Competing in a national horse jumping show halfway across the country isn’t an everyday occurrence, but 9-year old Carlie Dixon of Alberry Plains is quite excited about heading off to the 2019 Royal Winter Fair in Toronto.
She admits the day she learned she would be going to the Royal her emotions were in turmoil. All day long she was excited and then nervous and then excited all over again.
Carlie said she has always liked horses, but a few years ago when the family went to watch a show jumping competition at Old Home Week, she was hooked.
“I kind of just fell in love with horses that day,” she said.
So did her 12-year old sister Callie and both girls have been taking lessons since that time.
Carlie and Hat Trick, her 16-year old Welsh Pony, qualified for the competition after several impressive ratings during qualifying shows with the Nova Scotia Hunters and Jumpers Association (NSHJA) this past spring and summer.
The Dixons purchased Hat Trick in April and he and Carlie have been pretty much inseparable since.
“Hat Trick is a very skittery pony when you first get to know him,” said Carlie.
You can tell the two have carved out a companionable relationship as they calmly make a couple of rounds in the indoor arena waiting to pose for a picture.
Hat Trick is the same as most other horses involved in show jumping and know when to take his cues from Carlie who is confident in the saddle.
Being included in one of North America’s most prestigious equestrian shows is a big deal, the girls’ dad, Gary, said.
The family travels most weekends in spring and summer to take in shows and training events in Nova Scotia as there are no longer any qualifying shows held in PEI, added mom, Julie.
Big sister Callie will ride Hat Trick during the fair in the first event of the competition on Friday to help “get the jitters out.”
The barn is not only a home for the horses at the Dixon homestead, but a place where both girls spend a lot of hours during the day.
When they aren’t practising at home they are taking lessons from coach Mike Driscoll.
The events at the Royal consist of both rounds where the horse and rider are on their own in the ring completing a series of jumps as well as the show exponent where several are in the ring presenting together. They are judged on appearance and technical accuracy.
Keeping the pony’s head in the right position and making a clean jump are goals Carlie continually works to improve.
She said her game plan is to do what she does every other time the two enter the ring.
“I think about getting over the jumps and getting my course right,” she said.
The competition begins Friday November 1 at 8 am.