in Langley) is just a really first-rate facility that we're super fortunate in the hunter-jumper world to have the events that they have. They have world-class events with riders that come from all over the world," she said. "We've really limited our travelling because there's really not much need to go any further afield."
Sally Warner, a perennial contender for the provincial championship, missed the start of the season after suffering an injury during the Peak to Valley Race last winter. Hills noted Warner performed well in the events she jumped in, however, taking second at the Fall Finale and taking third overall in the province in the amateur 1.10-metre division while riding Rivaldi."She's pretty unstoppable when she gets going," she said.
Pemberton junior rider Gabby Holland took a pair of 0.85-metre wins this year with Icarius, while Gabrielle Meloche and Alisa Feuz also had strong showings over the course of the season.
Whistler's Christiana and Cici Durfeld and Pemberton's Lori Mitchell and Lily Drain also were in the saddle this season.